Teaching Your Dog the Off Collar “Come” Command

Elizabeth writes to me:

Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. You helped me realize that I can trust my instincts with Mollie. I really noted your idea of the dog gaining “respect and trust” for the owner. I see that in Mollie as she matures. She is seven and half months old now.

Speaking of “collar smart” I guess I still don’t have the concept of how to avoid it. Mollie does well with her collar but since we keep her in our large fenced back yard, she doesn’t usually have it on when we walk out and interact with her on an informal basis. She definitely acts differently with the collar and I guess my real question is how to “off leash” train.
Adam speaks of never giving a command unless you are close enough to the dog (and the tab) to give a correction, but how does one accomplish this is you want to teach the ‘come’ command from a distance? I’ve watched the video of teaching “come” with the lunge line, and I’ve done that, but how does one move away from that to off leash? Maybe I just need to reread Adam’s directions but I can’t visualize how this is accomplished. I realize I’m repeating myself, but again, how can I teach her to come, off leash, from a distance, if I always need to be close enough to give the correction?

Actually, Mollie is pretty good with the command, but not perfect. I don’t fully trust her with this one yet.

Thanks again for the last response. I find the debate about training to be interesting. I am teacher and we have that same debate in education. Yes, positive feedback is always best, but sometimes we all need that “negative” motivation. I think it’s a law of nature.


Adam replies:

Hi, Elizabeth:

Think of it this way: The leash and collar are just a tool to help YOU teach the dog that he cannot run away from you, and that he cannot ignore commands.

I knew a woman in Missouri who did the following: She would take a young dog and put the dog in a small, enclosed yard. No leash, no training collar. Just a buckle collar. Every time she called, she’d go and MAKE the dog come. The dog learned that he could not run away, because she’d catch him– EVERY TIME.

With the long line, you’re playing a MIND GAME on the dog. You’re getting the dog conditioned to respond every time– just the same way you get conditioned to pay attention and reach for the telephone, every time it rings.

Once the dog is conditioned, you can take the long line off and sub the tab. But remember: Reinforcement is forever, so if you start to see the conditioned response get slower– that’s when you pull out the long line (or the e-collar) and brush up.

Make sense?

– Adam.