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Border Collie seems more stubborn that the others

I have a 14-week-old Border Collie. Training is going along quite well except for one aspect. When she is let out to do her business, she refuses to come in when called. In the house is another matter; she comes every time. I have had many Border Collies, but she seems more stubborn that the others. I have tried rewards and praise when she does come in, to no avail.

My first suggestion is set yourself, and your new puppy, up for success. Don't call her to Come anymore, unless she is heading toward you with purpose! Otherwise you actually are training your puppy to think your signal for Come actually means "don't come," thus reinforcing her selective hearing! Don't let her out into the yard loose, unless you intend to let her stay out as long as she wants. Instead, invest in a long training lead, a retractable lead, or make a light line out of light but strong cord, and then only let her out with this attached to her buckle collar.

Dogs are intelligent enough to quickly figure out "what happens next." Coming to you inside is great; it improves her situation because what happens next is probably more interesting than what she had been doing. But coming to you when outside is not so great, and what happens next is she probably is taken into the house. "Come" may quickly come to mean "the party is now over," and she justifiably would develop some reluctance. She may have figured out a very vague understanding of your command, but most likely, she is reacting to the circumstances at the time when you call. You are making a mistake in assuming she now "knows" what you want and is somehow behaving defiantly when noncompliant.

When being with you is less fun than being free to explore, of course she would choose freedom! Your dog is demonstrating great intelligence, not stubbornness! She just hasn't had enough positive reinforcement and successful training "mileage" associated with the command and desired response sequence to get her to the point where you could begin to expect her to obey. To really have a reliable recall, you will have to "proof" her training by gradually increasing the challenge, or distraction level. To jump right into high-level expectations with a dog that has proven a high probability for failing isn't fair to either of you.

You may think your dog should have a built-in drive to please you, but this isn't so; dogs have a number of built-in drives, all geared to please them. Competing with those drives, using a "because I said so" motivational approach will not be likely to win her over. With an understanding of how dogs actually do perceive things, combined with some basic knowledge of learning theory, we can modify their perceptions and behaviors to better fit our needs and expectations of them. You can gain more education on these subjects by looking for books that explain training dogs using positive reinforcement. People owe it to their pets to be respectful and kind, and to use training methods that never hurt the dog or compromise its quality of life or trust in us.

Getting a dog to come when called is an important response to require of your pet. To inspire fast recalls from a puppy is an easy trick and can be accomplished by using a positive, rather than angry or threatening, approach. After allowing several minutes of "recess" out in the yard but on the light line, give her a signal to let her know her time is up. Don't say "Come"; we are saving that word for when she begins to offer the actual correct result, by actually voluntarily coming to you.

For now use an initial prompt, such as whistling, or saying "Time!" or "Here!" which will mean "free time is over and it is time for me to touch you." Once you have said your word your intention is to touch your dog. This can be done either by going to her or by her coming to you. Once you state your new word, which so far means nothing to her, you need to start walking toward her. She will begin to learn your meaning by experiencing what happens next. What happens in sequence, from when you state the word until the exercise is concluded, starts to make the new word meaningful.

Walk toward her, slowly, not reaching or grabbing at her; when she sees you coming, she will do one of three things: 1) evade you 2) remain stationary or 3) approach you. If she begins to evade you, follow her silently and at a slow pace, while allowing her the entire length of the leash. Do not attempt to stop her or reel her in; just follow, but if she runs to the length of the leash, allow her to self-correct. Do not jerk her! If she begins to run toward a street, or property line, keep the leash short (or collect it up) so that she self-corrects consistently at the same place and is unable to go farther away from you in that direction. As she runs or walks away in another direction, continue to follow, saying nothing.

At some point, even if it is caused by total confusion as to what you are doing, she will stop momentarily. The instant she does stop, change from silence to warmly praising and making encouraging noises (kisses, saying "puppy, puppy," whatever-just don't say "Come!"), and continue to approach as you encourage. If she bolts again, revert to silent following, and each time she stops, make the praising, warm reassuring noises. Eventually she will allow you to close the distance, possibly even moving toward you, helping you to "meet in the middle." When you do finally get together, whether you went to her or she helped by coming toward you, repeat your command ("Time" or "Here"). It is important to not say "Come" yet, because she hasn't!

The distance having been closed and named ("Time" or "Here"), and the dog having been touched, give her the best positive reinforcement the moment can offer-her freedom back! Say "OK," and toss a toy for her to chase, out to the length of your line. Allow her to play for a while, and then try it again. By the third one, she will at least stop readily and may even come to you. If she does come to you, change horses in the middle of the stream, so to speak; when she gets to you, say "Come!" rather than your other word. But do not begin to confront with the command Come until she does it every time you use your "time for us to touch" command. The advantage is you are able to go to her, without compromising the Come command by waiting to say it until her behavior is actually what you want Come to imply. She will learn your approach promises freedom and being caught by you feels great. She also will begin to understand what running away from you really feels like-absence of great, and the yard will be much less enjoyable with you continually stalking her down.

Realistically you won't always be able to reward her with more recess for giving up recess. But in her early training, it helps to establish a sequence in which something she really wants happens immediately after she performs a behavior she isn't so sure about. As she gets better at the "time's up" game, you can begin to try it from inside the house, or in your fenced yard with her off the light line. Just be prepared to follow her for as long as it takes, without getting angry. If you are mad at her for not coming, and you let her know you are upset, you will seem threatening and increase the likelihood of her not wanting to come to you!


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