Having a dog that comes immediately when called is a marvelous thing. When I was training Grady to come promptly when called (dog trainers often refer to this as a recall) I had one goal. I wanted Grady to find the sound of my voice irresistible.
Puppies love exploring their world so my biggest concern was that I couldn’t compete with a squirrel, a rock, anything smelly, a bird, another dog or even the wind (Grady was a very curious and busy puppy). Still, a dog’s hearing doesn’t just stop because they’re interested in something and Grady’s hearing is fine. I know this because he comes running from another room no matter how quietly I peel a banana.
So how do you train your dog to come to you reliably?
For starters, you’ve got to practice, practice, practice. And practice some more.
That being said, here are several pointers for you to remember when teaching your dog to come when called. First, you are the most important reinforcer of your dog’s behavior. You want to create a situation where your dog finds that the best place to be is with you. Teach your dog that being with you gets him positive attention, treats, toys, playtime – whatever it is that your dog cannot resist. If you feel your dog doesn’t have anything he finds irresistible, keep trying because everyone has something. I myself cannot pass up chocolate.
Once you’ve figured out what your dog likes (and it should be several things), use them to reinforce your dog coming to you. Start training your dog where there are very few distractions. Remember to say your dog’s name first (to get their attention) and only say the command once. Sound happy when you call him, especially in those situations where you’re annoyed with your pup. After all, would you walk over to someone who sounded angry with you?
Call your dog from a very short distance away (a few feet), then give him his reward. Be very excited and happy that he showed up. Continue with short distances until your dog is very consistent, then start increasing your distance. Always reinforce your pooch for coming to you, even if it takes them longer than you wish. Remember, they were not born knowing you’re the best thing around; you have to teach them. And that takes a lot of practice.