“Come” is the most important word that you will teach your dog, and if it is trained using positive reinforcement and play, you are more likely to have a successful, reliable recall. Maintaining a solid recall is a lifelong training effort that includes enthusiasm, consistency, and most importantly, rewards – lots and lots of rewards!
Before You Begin:
Never use your recall cue to call your dog to you for something negative, such as a reprimand, isolation, to get their nails clipped, or anything else your dog finds to be negative. Always make sure it is fun and positive every time they run to you.
If you have inadvertently already been calling your dog for things that he or she considers unpleasant, then just change your command and start training all over so your dog learns that coming to you is the best thing in the world! So, if you need to get your dog for something he considers unpleasant (such as a bath or nail trim), do not use your “come” command – just go get the puppy without associating a word with it.
Teaching the Recall:
Start slowly by practicing at home with minimal distractions and plenty of fun or yummy rewards, like toys and treats. First, show your dog a high-value treat as you move backwards and say the dog’s name in a bright, happy tone. If the puppy runs straight to you, reward with several small treats.
Be very exciting and make the puppy understand what great fun it is to run to you. As he comes to you, give him several treats AND praise AND petting AND play. Once your dog is running consistently straight to you, you can name the behavior (come, here, etc.).
When going outside to practice, there will be more distractions, so always keep your dog on a leash or safety long line until he has been trained more thoroughly, and don’t forget to use high value treats!
Practice grabbing your dog’s collar when he comes to you, just before you give him the treat. This will avoid your dog taking the treat and run away to play the game again. It will also make your dog associate a “collar grab” with a good thing and not something to run away from and avoid.
Reinforcing the Recall:
The key to success is building a great relationship with your dog. You must try to be “Be the Very Best, Most Interesting Human Ever in the History of the Entire World” each and every time you call your dog to come.
Also remember to never, ever reprimand your dog after you ask them to come to you! This rule applies to every recall and means that no matter how many times you call or how long it takes for your dog to get to you, he gets huge rewards once he gets to you.
Have your dog randomly check in with you many times while at play, especially with other dogs. Just call them to you, give them a treat and then release them back to play. That way, “come!” is not associated with leaving or being leashed.