Use a long line in training, to ensure you can get your dog to in fact, come to you, and gradually shorten the line until it is just a “tab.”
Do NOT repeat commands. If you use your call word and your dog doesn’t respond, resist the urge to stand there calling & calling. Try something else. Get their attention and run the other way, pretend to fall down (sometimes works), ignore the dog & start playing with a stick (or whatever’s handy!).
Do NOT call the dog for things they do not want to do, i.e. “Come here, so I can clip your nails! Come here, time for a scolding! Come here, let me stuff you in the crate before I leave for work!” Eventually, your dog is going to pick up on this trick, no matter how happy you sound when you call. If you have to do something the dog doesn’t like, go get him – that is the safest way to ensure you don’t end up with a dog that high-tails it in the other direction at the mere mention of the word “come.”
It is easier to change the word you are using than to retrain one that the dog is currently ignoring. (Instead of repeatedly trying to use the word “come,” switch to “here” or “check.” Pick a word that is short – preferably one syllable – that you can belt out really well if you need to. “C’mere” doesn’t work for this. You need a specific word that means a specific thing. I use “HERE!”)
Vary the rewards you use for this. Keep them super awesome! (Meat, a favorite toy, a throw of a stick, whatever YOUR dog is really into.)
There is a big difference between using the treat as a reward, and using it as bribery. If you are waving the bologna to get the dog to come in the house, that’s bribery. Instead, set it up so that you have control of the situation, and “surprise” reward! (Whenever I come home with a special treat for the dog, I wait until he is in another part of the house, call “Spark, here!!” and when he comes running, I surprise him with the bone from behind my back.. “surprise!”)
Setting the dog up (as well as yourself!) for success with this one is paramount. You don’t go from successfully calling your dog on leash with no distractions in the house to reliably calling your dog in the woods with birds around and no leash. You build up to that, which means you have to work your dog in different locations on a long line, then graduate to dropping the line, but the dog still drags it, then shorten the line, etc. etc.
As a rule, do not give a cue (“sit,” “down,” “come,” etc.) if you cannot or are not willing to require it. As in, if your dog isn’t reliably trained to recall (come when called), don’t try calling him when he is off the leash at your family BBQ & you have no way of getting him to come to you should he decide to ignore you.
It is very possible to train your own dog to ignore you. People do it all the time. Repeating commands is the fastest way to do this.
To start training a reliable recall:
1) Start with name recognition. Practice with no distance (the dog is close to you). Say your dog’s name, clearly, and as soon as he looks, mark the behavior with a “YES!” or a click, and treat. If the dog ignores you, make a noise, whistle, kissie-face, anything other than repeating the name,
2) When you have reliability with this step (name recognition), add in your recall word. Wait until your dog is looking somewhere else (stomp your foot if you need to), say your dog’s name, “here!” and scoot backwards to get him to pick up the pace in coming toward you. As soon as he is committed to heading toward you, mark the behavior (“YES!” or click) and treat when he gets to you.
3) Keep changing your position, your location, and the distance between you and repeat the exercise over & over. (When you are adding in distance, use a long line to give you control.)
4) Always quit while the dog is still giving enthusiastic responses! Don’t wait until they’re spent and moseying on over ;)
This is in no way, shape or form, a complete run-down of how to properly train “come when called.” These are the basics and the start; every dog is different, with different motivations and reactions. We are happy to help you solidify your dog’s recall. Give us a buzz at 508.625.0347 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.