Here are some tips to help teach a dog to come when called and some tips on what to avoid doing!
Reward the dog every time she responds to her name. Dogs hear their names over and over when we talk about them, and, understandably, their name can lose significance to the dog. Sometimes the dog hears her name in so many situations where she does not have to do anything, her name becomes meaningless as a recall. You can also add the word here or “come” to her name to make the call cue more meaningful to the dog.
Whenever your dog looks at you or comes to you, respond to the dog with praise etc.
Note what your individual dog finds rewarding. Rewards are anything your dog really likes a lot! For example, car rides for some dogs, food, certain toys, play time. Everytime you have something the dog loves to do (like a car ride for example), call the dog and use the car ride as the reward.
Acknowledge and reward the dog every time she does something you like as this will build a strong relationship.
To keep the recall strong, here are a few things to avoid doing:
Avoid calling the dog and then giving the dog another cue like “sit” when the dog arrives. To strengthen the recall, reward the dog as soon as she comes to you. If you would like your dog to sit when she comes to your reward there call, then ask or the sit an give a second reward for the sit.
Don’t call your dog if you don’t think your dog will come–for example, if your friendly dog wants to greet visitors at the door, don’t call her just then as she is unlikely to come.
Don’t call your dog if she has misbehaved and then correct her for the perceived prior transgression. The dog will quickly associate the punishment with coming when called and will be justifiably reluctant to come to the owner again.
To set up short training practices, start in a safe enclosed area with very few distractions (borrow a friend’s fenced yard if you need to). Play fun recall games with your dog like the following:
Play “puppy in the middle”: two or more people call the dog back and forth using the puppy’s name once and then rewarding the dog with a quick squeaky toy game or food and praise/petting when he comes to the person calling.
Hide and seek (in a safe place!) – when the puppy is not looking, hide nearby with good treats and/or your dog’s favorite toys, call the dog and reward her when she finds you.
If your dog likes to play ball, say “come” as she returns with the ball (so she makes a strong association between running toward you and the word “come, Buffy” or whatever the recall word is. Throwing the ball again is the reward for coming back to you.
On your regular walks and, while the dog is on leash, take a couple of steps away from your dog and call your dog to you just from the end of the leash. Reward the short recall. Do the same with the dog on the long line (starting in quiet areas without many distractions
Invest in a longline and practice the recall in other quiet locations as your dog becomes more proficient (without distractions like other dogs, children at first). By practicing in different locations, the dog will generalize that coming when called means come back to my person wherever you both are.
Be reasonable in your expectations. We have bred some types of dogs to be independent of people, so they may take more time to learn a good solid recall than dogs whose breeds were developed to work more closely with people.
Make sure the rewards are actually rewarding for the dog and more rewarding than something in the environment. Use tools like longlines so that you can prevent the dog from being distracted by something in the environment rather than coming to you when asked.
Have fun with the training games and, pretty soon, you will see your dog running back to you when asked to!
These organizations require a minimum number of continuing education units be obtained to retain certification. She is also a professional member of "The Pet Professional Guild," an organization committed to force-free training of animals and the "Association of Professional Dog Trainers," a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to being better trainers through education. Jane is the content creator of the online course "Assessing and Interpreting Dog Behaviour," which is a course for law enforcement personnel who meet unfamiliar dogs in the course of their duties. She is the author of "Perfect Puppy Parenting," a guide to raising a happy, confident, well-behaved dog. Jane spent 17 years working for Customs Border Services and in joint teams with US Homeland Security and the RCMP. She spent a further 8 years working as an Animal Control Officer and Bylaw Enforcement Officer. Jane lives on a small farm with dogs, sheep, donkeys, and chickens. The dogs each came from situations that prevented them from living in their original homes. The dogs range in size and age and with the dog training and behavioral work, whether it's participating in the development of an online training course, working with a client's dog or tracking a lost pet or animal.