Many dog owners feel that giving their dog a treat when they come back when called should instill in them a desire to always come back, regardless of where they are or what they are doing. To your dog, this simply makes no sense! After all, if your dog knows that he has a choice of either continuing to chase after the next big adventure that he has just spotted in the distance or to come back to gnaw on a treat that he gets all the time, well he doesn’t have to be a rocket science to do the maths!
So what can you do? In a few words; you need to be more exciting than anything else your dog may anticipate. For many dogs, the way to obedience is through their bellies so finding that extra special treat that they would quite literally die for and then reserving only for recall situations can work, well … ‘a treat’ (sorry for the pun!) It might be a piece of chicken skin or some other tasty morsel, but whatever it is, make sure you are not tempted to give it to your dog under any other circumstances other than the recall.
Next, it is time to get your dog used to the idea by having a few recall sessions in an enclosed and safe area. Start without distractions and gradually add them in. One way that can have great success is to have another family member or friend hold your dog back while you walk over to him and allow him to sniff the ‘treat of a lifetime’. Once he has a real desire for it turn your back and walk away. Of course, your dog will try to run towards you but that’s where the person holding him back needs to keep a tight hold. Once you have reached a good distance from your dog shout the loud command ‘(dog’s name) COME!’ Your dog will come hurtling towards you at full speed but ensure that he sits before you reward him with the treat. You’ll quickly see he will get the hang of what is happening and as you add in distractions have patience with him and don’t expect perfection from the very start.
Just as an extra note. While extra special treats work for many dogs, not all dogs will respond to them. Take one Boxer dog called Harley who was never consistent with recall training even when truly fabulous treats were used. Yet, he had a crazy obsession for his squeaky ball. Once this was confiscated and only brought out (and squeaked) for the recall command he suddenly turned into a dog who could have won awards for the recall!