One of the most valuable things you can teach your dog is to come when called. Otherwise known as their recall. When a dog has good recall, you can go virtually anywhere with your dog off leash and be able to fully trust that he will keep watch of where you are and come back when you ask him to.
Before we dive into the process of teaching your dog good recall, you should keep in mind some breeds may be harder to train, but not impossible! Many dogs that were bred for scent tracking such as beagles, bloodhounds, etc., can take longer to teach ‘come’ as they get distracted by interesting scents (scents that are usually more interesting than us or even the treat we might have). But don’t be discouraged, it really isn’t impossible, it just may take more time and it is so important that you stay positive and consistent for successful training.
The most popular way to teach you dog ‘come’ is to simply have them on leash and while holding that leash, ask your dog to ‘come’. When he does come, give him praise and a treat! If he doesn’t, then simply tug on your leash gently pulling the dog towards you and when he reaches you, give him praise and a treat just as you would if he did it on his own. This will help communicate with your dog exactly what you are asking him to do (you are after all teaching him a word he’s never heard before!).
When your dog seems to understand it, you can then continue to use longer and longer leashes so that you are then challenging him to come to you from a farther distance. Don’t be discouraged if your dog did great on the short leash but not on the longer leash! Even on the long leash you can gently pull him in towards you and give praise when he reaches you. It is very important to not continuously keep repeating the word ‘come’ as it will let your dog think he doesn’t have to listen to you the first time, he can come when he feels like it. If you ask your dog to ‘come’ and he doesn’t, don’t repeat the word, simply pull him in towards you. You want to teach your dog that if you say the word come, he is expected to run to you right away.
If your dog gets really good at the long leash exercises, you can start introducing some distractions to challenge him. Have a friend walk by, or a friendly dog hanging out nearby. Slowly you will be able to introduce more and more distractions that your dog will learn to ignore and only focus on what you are asking him to do.
In no time at all your dog will be enjoying life off leash and you can live worry-free knowing that no matter what distractions are happening around you, your dog will reliably come back to you.