There are many ways to successfully train a dog to come when called. The method you choose is dependent on your training philosophy and style. Unfortunately, there are an equal or greater number of ways to teach a dog NOT to come. People can quickly sour their dogs to coming when called. Here are 6 of the most common errors we see.
Call them without training first
Expecting a dog to come “just because” you think they should is the equivalent of expecting a paycheck when you have not worked! You need to put in the efforts to teach your dog if you expect rewards. No dog is born with obedience skills. They must be taught to listen using patience and good planning.
Call them when they can't get it right
If you haven’t done your homework and the distractions are heavy, calling a dog to come will set you both up for failure. You need to spend the time teaching your dog to respond around all sorts of distractions and that means repetition and planning! Take the time to build your dog's response around distractions so they can learn how to be a good dog!
Call them and don't reward them
Dogs do what is reinforcing, so if you want your dog to come when you call them, you have to reward with very high value rewards during the training phase. Once they are trained, you can randomize rewards, but during training it’s crucial that they learn that coming when called is a VERY valuable thing to do.
Punish them when they do come
If they don’t understand yet, they will make a mistake at some point. When they ignore your call, it’s because you haven’t taken the time to train them right. If you then punish them when they finally do come, the next time you call, they'll likely avoid you or even run the other way. Since they don’t understand what you want, you’ll become frightening and they'll want to be anywhere BUT close to you!
Only call them to come when it's for something they don't like
Dogs do what is reinforcing! That means if they find something pleasant, they’ll repeat it and if they find something unpleasant, they will seek to avoid the behaviour that brought that unpleasant feeling on. If you only call them to come when you are ending their play or calling them into the house, they’ll learn to dislike the word come in a hurry.
Call them repeatedly and allow them to ignore you
If you haven’t put in the training time, you may get lucky for a while, but eventually, your dog will ignore you. Calling them repeatedly with no response will actually reinforce them ignoring your commands.
As with anything worth while, a good recall takes work! Put in the time and effort and you'll get the reward of a responsive dog who is safe and mannerly.