Today was the day. I was going to teach this critter to “come” to me when I called. He was almost three years old and had never obeyed anyone to come to them. He was used to being cornered and grabbed when a human needed to get him. Unfortunately, this was the case when he would get out and run away from T, the man of the family who rescued him. Fear of “being got” was deeply imbedded in him.
How was I going to overcome this?
We started in the bedroom, where I could close the door. Naturally, he dove under the bed. He figured that if he couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see him, and didn’t know where he was.
But he could see my feet! He knew it was just me.
“Come!” I told him, firmly.
Okay, Plan B.
Much as I didn’t want to, and knowing it would scare him, I took the broom and slowly moved it towards where I knew he was curled up.
Wham! Out like a shot, he bolted. No way was he going to let that broom near him! I hadn’t even touched him! He was out from under the bed, cringing, watching me with wide eyes. It was like he was saying, “How could you do this to me, Mom?”
Gently, but firmly, I commanded, “Sammy, come.”
He circled around in a tight circle, then dove under the bed again.
Oh how I hated this, but once again, I showed him the broom. All I had to do this time was let him see it—I didn’t make a move towards him with it before he scrambled out from under the bed.
Now he circled again—tighter and tighter circles, closer and closer. All the while I told him, “Come, Sammy, come!”
Finally, he was close enough to me to be able to touch him. I patted his head. “Good boy, Sammy! Good boy!”
We repeated this a few times in the next few days. The broom was not needed at all. We did it maybe four or five times until he totally got it. When I said, “come” it was his cue to come to me! He seemed so pleased with himself!
After a few days, we tried it in the living room. I stood in the middle of the room. Sammy was in his safe spot: his basket.
So, I went over to him, bent down and picked him up. I brought him to where I had stood and had told him to come. I believe he must have been thinking, “What fresh hell is this?”
Then, I put him back in his basket, walked to my spot, and commanded him to come.
We repeated the picking up and moving him.
Finally, he cautiously put a foot out of his basket, then all four feet, and did his little circle-dance. Closer and closer, making tighter and tighter circles.
He finally got to me, and again I showered him with love and praises. We repeated it in the living room a few more times.
In the next few days, we practiced in the bedroom and the living room, till he could see that the sky did not fall on his head if he obeyed. Quite the opposite! He actually got cuddles and pets from Mommy!
Outside, it was hit or miss. Sammy certainly loved his freedom. His run-around-free place was outside in the backyard. It was where he would explore all along the fences, into corners—every nook and cranny. He was probably looking for a way to escape! I was unable to go and get him if he ran away from me, even if he couldn’t get out of the yard. So how could I get him to come if he didn’t want to?
I had to be patient and wait. I decided to just praise him when he did come, and finally, he would come almost every time, but not necessarily right away.
Now, he won’t take off if I’m out with him and he knows I see him.
But I couldn’t let him out on his own if he wasn’t in the yard. He would toodle off to explore, and came back when he felt like it. This was especially true at night if I let him out the front door. He’d visit the neighbours, and ignore my calls.
If we were camping, and I had to let him out to do his business, I didn’t have an enclosed fenced area to hold him. If I tried going after him, he would run away.
But he still had a great need to come back to his safe place, and that was me. Eventually, if I just kept calling, he knew where I was, so he could come back.
I tried to always wait until we ended our excursions with him having come back in response to my “come” command. That way, he associated his coming with obedience to the command, and not to his own will.