A reliable recall is high on most dog owners’ wish lists, for good reason. A dog that will return when you call them is much easier to take places without it ending in frustration. Here are a few tips for teaching the all-important ‘come’ command:
Build a foundation of manners and obedience in other areas too – practicing obedience commands like sit, down, heel and staying put under distraction teaches them to focus on, and listen to you even when they’d rather do something else. This sets a good precedent for learning to return back to you, even when something more exciting is on offer.
Make the recall exciting – say the command long, loud, and happy! Praise as soon as they begin to come and make a big fuss of them when they return.
Be consistent – “come” should mean return back to my feet, as soon as I say the word – not return in five minutes, come within ten metres and disappear again, or shoot straight past me at 100 miles an hour! If you accept less than them immediately returning to your feet, they’ll realise they can push the boundaries, and will be more inclined to try pushing them even further next time.
Run in the opposite direction. This works really well for puppies, but is often surprisingly effective for adult dogs too – their natural instinct is to chase after you, and you’re also making it more exciting.
Don’t just call them for something they don’t like (like when you’re about to leave the park) - mix it up and call them randomly, praise and release them again.
Don’t give the command when you can’t reinforce it until you are pretty positive that they will listen to you, or they will learn that listening is optional. Attaching a long rope to their collar during practice sessions means you can retain control while practicing recalls from a distance.
If you would like to know more about teaching obedience under distraction, or addressing behavioural issues, these are both covered in our standard Dog and Puppy Training Packages.