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Keep Away & Catch Me if You Can

Why does your dog show you a toy or other item and then grab it and run away as soon as you notice?  Because he wants you to play with him!  This is how dogs engage another being in social object play.  "See what I have?  Do you want to play?  Let's go!"  Out-running and out-maneuvering a competitor for a prize is exhilarating and good exercise!  It's how dogs play with other dogs.  It's how your new puppy played his first games with his littermates.

Look at this dog's body language.  That is a play bow.  He has thrown down the prize and is inviting a game.  If you lean or step toward him, the chase is on!


A low hover, poised to grab ...  Your body language triggers the resulting escape reflex and 'catch me if you can' response.  Unfortunately, these same body language gestures look a lot like bending to take hold of his collar to put on his leash.  You lean in and he prepares to run.  Be careful to teach a specific cue if you want to occasionally join in on this type of game, and don't over-do it or allow the kids to play 'chase the dog' or you may create a dog who is very hard to catch and doesn't come when called!

The result of coming must always be better than what the dog was doing at the time you called her.


Set up situations where coming to you is the MOST fabulous, MOST fun event in your dog's life.

Five months is the beginning of the "flight instinct" period of adolescence.  All puppies go through a 'dash off to see the world' and 'keep away' phase.  Don't chase him, you just reinforce it.  He can easily out run you, so don't even try.  If you need to catch your dog, capture his attention and move away from him, not toward. 

It's easy to fall into the trap of getting louder and more insistent, or even angry.  Unpleasant tones and unpleasant outcomes make your dog avoid you, not more likely to come next time. 


Keep practicing!  Give him hundreds of chances to earn the very best rewards you have to offer for running joyfully to you, as many times a day as you can muster and for no good reason other than inviting him to play a chase YOU game that is fun and rewarding.  


If he's hard to motivate or you've accidentally reinforced a history of a chase game, stop feeding him from his bowl and feed him 'breakfast installments' for running to you when you call, in the house and in the yard.  If he's busy investigating something, wait to call until he lifts his head.  This will ensure the likelihood is high that you won't have to repeat yourself. 

Look what I found!

If your dog is in a playful mood and likely to play hard-to-get, squat down and pick up a tuft of grass and examine it like it's really amazing.  He'll probably come trotting over to see what it is.  Ooh and aw and show it to him.  When he comes in to sniff it, praise, ruffle his ears and gently take his collar as you stroke him.  Chase thwarted, you're both happy.  Put his leash on and reward him heavily for allowing himself to be caught.  Remember, if you scold him now for running around the neighborhood, you are really punishing the last thing he did: come to you!

This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:
© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -
ditr_training @ -




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