Is your dog not responding to their recalls like you would like? Do they look at you when you call them to ‘come’ but continue to turn and run the other way? If you find you are having a hard time with your dog coming when called, apply these helpful tips. When applied you will see results immediately!
1. First and foremost, set your dog up for success. Do not give your dog freedom until they are coming to you reliably– unless you are in a situation where you do not need them to come when called. The reason for this is because every time you call your dogs to ‘come’ and they do not, they are learning to ignore your requests. People hate to hear ‘keep your dog on leash’ until they know better. They envision their dogs running free and coming back to them at their requests no matter what distractions are out there. This is absolutely possible with time, training, and a strong reinforcement history. But the longer you wait to implement this, the harder time you will have to train this.
2. Reward your dog’s check-in’s. Anytime your dog looks back at you reward this either with verbal praise, a treat, or a game of tug. The more you reward your dog for checking in on you, the more apt they will be to come and check-in.
3. Make sure the rewards you are giving your dog is worth their while. Meaning, if your dog is playing with another dog and they come to you upon your request, is the pat on the back and saying “That’s a good dog” enough of a reinforcement to make your dog want to come back to you next time? In most cases it is not. I find that using a high reward treat, such as hot dogs or cheese, when I’m working on recalls will make a strong impression on them when they come when called. I do have the occasional dog who just loves a game of tug or wants me to throw the ball again when they come back to me. But overwhelmingly I find food is at the pups’ heart.
4. Do not ask your dog to come to you and then do something they do not like. Examples would be taking away their play time with friends, clipping their nails, or giving them a bath. ALWAYS associate the word ‘come’ with something positive such as food, toys, or playing games. ALWAYS! How in the world are you supposed to get your dog to come to you in these circumstances, you ask? You can say ‘hey puppy’, ‘hey dog’ ‘let’s go’, ‘over here’ in an upbeat, happy tone of voice. I’ll tell gentlemen in my class to bring out their inner girly voice to sound upbeat and positive.
5. If your dog does run away from you and you finally catch them, do not yell at them. Do not hit them. Take a deep breath, think of this article and know your dog is not ready to be off their leash. When they are reliable checking in on you and running to you when you call them on leash, then you can try having them off leash.
6. You will not always have to keep your dog on leash or reward them for coming when called. However when you are first training this behavior I encourage you to set you and your dog up for success by keeping them on leash and reinforcing them with something they love every time they come to you.
Bottom line, PLEASE DO NOT allow your dog off leash and hope they come to you when you call them without training and proper reinforcement. If you expect too much too fast it is setting both you and your dog up for failure and frustration. However with time, patience and great reinforcement your dog will soon reliably come to you upon your request!