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Author: Nicole Stewart | Date: August 7, 2014

Director of Training Nicole Stewart shares her experiences dealing with “Catchmeifyoucan-itis”. It’s a common ailment, but luckily very curable. If you’d like to learn more, sign up for one of our Recall and Leash Manners classes, starting the week of August 17!


I can’t tell you how many calls I get like this: “My dog gets out of our yard/front door/gate and once they are out, there’s no getting then back – not even for a treat!” For all of you who know Doc McStuffins (for those of you who don’t, she’s a 6-year-old doctor of toys on Disney), she and Hallie would put this in the Big Book of Boo-Boo’s as “Catchmeifyoucan-itis”.  Check out this video.  This will help you understand a little more about what this means… and sadly, where my frame of reference is these days!

There are several things that we can assume are likely happening:

  • Since puppy-hood, they have played the chase game, not where the dog chases the person, but where the person chases the dog.  This was cute until the human couldn’t catch them anymore.
  • There is not enough management of the environment happening at home so they are able to succeed at getting into this situation over and over again and being successful at it.
  • People have only done training sessions inside the home and then assume the dog’s knowledge transfers to the outside.
  • The dog has been punished in one form or another for coming when called.

Come when called (Recall) is one of the most essential things a dog should do well because of the safety issues involved.

It takes consistency, repetition, and motivation to build these behaviors strongly and reliably. Let’s address each issue above:


If your dog gets out once, shame on them, twice, shame on you, and three times, you’ve got a habit forming.  Use gates, crates, and leashes to ensure your dog can’t get out without your approval.  You can also teach them to stay when the door opens.


Just because your dog comes when you call them inside, doesn’t mean they know what it means outside amidst all the distractions.  Do the following to bridge the gap between what they know and where they know it:

  • Bring them outside, on a long leash, with the best treats ever and create the game to end all games.
  • At a short distance, get their attention calling their name.
  • As they are coming to you, encourage them until they are all the way inside your radius.
  • Every time they come to you, reward, reward, reward.
  • Let them go out and explore again as an additional reward.  This way they also learn that coming to you doesn’t always end all the fun.

Dogs are pretty much all about doing what gets them pleasurable experiences.  Aren’t we all?  So, if you associate coming to you with good things, they will likely be excited to do it again.


There are two things I recommend people do in a pinch.  This is not what I hope or expect people to do in order to get their dogs to come in any situation.  This is for emergencies.

  1. Get your dogs attention and then run away from them using an excited voice.  Most (unfortunately, not all) dogs’ chase instinct can’t help but kick in.  Plus, they do like you when you’re fun.
  2. My favorite technique is to get your dog’s attention.  The second that they look your way, crouch down and pretend to start eating something off the ground excitedly.  Honestly, they say, “curiosity killed the cat”, but I’ve not seen many dogs able to resist an up-close inspection.

A Game of Hide and Seek

Finally, I like to make lots of learning into games.  It keeps the dog interested and enthusiastic about training.  Here it is:

  • Get a treat, let them smell it, call them once, and then run away.
  • When they “catch” you, reward them silly!  Treat and have a party!
  • Let them get distracted and repeat.
  • Once they love this part of the game, when they are distracted, try hiding behind a tree and then call them.  Only once.  You can use kissy sounds and other sounds to help them find you, and when they do, have another party!
  • If your dog gets confused, you have made it too hard, too fast.  Go back, make it easy, and your dog will continue to enjoy it.

Word of advice – avoid playing the game in reverse where you have to catch them.  They are fast and on four legs so it’s an unfair advantage.  Plus, the more they win that game, the more rewarded it becomes and the better they like it. …and you wouldn’t want to catch the human strain – “icantcatchyou-itis”.  


This blog was originally posted on November 4, 2013.


Having never trained a dog before I knew I was out of my depth with our puppy and AnimalSense threw me my life preserver.

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