Few things compare to the sinking feeling you get as your dog runs the other way when you call him. Sometimes he’ll pause for a moment to taunt you, then run the opposite direction even faster. Obviously, teaching your dog to come when called is an important command, not only for your dog’s safety but also for the canine-human relationship. When you teach your dog the “come” command, you establish your authority over the dog and garner the dog’s respect.
When you attempt to teach your dog to “come,” always remember that the dog isn’t stupid. No dog is going to willingly run to any human if the dog has had a bad experience once he got there. When training the dog, remember the old marketing axiom WIIFM, which stands for “what’s in it for me?” Just as a buyer needs a good reason to part with his hard-earned money, your dog requires a good reason to respond to your command.
So with this in mind, your job is to make coming over to you the most wonderful thing that can happen to your dog. The “come” command should always mean that there will be a reward, whether a treat, praise, or a favorite toy. The worst thing you can do is to call a dog to you and punish it. If the dog has done something wrong, you must go over to the dog to reprimand it. If you don’t take that extra effort, you will never have a dog that comes when you call.
The first goal in training is to get the dog’s attention. When you give a command, precede it with the dog’s name to get his attention. Start off with the dog on a short lead. Make him sit while you walk away. Turn around and say “Fido come” in a happy voice. With any luck Fido will at least look at you. If nothing happens, pull the lead toward you to clue him into the meaning of “come.” Once he arrives, praise him lavishly and maybe give him a treat if food is a big motivator for him. Always use the same command and never say it more than once. Practice is the key, and reliability will take a long time, so be patient. The reward is worth it.