Getting your dog to come when you call is in some ways easy and some ways hard. When you’re in the home and there’s nothing going on, it’s likely your dog will come when you call. When you’re out and about though, it makes it much harder. Why is that? Is it because our dogs are deliberately ignoring or disobeying us? Let’s look at 3 ways to keep your dog coming when you call. 1. Build a positive association with the recall cue. If you haven’t already, pick a new word and teach your dog that when they hear it they’ll receive high value food from you. It’s nice to pick a new word because you can get some really clean and clear conditioning. And a new word generally means that your dog hasn’t heard it and ignored it in the past. 2. Manage with a long leash. A big mistake is giving too much freedom too early. A long leash prevents your dog from wandering off and means that you can get over to them if you’re concerned that they will not come when you call. We even recommend using them in larger fenced in yards at first. They make leashes of all lengths. Purchasing a 100ft leash is nice because you can tie some knots in it and hold it to make it shorter. You’ll then give more leash when your dog is very responsive.
3. Say the cue once and reward every time.
When you’re ready for your dog to come, say the cue once and if needed, follow with a bunch of happy-talk and hand clapping. Whatever you do, don’t repeat the cue. The association that your dog has with the cue is that once it’s said, tasty food appears. If the cue is repeated, the ratio of the cue being said and the tasty food appearing is no longer 1:1. This means that the association will start to fade away, which will make it less likely your dog will come in the future. (Technically you can reward behaviors at random and when done correctly it can keep them strong, but we recommend rewarding every time.) If you’re in a situation where you’re not very confident that your dog will respond, play it safe and don’t use that word. If these situations happen often, you’ll want to add those distractions/environments into your training.