Stella and the word “Come”

You may remember that we adopted, Stella, a 10-month old Bichon almost exactly 2 years ago.  She came from a home where she was not treated well, and we had a lot of challenges to overcome.  Some we have, some we haven’t, despite training sessions (Stella Goes to School) and my best efforts.

The thing that we struggle with the most is getting Stella to come on command.  She knows what she is supposed to do when I call her.  If I have a treat in my hand, she’ll come immediately. But when treats aren’t involved, she will only come about 70% of the time. Even then she crouches down, as close to the ground as she can get, and creeps slowly toward me. I can almost see the mental struggle she is having,  wanting to obey but afraid of getting hurt.  She came to us with that behavior, so I continually give her praise, no matter how long it takes her to come to me. I constantly snuggle with her and tell her that she is safe with me, hoping that one day she’ll really believe it.

So that other 30% of the time? It’s totally opposite of the 70% crouching-creeping behavior. It is almost defiant, really. She is more interested in what she is doing than she is in behaving properly or making me happy.  She is self-assured and determined. This was pretty evident yesterday. I rarely let her out of the house without being on a leash -just because I don’t know if she will respond in the 70% way or the 30% way when I call her. But yesterday I let my guard down. I walked to my car, and let her tag along – no leash.  She walked with me to the car, then stopped, lifted her head, looked down the driveway and took off.

Her favorite thing to do off-leash is to run down our driveway and then down a large hill to a flat plateau. She will sit there and just look around. She appears to be looking at the birds, at the sky, at the trees and the things that creep in the grass. My guess is that she would sit there, looking out over the valley for hours, if I would let her.

When she is in her “happy place,” Stella won’t come when I call. Period. But she will stay there until I come and get her. And honestly? THAT is a big improvement, considering that she used to run away.  

But in this case, I have a hard time getting mad at her. Who wouldn’t want to sit on a grassy hill, soaking up the sunshine, enjoying the scenery?

Honestly, though, I know I should spend more time working with her on this command.  Sometimes I just find it easier to climb down the hill, plop down beside her, and take a short rest myself.




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Comments (6)

  1. It’s that sweet little face that gets you! I have one that doesn’t obey come very well either. She’ll come almost to me then stop. I then ask her if she wants me to scratch her head while making a scratch you on the head motion with my fingers. That usually gets her to come the rest of the way. Gotta love ’em!

    December 15, 2018 at 12:24 pm
    • Karen

      Oh, you are so right….. !!! when Stella gets closet to me and then stops, I will reach out and scratch her head for just a few seconds. After I pull my arm back, she will creep towards me a few more inches, and we will repeat this, until she comes all the way to me. Sometimes it takes a while. 🙂 But I’m so glad you understand and can empathize. I should start making a scratching motion so that she might start coming when she is further away than just arms length. Thanks for your comment!

      December 15, 2018 at 1:46 pm
  2. fl_connie

    My Bella – part lab, part Staffie, needs to go to school but there aren’t any around here, so I just keep plugging along. She, too, knows what ‘Come’ means but it’s about 50/50 if she will actually do it. Your Stella is a cutie – and I’m with you – that looks like a great place to relax!

    December 15, 2018 at 2:10 pm
    • Karen

      It’s hard, Connie, isn’t it? Keep doing what you’re doing, and so will I. We just have got to think they’ll “get it” at some point.

      December 16, 2018 at 4:27 am
  3. Lori Verrill-Garber

    Karen, Alan and I loved your story. It described her to a T. SOME habits are so difficult to break when a dog is abused but I know what you mean about that little defiant look she can give. Treats seem to be only way to motivate her. I so look forward to seeing and doing some work with that little stubborn bundle of white fur. Xoxo (((((stella )))))

    December 15, 2018 at 11:14 pm
    • Karen

      For those who don’t know, Lori and her husband Alan always take care of Riley and Stella when we are away. They are the dogs 2nd set of parents. Yes, Lori, you would definitely recognize Stella in this story. 🙂

      December 16, 2018 at 4:25 am
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