Calling Your Dog Away from Play with Other Dogs

You've taught your dog to come when called -- congratulations! Except ... forget about it when she's playing with other dogs. How can you get her to pay attention to you then?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #222

Let’s say you’ve used my tips for teaching your dog to come when you call her. And now she does it. Beautifully. At a dead run. Every time – well, almost every time. Once she’s playing with another dog, that’s it for your recall; you might as well be in Timbuktu, because Dogalini can’t hear you. What should you do? Here’s the advice I gave a recent client, Neil, with just that problem..

Tip #1: Look for Intermediate Training Steps

Neil had been practicing with his dog at home and in empty schoolyards. That was great – but compare an empty schoolyard to a park full of your dog’s favorite playmates. It’s easy for us to be the most interesting and rewarding item available in a sea of pavement and chain-link. If your dog loves playing with other dogs, the outdoor party scene presents you with some stiff competition. So look for ways to build up to it gradually.

Since I live and work in New York City, few of my clients have access to a large, fenced area, but otherwise that’s the first suggestion I’d make for a training venue. Another option is to have your dog on a “long line” – not an extending leash – in an unfenced but quiet spot. Walk around and let your dog explore without interruption till the novelty wears off, then click and treat for orienting toward you or approaching you. Once your dog is checking in with you frequently, you can practice coming when called.

Try to partner with a friend and her dog for training. That enables you to up the level of distraction, but in a controlled way, by adding one dog to the picture. If you have a training partner, the two of you can also take turns, working with one dog at a time and providing other temptations. For instance, she could hold a biscuit while you call your dog away from her. Ignoring you in favor of the biscuit gets no biscuits, but coming to you when you call will get your dog a piece of cheese. Even though this isn’t the same situation as play at the dog park, it will help develop your dog’s ability to attend to you.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).