Coming when called (or more accurately, not coming when called) is one of the most common behavior problems I get asked about. Let's take a look.
First, stop doing these things:
- scolding your dog for coming too late
- starting something not-so-fun (putting Fido in the crate and leaving)
- stopping something really fun (ending playtime in the yard)
- "lying" to your dog (saying "lets go for a walk," to get your dog to come and then not following through)
- calling your dog when you know he's not likely to come (when he's barking at the fence at the neighbor's dog, when he's chasing a squirrel, etc.). Instead, just go out and get him.
Start doing these things:
- giving your dog a really yummy treat when he comes – even if it's 5 minutes after you've called him.(make sure it's a treat he doesn't normally get, so it really sticks out in his mind how good coming to you really is)
- playing your dog's favorite game when he comes
- releasing him to go back and do whatever it was he was doing before you called him (if he was playing with another dog, for example, let him go back out to play)
- praising, playing, and petting him for at least 20 seconds (time yourself!) when he comes
- going out and getting him if he's not likely to respond to your request (if he's engrossed in a smell, barking at a squirrel, engaged in raucous playtime, etc.)
- playing hide and seek and catch-me-if-you-can – make yourself really fun and exciting in your dog's eyes. The more fun you are, the more likely your dog will come running when you call.
Remember: coming when called is something you need to teach your dog – he isn't born knowing how to leave something really exciting and return to you. Especially if he just gets in trouble when he gets to you (or if all the fun ends when he gets to you). It takes practice and patience on your part. The more you practice, the better your dog's skills will become.