‘Come’ is the most important command you can teach your dog for their safety and your sanity. This is especially important when it comes to working Border Collies, as herders need to be able to control their BC to keep them out of danger from livestock.
Fortunately for you, Border Collies love to be a part of a team, so training your BC to come can be quite simple.
In this post we’ll go over how to strengthen your Border Collie recall, and the information is as relevant to puppies as it is adult BC’s.
Let’s look at some reasons why your Border Collie isn’t coming and what you can do to remedy the problem.
Why your Border Collie won’t listen to you
Border Collie’s won’t listen to you if what you offer them isn’t worth their attention. Owner’s also unintentionally teach their dog to ignore them through Learned Irrelevance. When you call your dog’s name, or give a command, it should be connected with a reward.
This is an excellent video on Learned Irrelevance, and shows you the power of instilling importance to your dog’s name:
You may be wondering how you go about correcting this behavioral training mistake. It’s time to go back to basics.
Stop calling their name so much – even come up with a nickname to use when talking about your dog with others, or if you don’t want their attention but want to refer to them.
Whenever you say their name, give them a tasty treat.
Do this until they associate their name with a treat.
Now you can stop giving them a treat every time, but there should still be a reward associated with their name, or the “Come” command more often than not.
Once they regularly respond to their name and are no longer ignoring you, now you start spacing out the rewards to 1 in 3, 1 in 4, or 1 in 5. Be sure to still say, “Good Girl”, or “Good Boy”, as a base reward.
Why your Border Collie won’t come to you
Border Collies won’t come for two reasons: active or passive disobedience. In both cases, a Border Collie won’t come due to a lack of incentive or interest in coming to you. When training a BC to come, high praise and high value treats should be used as incentive.
Passive disobedience is when a Border Collie doesn’t come when they are sitting, laying down, standing, or not in action. This type of behavior usually points at an apprehensive dog, or one that doesn’t have an adequate incentive to make the effort to move.
Active disobedience is when a Border Collie doesn’t come when called during an activity, whereby they find what they’re doing more interesting than anything the owner has to offer at that time.
This is a training problem that should be dealt with immediately.
During both Passive and Active disobedience, it’s vital that you don’t move towards, or even worse, chase, your Border Collie.
Chasing and calling your Border Collie can become a game for them and reinforce the running away behavior.
If you are in a situation where you can’t recall your dog, and all actions won’t get them to come to you, then you will need to retrieve your dog. But do so without calling them or running. Walk towards them.
Is your Border Collie puppy going crazy, or more driving you crazy? Be sure to read our post on it here.
Let’s look a little deeper into the reasons for a Border Collie’s recall disobedience:
Apprehension stopping BC from coming
If a BC doesn’t come when called, and appears to be afraid and hesitates, the most likely reason is the Border Collie is scared of their owner.
This fear can be rooted in the dog’s past if it was abused by previous owner/s, or often is a result of being punished for something after being told to come.
It’s easy to unintentionally punish a dog for coming, especially if you were terrified for your dog’s sake.
If your Border Collie is barking when you don’t want them to, and you were to yell at them to “come”, and then scold them about the barking once they have come to you, this will associate the command, Come, with an unwanted feeling.
If you think your Border Collie may have this fear response issue in coming to you, it’s best to be patient and take your time. You don’t want to end up scaring your dog more.
Make yourself small by getting on the ground with your dog, talk in a sweet manner and offer lots of treats if your dog approaches you.
If the problem is more sever, toss treats at your BC every time you call to get their attention. Once your dog gets comfortable enough to come and take treats from your hand, practice the grab test. The grab test is when you hold your dog’s collar and then give them a treat for not reacting.
Doing trust exercises with your Border Collie will increase your dog’s confidence and build trust between you. Just remember to never punish your dog for coming, no matter how upset you are, as it will take you back to the start.
Irrelevance: no incentive to come to you
Border Collies that understand the command and still ignore you may know exactly what you want them to do, but just don’t see the point in doing what’s required.
Reasons for this behavior include being tired, lethargic, bored, or unincentivized.
This can be caused by a build-up of the Border Collie being called, and then nothing exciting happens once they get there.
The solution here is simple:make it worth it for your BC to come to you, no matter the circumstances you find yourself in.
If your BC doesn’t come when called, give them a good reason to come.
Steps to Train Your Border Collie to Come
If you’ve found yourself with a Border Collie running in the opposite direction, and you’re yelling and they’re not listening, then it’s important that you don’t put yourself in this position again until a strong recall connection is made.
Luckily for you, Border Collie’s are considered by many to be the world’s smartest breed. BC’s can learn a command in sometimes less than 5 repetitions! Which means even if your Border Collie doesn’t listen to you, with some quality training, you’ll have them on the right path in no time.
The below steps are also appropriate to training a Border Collie puppy to come to you.
Training your Border Collie to Come
This is a short video put together by our content creator and dog trainer, Alex showing how to call your dog:
Get your BC’s attention
You can do this anyway that works to begin with. Make a funny noise, click your fingers, do a dance, make kissy sounds. Whatever works! In the video, Alex uses the words, “Pup, pup, pup, pup!” in quick, high-pitched succession.
Once they come, greet them with enthusiasm
Be sure to have high value treats in hand, ready to reward your dog coming to you. Give them the treats, and pet and praise them. You want them to think coming to you is a party!
Be sure to do step 2 often, so they believe that more often than not, they will get rewarded with tasty treats. And in future, whenever you call your dog and they come, be sure to still offer something of reward, be it a treat or a pet.
If it’s not working, and they won’t come, don’t go to them!
If this is the case, then toss treats to your BC, get low down, and show them you have more of the treats with you. Be loving, supportive, and use kissy sounds.
Once your BC is coming to you regularly, now you can add in the “come” command.
You can still use whatever sounds you’ve been using to get your BC to come to you, but as you give them the treat, say, “Come” and then reward them. Repeat this in their training sessions daily.
Out of sight.
Up the difficulty by hiding and using the “Come” command. When they come, make it a party!
Practice in different locations.
Start moving around the house, in the yard, and finally, in the park or beach.
The more locations they practice their recall, the stronger it will be, even when your BC sees something irresistible!
Are Border Collies stubborn?
Yes. Border Collies have a mild to moderate stubborn streak, but they are easy to train if you’re persistent and offer adequate rewards. Usually, only verbal corrections, praise and encouragement are required to get them to do what you want.
Why my Border Collie ignores me all of a sudden
Your Border Collie may be ignoring you due to an underlying medical condition. Take your dog to the vet if the behavior appears all of a sudden. You may also have unintentionally trained your dog to ignore you.
Does my Border Collie not like me?
Dogs do not like or dislike; there is always a reason behind their behavior. A Border Collie that appears to dislike you might just be afraid of you and is trying to avoid confrontation. Some dogs associate a hand reaching out to them with punishment and become timid.
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