Difficulty: Moderate Prerequisite: None Items Needed: Clicker, Treats
If you only teach your dog one thing from this book, teach him this command—it could save your dog's life. If your dog will not always come when called, he is not safe off leash. Teaching your dog to come when called is not only valuable for your dog's safety but also makes spending time with your dog more enjoyable knowing that he will not cause trouble by running away. If you teach your dog to come when called, and practice it every day, then you will build a trusting relationship with your dog.
Step 1: Load the cue instead of the clicker. Here's how: Go up to your dog and give the command that you will use to call the dog, then treat him. For example: Say the word "here Puddles" and give him a piece of bacon. Repeat multiple times during the day and each time give different treats (bacon, chicken, kibble, tug game; but in addition to treats, always give praise). Step 2: Go across the room and give the command. "Here Puddles!" He will come to you to get his treat. When he does, click and jackpot (give a large treat or several treats). At this point in the training go back to click treating when he comes. Step 3: Each time your dog comes to you pet his head and loop your hand under his collar before you give the treat. This is to get your dog used to being held when he comes to you. Dogs will pull away if they think they are being cornered into something they would rather not be doing. This should be a habit for you as well as the dog. Step 4: Try calling him from different rooms. Step 5: Practice calling him when he is interested in something else. Vary the reward each time: sometimes a treat, sometimes just praise.
Caspian is a really smart labradoodle, but the one thing that he used to not be good at was coming when he was called. He gets excited extremely easily and loses focus during a training session if he sees other dogs or other activity going on. Truthfully, we were simply irresponsible in teaching him such an important command. One day, after playing fetch outside in our field, he spotted a squirrel, and took off after it. We tried calling him back to us, but he was too interested in the animal he was chasing. They ran across a road at the same time a car was coming down the mountain. The driver didn't have time to stop, and hit Caspian going around 30 miles per hour. Caspian rolled for about fifty feet, knocking down a construction sign next-door. We rushed him to the emergency veterinarian, who wasn't extremely hopeful. Caspian didn't have any broken bones, but couldn't move his back legs. It was a long road to recovery, but after several days, the swelling on his spinal cord decreased, and he was able to stand for a few seconds at a time. After many months of working with him, he was able to move around like he used to, but not quite as limber. And, even today he carries scars from skidding along the pavement. That experience taught us that teaching the recall command, teaching "come," is more important than anything else we could teach our dog.
I've taught my dog "Come" before, but now he won't obey me. We originally taught Caspian to "come" as a puppy by playing a game where several people stood in a circle taking turns calling the dog and Caspian would come to each person calling him to get a treat. Unfortunately, later we poisoned the "come" command by using it primarily to go in the house after a play time - he started to associate the command with not being able to play anymore. We decided to start over and teach him using a different command word (we used "here").
Tip: "Get your family or friends to help you out. Have someone call your dog. If he comes to that person, treat. If he comes to someone else, be still and quiet until he finds the person who called him."