As you’re training your dog to come, you have to slowly increase the difficulty by adding more space and distractions. We’ve broken the process down into three levels.
This is where your dog’s training begins. Start with whatever training style you prefer, but do it inside the house with no distractions. Once your dog comes to you every time in this environment, you can add some challenges.
While still in the house, you could have a family member ring the doorbell during training. A friend could come over and pet your dog as you’re calling them to come. You could set a toy next to your dog before calling them. Adding these little distractions will help prepare them for the world of distractions outside!
Once your dog can handle these situations, it’s time to move outdoors.
Head to the backyard or a somewhat private outdoor area. You don’t want a lot of people and/or dogs around at first. If you are not in an enclosed area, keep your dog on a long leash. Begin training just as you did indoors – just you and your dog, no distractions. Of course, this will be a bit harder for your dog, because there are squirrels and scents and sounds outside!
Once your dog comes to you every time you call them outside, add distractions similar to those you added indoors. You might even invite a friend over and have them bring their dog: the ultimate distraction!
During this stage, you will also want to add more distance between you and your dog. Allow them to get distracted at one end of the yard, then call them to come to you. If they come every time, you can safely take a trip to… the dog park.
This is where the real challenge comes in. Dogs love playing at the dog park, which makes it really hard for them to leave! However, if your dog is properly trained, they will come every – or, at least, almost every – time you call.
As your dog is sniffing butts and romping around, call them to come to you. If they do as they’re told, your training has been a success! However, all that training can be undone if you call your dog and promptly leave the dog park. You don’t want them to associate “come” with an action they don’t enjoy. There’s an easy way to avoid this predicament: After your dog comes to you, praise them, release them and let them start playing with their furriends again!
When it is time to leave, try letting your dog naturally come to you so that the word “come” doesn’t have to be spoken. You can also gently approach them, leash up, and be on your way, all without saying “come.”
As you enter a new training level, you will want to use both treats and praise as rewards. Once your dog establishes reliable recall at that level, slowly eliminate treats so that praise becomes the only reward. Your dog should eventually come to you every time without needing food as an incentive. This is an essential part of training, because you won’t always have treats in an emergency!