Arguably the most important command you will teach your dog—it can be the most challenging. A dog who comes reliably off-leash from a distance around enticing distractions, such as chattering squirrels or wagging dogs, takes months of consistency, knowledge, and hard work.
What it means:
When you say, Come, your dog should immediately head to you, ignoring all distractions, approaching until his nose is directly in front of you, collar within easy reach.
Don’t ruin your recall!
Dogs love being chased: If ignoring your recall requests result in a chase, you can bet that your dog will enthusiastically ignore you in the future!
Think about it!
After coming when called, the consequences should be pleasurable–not punitive! Examples of punishing consequences may include: ending a play session, leaving for work, preventing a social interaction, interrupting a good sniff, or sticking the dog in a crate–anything your dog doesn’t like.
Having an under-trained dog off-leash is risky: it can ruin your recall and it is dangerous!
Off-leash dogs may run up to aggressive animals such as unfriendly dogs or wildlife or jump on people unsteady on their feet. You are at-risk for ruining your recall because the consequences for ignoring you might be better than listening.
The Great Escape
Did you let your dog escape? Acting irritated when you catch your dog will cause your dog to associate your irritation with being caught rather than the escape act. Will he learn to not escape in the future? No…but he might learn to avoid being caught!
Don’t Be Confusing!
To avoid confusing your dog, always require the same performance: when you say, come, it means: Get your four little paws over to me immediately, stopping directly in front of me, close enough to grasp your collar. Confused dogs tune out their owners.
Create a habit
Your dog should come every time you call him. Don’t let mistakes happen! A habit is formed by consistent behavior over months.
Do you want your dog to come when called around deer? If so, train around deer! Want a reliable recall when he sees another dog? Train around dogs. Teach your dog to generalize by training around as many distractions as you can dream up!
What? How does being inconsistent help a dog to have a more reliable recall? Don’t misunderstand me: It’s vital that you are consistent in what you expect from your dog. Where it is helpful to be inconsistent is in how you are rewarding your dog: Don’t use the same treats all the time! Using jackpots, special treats or privileges (such as car rides) will make your recall more consistent!