From Quora. Question: How do I get my dog to come when called? He is 10 months old, and has been trained by my kids in many things: sit, lay down, stay etc. Inside he comes when commanded. Outside? Whoa, daisy! He just looks at you and says “screw you” and takes off!

Answer:
The most important thing to remember is that “recall” training needs to be treated as different in every location. Recall at the park, in your back yard, in your house, on a street, away from another dog, away from an adult, away from a child, away from food (“leave it”+ recall), at the beach – all of these different locations need to be practiced independently, and will mean slightly different things to your dog. A recall with a different member of your household? Completely different again.

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You need to first sort out if there is some other kind of issue in the way of a good recall. Is it, for example, an obsession with other dogs? Squirrels? Or just freedom? You may need to address that first.

Your dog is also very young, still a puppy. I would also work on your relationship and bonding, and maturity, before doing any kind of “distance” recall. At this stage, I would focus on very short distances in a variety of different scenarios (inside, outside, yard, park, with distractions of all other kinds, etc) while on a long leash that you can control. I would not expect any kind of reliability until your dog has matured more and has a longer attention span. When this is will greatly depend on your dog – it could be now, but for many puppies it may not be for a while. Yes, you can work on recall for sure (you can start this at 8 weeks!), but I just wouldn’t expect solid or great recall with a puppy’s attention span.

Some tips:

  1. Running back to you needs to be great, and possibly greater than running about. Throw a party every time to start out with. When you feel confident that your dog returns, throw a party by surprise sometimes. What is a party? Whatever your dog loves – food, toys, and always affection added onto this. Happy, excited praise. Fun and play. If your party doesn’t work well, work at increasing your dogs “obsession” with whatever you can use as a motivator (you have to make those toys even more fun, or find even better food. Things like rotisserie chicken can work great). 10 months is a great time to explore favorite items and activities and develop that bond, trust, and expectations now that attention spans and focus improves. This can be used for all forms of training!
  2. Running back to you needs to be expected. Make sure you use the right tone and body
  3. language. This is not about “dominance” or negativity or anything of that sort. You do not want to frighten or punish. You can be really positive, but still mean business. A lot of this has to do with relationship, trust, and bond.

  4. Don’t run, move, or lean towards your dog, move backwards and away from your dog. Why? Moving towards your dog indicates “chase” or that he is to stop moving (“wait”). Moving backwards help draw your dog in towards you. You can even try calling your dog and running away to see if this initiates a playful chase, get him to start moving towards you, and then slow down until he catches up and arrives at your legs. Gradually reduce the “chase” until you only move backwards a step or two while facing your dog.
  5. Timing and consistency is crucial. You need to learn how far away your dog can be when he’ll still listen to you. Start with a long line held at varying lengths. Start with 6 feet, then 10, 15, 20 and so on. Learn that point where you know your dog stops listening to you (is it when you lose eye contact? at a certain distance? when he sees another dog? when his ears twitch?), and distract and call him before that point.

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And in all of the above, do not worry too much about what “word” (or sound) you use at first (“come!” or “Fido come!”) – the main thing is for your dog to learn it’s great to come back to you. This kind of training is mostly about tone, body language, and timing. Do not put a word into the recall until you know without a doubt your dog is going to run back. Only use the word when you know for sure, if you chose to ever apply a word to the training at all. If and when you use a word or sound, be consistent with what word/phrase you use, timing, and tone.

And there will always be that “thing” that you cannot recall off of, a dog’s attention is 100% on the other activity. Chase is one of the hardest, particularly if the chased animal is prey. Try to avoid these scenarios, and don’t beat yourself up too badly with failed recalls. A 90% recall rate is very good.

Don’t underestimate how useful developing a positive “obsession” can be. You may have to manage it carefully so your dog doesn’t go “over the top” (for example, gets overly possessive of whatever the obsessive tool is, and things go bad). But being completely nuts for a particular toy or type of food can be very useful for training and be utilized as a safety measure. For example, my dog is obsessed by frisbees and I, as a result, have a completely reliable recall (whip out that frisbee), 100% solid distraction (will ignore another dog if I need him to), and can get a solid stay, wait, freeze (and soon hopefully an “emergency down”) using the frisbee as the reward. Having something your dog will do anything for will help with recalls like this, and other forms of safety training. It’s not something fully built-in, and the amount and type of drive will differ for every dog (and some dogs may not be obsessive about anything). So chances are you will have to “develop” this reaction into the dog. It’s worth trying to do when you have an issue you want or need to resolve.

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And also remember, for some dogs, going off-leash is not a good idea. And this is OK too, as your dog can be very happy and safer on adventures while attached to a long line (long leash) and you can either hold it or let it drag on the ground and step on if he starts to take off. Just make sure to switch up the scenery and activity from time to time, and he’ll be quite happy exploring on a long leash. But your dog is still a puppy – you have lots of time to work on recall. Just remember safety is the most important thing to remember while working on this.

Good luck!

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.