Yelling for Old Yeller

Getting your pup to come on cue can be a frustrating experience for many pet guardians. Defiant dogs can be more than just exasperating. They can create unsafe situations for themselves (think cars), others (such as the elderly) and everything involved (like the endangered lunch bag).

Indeed, lots of dogs seem to think that “come” is the starting signal for a good game of chase or at least the cue to become instantly hard of hearing. Ironically, often the word “sit” spoken in a stern, clear voice can be much more effective, although the downside is that the human gets to fetch the dog.

After hiking dog packs off-leash in the wild for years, I found that in a pinch one of three techniques was 99.99 percent guaranteed to work:

1. Sweet talk

2. Fierce talk

3. Abandonment actions

As the saying goes, you can catch more fox terriers with honey than vinegar. The most successful way of supporting recall behavior is to pile on the “lovins” when they do. By sweet talk I refer to the giving of praise, pets, favorite toy time and treats. Reward the returns!

Unfortunately, that technique does not work with all pups and you may have to resort to fierce talk. In order to be successful at fierce talk, you must transform yourself into the no-nonsense-taking pack leader who demands respect. Introduce a little growl into your voice.

Some dachshunds will ignore sweet enticements in their pursuit of a cat but will stop in their tracks and roll belly-up after a stern “stop right there” is shouted from 40 feet away. The only problem with the fierce talk technique is that observers will be convinced that you are a dog abuser even if your bed-hogging pup makes you sleep on the floor.

The last technique may seem cruel in today’s psychology-driven era of sensitivity, but some dogs will not respond to sweet somethings or growled threats. In these cases, you must run away … fast, sounding like you are having a brilliant time. This works best when other pups, people or the favorite squeaky toy are going along with you.

Unless you’re up against a cute poodle, the companion animal instinct should kick in and your pup will start chasing you to catch up. It is important to make your departure convincing, but please do not actually abandon your pup. The downside to this technique is that once again, onlookers will think you are doggone crazy.

On occasions when sweet talk, fierce talk and abandonment techniques fail, you might resort to pulling up the car and saying “Wanna go for a ride?” Most dogs love car rides. If it works, at least you didn’t spend your day being taken for one.

These are shortcuts for when you’re in a pinch or your pup’s about to be in a pinscher’s jaws. Just remember, dogs, like people, have different personalities. The good news is if you’re tired of yelling for Old Yeller, there’s more than one way to get results. Bone chance!

• Moksha McClure is the founder of Whiskers Resort, a pet hotel in Lihu‘e. An animal lover since an early age, Moksha has cared for a smorgasbord of animals from bunnies to burros, pigs to parrots, and reptiles to racehorses. Visit or call 241-PETS for more information.


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