Teaching your dog to come when you call him can be one of the most difficult parts of basic obedience training. You’re asking him to stop what he’s doing, ignore all the distractions around him, and return to you. That’s no easy feat. It can take a long time to develop a reliable recall, so be patient and practice often.
Begin by practicing the recall indoors with no distractions.
Step back, say “Come”, then click and treat
Take a few steps back from your dog and say “Come” in an excited tone. If he takes a step or two toward you, click and treat. If he doesn’t move, then clap your hands or use a squeak toy to get him moving in your direction, then click and treat. Keep the tone of your voice and body language exciting. You want your dog to associate coming to you with good things.
Increase the distance, then add distractions
When your dog readily comes to you from a few feet away, start to increase the distance a bit with each repetition. Once he’s willing to cross the entire room to get to you, add a distraction like a chew toy or turn on the television. You don’t want to push him to the point of failure so up the difficulty level gradually. After a few weeks, try the exercise outside in the backyard or another enclosed area with minimal distractions. Then build from there.
Involve your family or friends
A good way to teach your dog to come when called is to play a recall game. Have members of your family or a few friends sit on different sides of the room and have them take turns getting your dog to come to them. Everyone should click and treat appropriately.
Tips for teaching a reliable recall
The following pointers will help you clicker train your dog for a reliable recall.
Keep the recall positive
Never use the come command to punish your dog, give him medicine, stop play times, or call him for any other reason he might see as bad. Always go to your dog in those situations. Getting called for a bath or to be put in his crate will make your dog think twice before he comes to you in the future.
If your dog is already allergic to the word “Come” you can train a different word to mean the same thing, like “Here” or “Me”. Just use the word you’ve chosen consistently during training.
Leadership is key
Your dog won’t come to you reliably if you’re not in the position of pack leader. It’s important to teach him that you’re in charge and that all good things come from you. Remember to use real world rewards and practice obedience commands in everyday situations so your dog knows to look to you in everything he does.
Add the sit command
Once your dog has a good grasp of the recall, have him sit when he comes to you. With practice, the sit-on-arrival will become automatic, which is a good way to keep your dog from jumping up or from dashing off again when he gets to you.