Dog trainer Sonja Nordstrom

Getting your dog to come when you call him is an absolute prerequisite when using any of Park City’s off-leash parks or trails, both for the safety of your dog as well as other dogs, humans, and wildlife—and to maintain this privilege. But rather than using treats or threats, local dog trainer Sonja Nordstrom (435.640.2002) says establishing this core obedience command is all about respect, staying positive, maintaining realistic expectations, and developing a strong relationship with your dog. “You wouldn’t give the keys to a Ferrari to a 16-year-old, would you?” she says. “Then don’t expect a six-month-old dog to consistently come every time you call him.”

Strategies that Nordstrom recommends for building up to a dependable “come!” include using a long lead, “so you can easily reinforce the command, letting him know exactly what you mean when you say ‘come’”; asking him to do so several times over the course of a walk as a positive check-in, so that not every “come” command means the end of playtime; avoiding bribery, which sends the message that he only needs to come when you have a treat; and always staying positive. “Even if you’ve spent two hours trying to get him to come,” she says, “you should never punish him or be angry when he finally does, regardless of the situation.”

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