Countering the Call of the Wild - Bringing Your Outside Loving Dog, Inside
You’re ready for work. You needed to be out the door 3 minutes ago, but your dog is playing “you can’t catch me” in the yard. This is usually when the expletives and flailing starts. But there is a reason for your dog’s naughty behavior and really simple ways to solve it.
The primary reason your dog won’t come inside is because…
THE OUTSIDE IS FANTASTIC!!
Seriously it’s like Disney World out there. Millions of sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. Unfortunately, no amount of toys, chews, or puzzles will make the inside, feel like outside. So asking your dog to come in is a real sacrifice for them. And for a lot of dogs, it’s really punishing.
Every time you call you dog inside, you are weakening the positive association they have with your recall cue. Whether it’s “come!”, “inside!”, or “get in the f***ing house!”, every time they cross the threshold of the doorway, that command is losing its effect. To break the spell of the yard, we need to create value for the command and lots of it. We also have to be mindful of what we look like when we ask for it, and what happens directly after they come through that door.
Looks matter. Not in a fashion sense, but a functional sense. Because your clothes tell your dog what is going to happen next. If you are in your pajamas, then perhaps couch/bed snuggles will follow coming inside. But if you’re in your work clothes it probably means a crate is in their future, or perhaps just a boring day of nothing to do but sleep. Either way, your work cloths signal nothing even close to the magical adventures they are having in Narnia (your backyard).
Now to be clear, I am not recommending that you get dressed after you bring your dogs in. Tricking them isn’t really the solution. But if they are really averse to coming in when you are in uniform, then yes, you might need to adjust your routine for a little while.
So to solve this problem, we have to create a new routine. One where coming inside is not always the outcome and in every situation, the dog wins.
Do not bribe your dog, or wave treats at them to get them close enough to grab or slam the door behind them. It will only work once, waste an emergency maneuver. And damage your relationship. No one likes to live with someone who is manipulative.
Food! Real food. As in food you eat. Go look in your deli drawer and see what’s available. None of those dry crunchy treats for the pet store. Also no Milkbones, etc. If you MUST use a store bought treat, only liver treats will do. Also have some bully sticks, marrow bones, Kongs, or other food toys ready for later steps.
The key to fixing this is to call your dog more often. Like 10-20 times more often. And don’t be lazy or in a hurry. Plan to take the time to work on this. Every day. In all your outfits.
Step 1: Let your dog outside into the yard. Let them go to the bathroom. Now say something ridiculous. Like BANANAS!, SPAGHETTIOS!, WAINSCOTING!, etc. and get down low. If your dog comes running over, give them food. Be generous. Like 5-10 pencil eraser size pieces. Then turn away and ignore your dog. Then repeat choosing another nonsense word. If they don’t respond say the word a few times in a row quickly. Or use something with a positive association like PUPPY PUPPY PUPPY!
Some dogs will be super suspicious. Give it time and a LOT of repetitions.
Wave treats at them.
Make them come inside.
Bribe them to come inside.
Any of the above will erase all progress and set you back.
Try to practice 2-3 times a day when you don’t care if you stay out for a while. Don’t always end the session with them coming inside. To bring them inside, go get something special like a kong, bone, or pig’s ear to entice them into giving up the yard. We will only be doing this for the first week or two so hang tight.
Step 2: Once you have done this for about a 3 days, periodically re-insert their come inside cue. Do not bring them inside on the cue. Just reward them like all the other weird things you’re saying. Continue for 2-3 days. All rules from Step 1 are still in effect.
Step 3: Now we will cross the threshold. This can be done 2 ways. Either you can toss the word rewards into the house, or you can stand in the house and they come inside. I recommend trying both. Your dog may slam on the breaks at this stage. But keep with it. Make sure you do 10-20 repetitions by sending them back outside. And when you’re ready to end the game, have something special to come inside to. Ideally a a game of tug, a fun toy, food toys, a chew, something. Practice for 1-2 weeks.
Step 4: Call from out of sight. When they get to you, reward and repeat 5-8 times.
With these steps you should be will on your way to a dog who jets into the house. BUT! Don’t ruin it. Continue to reward them in some fashion when you call them. And don’t always call them to come inside.