When teaching a dog to “come” you must provide high value rewards in order to motivate them to come to you. Recall or “come”/”here” is one of the hardest things for a dog to learn. In order for the dog to respond to the cue, he must stop what he is enjoying and chose to come to you. This means that you must be more exciting and motivating than the squirrel, rabbit, dog or other entertainment he is focused on.
Recall is not an “automatic” thing that dogs learn, just as learning to drive a car is not automatic for humans. Both take practice and both are more challenging when there are distractions. When a human learns to drive a car, a course in driver’s education is done BEFORE they can even begin to practice driving. These classes include basic training and are held with low distraction. Once the driver has had some education, practice can begin. When a new driver first begins to drive he/she is usually taken into a big parking lot or in an area with very little distraction. Teaching recall needs to be taught like divers are taught.
In the beginning practice ”come” in a low distraction environment, then gradually increase the distractions. It is also important that you use high value rewards like hot dogs, cheese or other yummy treats. Other tips for a reliable recall include:
- Practice at your house (inside and outside) before you practice in other places.
- Always practice with your dog on leash when you go to new places
- Be sure you use your pups favorite treats when teaching “come”
- Make recall fun by playing hide and seek or randomly call your dog while in the house and reward with a special treat. Be sure you do not over do this practice or it may no longer be fun for your dog.
- Avoid saying “come” if you do not think your dog is going to come to you, because you don’t want to teach the dog that his response is optional.
- Practice this every day. Whenever possible, practice in a new place (on leash if needed).
If you practice consistently and make this learning fun, your dog will want to come to you. Every dog is different therefore it can take some dogs a few months to have a reliable recall and other can take years. No matter what, this behavior takes a lot of practice- just like it takes a lot of practice for a human to become a good driver!