How to Catch Your Dog, the Easy Way

How to Catch Your Dog, the Easy Way

January 29, 2014 by Margaret Davis
Categories: Respect,Fun,Behavior,Tips

Have you ever watched someone try to catch a dog? Or maybe you have experienced this yours elf! Some dogs enjoy the game of it. Some dogs have been unintentionally taught that being caught leads to unpleasant things. Some dogs just have something they would rather do in the moment. It is important to put on your detective hat if you are experiencing life with a hard-to-catch dog. Remember that you when you adopt a rescue, you are also adopting someone else’s training – good or bad.

Keep a training journal and write down why you think your dog is avoiding being caught. You will soon notice patterns. Dogs are creatures of habit and routine. Your dog is an expert on your routine! Have you noticed that your dog seems to know when you are getting ready to leave the house or going to bed? If she is going with you, she is probably excited. If she knows that she will be isolated from you, she might play ‘hard to catch’.  A clue to notice is - does your dog readily come to you and/or allow you to catch her most of the time? If this is true, it makes sense that you are doing something to alert her to possible negative side effects of being caught in certain situations. It is your job to uncover the underlying motivation your dog is following in the moment.

Here are some common human actions that unintentionally teach dogs to avoid being caught. Make different choices to get new reactions from your dog! 

Playing chase games that involve chasing the dog.

Do you really want to teach your dog how much fun it is to run from you? Play chase games that teach your dog to chase and come to you!

Using any form of discipline that causes hands or objects to approach the dog.

Your dog has a great memory and is not stupid! There is no difference in your dog’s mind between you grabbing her collar and scolding her, and you reaching for her collar to keep her out of the street. Reaching for a dog and doing anything the dog considers negative will quickly teach her to avoid being caught. Listen to our podcast on effective discipline and use a new approach to misbehavior. Podcast: "Effective Discipline"

Having to catch a dog that did not come when called - scolding the dog for not coming at the moment of catching.

This is an easy trap to fall in to! As you chase your dog, you are imagining all of the things that could happen to her. In other words you are frightened that something will happen to your dog. When you finally mange to catch your dog, all of that fear tends to turn to anger. Remember in your dog’s mind whatever happened last is what she is being praised or punished for. The last thing that happened was not that your dog ran away or refused to come – the last thing that happened was that you caught her! Praise and reward your dog when you have to catch her – it will make her easier to catch. I know this is easy advice to give, but is not so easy to follow in the heat of the moment.

Being too predictable.

Does your dog seem to know when it is time to play ‘hard to catch’? You could be guilty of doing the same routine just before it is time to catch her. Maybe you need to put her in confinement as you leave for work. Do you put on your shoes, gather your coat and purse, get out your keys, and then put your dog up? Pay attention to your routine. When does your dog start moving away from you? Put her leash on her before you start your routine! Take an extra minute to pet her and give her a special treat before you put her in confinement. I call this outsmarting your dog. Become an expert on reading your dog’s thoughts. She will tell you if you have unintentionaly taught her to read your mind!

Here are some proactive training tips:

Desensitize the reach! 

  1. Place the leash on your dog.

  2. Reach for her collar with your right hand as you give her a treat with your left hand.

  3. Reverse the hand the treat is in and repeat.

  4. Ask someone the dog trusts to reach and give her a treat.

Condition a novel sound

  1. Choose a sound like a clicker or a whistle.

  2. Toss five treats on the floor.

  3. Make the sound each time your dog picks up a treat.

  4. Make the sound and toss your dog a treat.

  5.  Leave treats on the floor when your dog does not see you, then make your sound as she finds the treat.

  6. Ask someone to restrain your dog in one room as you go out of sight.

  7. Make your sound and see if your dog comes to find you, then reward.

  8. Avoid using this sound for ANY other reason than a treat.

You can use this sound to make it more likely that your dog will come to you instead of want to play catch!


Teach and practice the ‘Wait’ command

Once you have taught the command on a short leash be sure to practice outside with the long line.

Here are some things to try in an emergency situation to help you catch your dog.

  • Run the opposite direction waving your arms and squealing

  • Lie down on the ground lifting your arms and feet in the air screaming.

  • Avoid eye contact

  • Use the Wait command

  • Approach and retreat using a zigzag pattern instead of a direct approach

  • Kneel down and open your arms wide leaning your upper body backwards

Remember to praise and reward your dog if she comes AND if you catch her!

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