First, be sure your dog knows what the word "Come" really means. (Note: you can use whatever word you want for the recall. In this entry, I’ll use the word "Come.") How do you know if your dog really knows it? Try it out in different situations with variable difficulty. Call your dog (indoors) when he’s just laying around. He should be pretty good at that – no distractions. Then call him when someone else is in the house with you. Call him away from his food bowl. Call him away from his toy. Call him away from the door when guests are entering.
As the situation gets more distracting, the dog will probably have a harder time following your request. Not because he’s stubborn or dominant, but because it really is harder to do what you’re asking in the face of those distractions.
Plan your training sessions around naturally occurring distractions. If your dog is interested in the school bus when it lets off the kids, get prepared ahead of time with some really yummy treats. Have your clicker handy, too, and go out in the yard about 5 minutes before the bus usually arrives. Work with your dog, asking him to do easy stuff like sits and downs. Click and treat each success. Get him really interested in working or playing with you, so that when the bus comes, he has a reasonable chance of success.
When the bus shows up, you’ll need to really up your rate of reinforcement. What this means is that you’ll need to find really easy stuff for your dog to do, so you’re able to click and treat quickly and repeatedly. So it might look like this:
Fido, sit. Click and treat (c/t). Fido, watch. C/T. Fido, touch. C/T. Fido, sit. C/T. Fido, down. C/T. Fido, Come. C/T. All of that happens in about 10 seconds. LOTS of clicking and treating! Make this really easy for the dog to get right!
Why? We want the dog to figure out that hanging out with you is a lot more rewarding that paying attention to a distraction. Once the dog figures that out, it’s easier to get success with the recall.
Keep working with small, but noticeable distractions with your dog. Always have your dog on leash unless you’re in a fenced yard. You don’t want your dog to reinforce himself by running off and having a grand time!
Also, make sure what you’re using as a reinforcement (reward) is better than what your dog is leaving or giving up in order to comply with your request. Never use the word "Come" to start something yucky like giving a bath, trimming nails, or putting your dog in the crate and leaving for work.
And never ever (ever!) reprimand your dog for coming – even if it’s 5 minutes after you called him and he stopped at every bush before getting to you. Reward him a ton, and he’ll come even faster next time knowing that you’re more rewarding than some old bush!