In the previous article, we discussed the importance of your dog having a strong recall, as well as reasons your dog may not come when you call him. In this article, we are going to discuss ways to increase the likelihood he will come to you.
• Make sure your dog actually understands the “come” command. Below are three easy drills you can use to teach him. Initially, all of these drills should be practiced in low-distraction environments – perhaps in your back yard. Gradually move them to more distracting areas: your front yard, various locations along your daily walk, city parks, dog parks, etc.
• Attach a ten or twelve foot rope or leash to your dog's collar and run away from him while enthusiastically encouraging him to move towards you. Once he is moving excitedly towards you, spin around and say “come.” When he gets to you, hold his collar with your left hand and deliver several of his favorite treats with your right hand – and don't forget to praise him lavishly.
• Another tactic that works for dogs with a strong retrieving drive is to throw a toy for them to retrieve. As they are returning to you, say “come” and then move quickly away from the dog to encourage him to pick up his pace.
• If you have someone who can help you, stand about thirty feet from them and take turns encouraging the dog to move back and forth between you. When the dog is excitedly moving toward you, say “come.” When the dog arrives, grab his collar and deliver treats and praise. Then the helper can repeat the process. Most dogs love this game, which builds a lot of excitement into the “come” command.
• Only say “come” when you can be sure your dog will obey. Ultimately, you want your dog to come to you no matter what. But that takes practice. In the meantime, only say come when you are sure your dog will obey. If you call and he ignores you, simply walk up to him, clip a leash on his collar, bring him back to the place you called him from, and praise him. Generally speaking, if you are unsure your dog will listen to you, it's best to just go get him rather than yell “come” multiple times and risk him learning that obeying you is optional.
• Always make “come” equal good things. If you need to kennel your dog, bring him indoors when he'd rather be outdoors, or otherwise restrict his freedom, I recommend against using the “come” command – at least during his initial training. Also, never call your dog to you and then scold him. If you do, he will think he was scolded for coming, which will weaken his recall considerably.
Remember, the essence of teaching a strong recall is keeping it fun and exciting, developing your dogs recall under gradually increasing levels of distraction, and not damaging his recall by always taking away his freedom or creating other negative associations. With most dogs, a good recall takes time, patience and a structured approach.
About The Author: Thomas Aaron is a certified dog training instructor and the owner of FetchMasters, LLC in Denver, Colorado. He is a strong advocate of positive reinforcement training, believing it provides the most humane path to a well-trained dog and nurtures an appropriate and strong bond between people and their dogs. He has trained hunting hounds since childhood and currently specializes in off-leash obedience training, behavior modification and positive gun dog training. FetchMasters.com