One trick to make your dog more responsive is to improve your style of communication. Stop yelling and give specific commands, without repetition.
Does this little scenario sound familiar?
"Rosie." (normal tone of voice, no response)
"Rosie!" (little louder, still no response)
"Rosie, c'mere!" (louder, dog looking away)
"Rosie, I said come, dammit. Come here!" (screaming and bellowing, the owner lunges for the dog, who takes off at a gallop.)
"When I say come, I mean come! Come here! Come! Here! Now! Here!" (catching the dog, the owner drags her back by her leg, yelling at her for not minding and emphasizing his displeasure with a swat.)
Now honestly, if someone gives you vague instructions, shouts, and punishes you when you finally do what is asked, what would you do?
Avoid that person the next time, more than likely.
Contrast that with the person who's communicating well:
"Rosie, come!" (Pleasant but firm voice, good eye contact.)
"Good girl! What a goooood girl!" (lots of sweetly voiced praise for a job well done, with more eye contact, patting and a big smile.)
Chances are that if the first example describes you, emulating the second won't have an effect without retraining both you and the dog. Ideally, a good dog-training class will give you both a fresh start, although in some cases, the only thing that will help is retraining with new words. If "come" is linked with punishment in your dog's mind, she may never respond positively to that word.
Remember, dog training is essentially a carrot-and-stick enterprise. The steps are the same, no matter the task. First, teach the dog the exercise, in a pleasant but firm way that makes the dog want to learn. Then, reinforce the training.
When the dog understands what's required of her, ask her to perform by giving a precise command once, and only once. (Say "come," not "here," or "c'mere".) If she responds, praise.
If she doesn't, correct firmly and immediately and when the task is complete, praise. Never punish a dog for approaching you, even if it's at the end of a chase and she's only approaching because you finally caught the leash. Keep your temper out of it, and work through the steps. Train, reinforce and praise, praise, praise.
Now for the holiday goodies, one for dogs from "Dr. Pitcairn's Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats" (a fabulous book from the Rodale Press, 33 East Minor St., Emmaus, Pa. 18049), and one for cats from veterinarian Terri McGinnis' "Dog and Cat Good Food Book" (Taylor and Ng, P.O. Box 200, Brisbane, Calif. 94005).
Dog biscuits deluxe
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup soy flour
1 teaspoon bone meal
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (shelled)
2 tablespoons oil, melted butter or fat
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 eggs mixed with 1/4 cup milk
Mix dry ingredients and seeds together. Add oil, molasses and all but 1 tablespoon of the egg/milk mixture. Add more milk if needed to make a firm dough. Knead a few minutes, then let dough rest 30 minutes or more. Roll out to 1/2 -inch thickness, cut into shapes and brush with egg/milk mixture. Bake on cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (until lightly toasted). Turn off the heat and leave the biscuits in the cooling oven for an hour or more to get really crunchy treats. Store in air-tight containers in the freezer.
1 cup brown rice
2 cups well-flavored beef, chicken or fish stock (can be made from bouillon cubes)
oil for frying
Bring the broth to a boil. Stir in rice, bring back to a boil then simmer, stirring until all the broth is absorbed, about 40 minutes.
Spread rice on a cookie sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees F. until rice is brown and crackly, about 20 minutes. Or allow to dry at room temperature 24 hours.
Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Add rice about a cup at a time to the hot oil, shaking and stirring until the grains puff. Drain on a paper towel; store in an airtight container.
Finally, don't share holiday candy with your pets. Chocolate can be deadly to small dogs, and even larger ones may end up with an upset stomach.
*Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o At Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.