Coming when called is a vital skill that every dog must learn, both for its own safety and that of those around it. A disobedient dog that refuses to come when called could easily be hit by a car, get into a fight with another dog, or suffer a variety of other bad experiences. A well trained dog that comes when called can safely be taken out to play in the local park, at the beach, on the hiking trail, or anywhere else the owner and dog may wish to go.
Basic training to come when called is relatively easy and straightforward, and involves providing praise, treats and other perks when the dog does as his owner wants. After these basic come when called training exercises are mastered, there are a number of fun exercises that can be introduced to challenge the dog and pique its interest.
Making training into a fun game is one of the best ways to motivate dog and handler alike. It is easy for training sessions to become routine and boring, and it is important to keep them from degenerating into this state.
Before beginning any food based training exercise, it is important to make sure that the dog is properly motivated and ready to respond to treat based training. Testing the dog is simply a matter of taking a piece of his regular food and waving it in front of the dog's nose. If the dog shows great enthusiasm for the food, it is ready to start the training. If not, it is best to wait until the dog is in a more receptive mood.
The treats that work best for treat based training games like hide and seek are cut up quarter inch or smaller pieces of chicken, cheese or liver. In other words, something your dog will love. It is best to use very small pieces to avoid overfeeding the dog during he training sessions.
One great game for you and another family member or friend to play with your dog is simply back and forth recall. This is a great exercise for teaching your dog to come whenever it is called by a member of the family. Dogs often learn to only respond to one person, and this can be a problem when other people are watching the dog. That is one reason why professional dog trainers always insist on working with the owner as well as the dog. A well trained dog must learn to respond to whoever is in charge, not just the owner or usual handler.
In the back and forth recall game, two or more people stand approximately ten yards apart, in a safe place like a fenced in yard. One person calls the dog and asks him to sit and say until another person asks the dog to come. When the dog responds to the command to come, it is rewarded with a treat. Most dogs respond wonderfully to this exercise and love playing this game. When playing the back and forth recall game, it is important that only the person who called the dog be allowed to give the dog a treat.
After the dog has mastered the back and forth recall game, the humans in the game can start to spread further out, thus turning the back and forth recall game into a fun game of hide and seek. The hide and seek game starts with two or more people in the center room of the house. Every time they call the dog to come, they spread out further away from where they started. As the game continues, one person will be at one end of the house, while another may be at the opposite end. What makes the hide and seek game so much fun for the dog is that he must seek out the person to get the treat, instead of simply running up to a person in plain sight. This type of seeking behavior appeals to many of the dog's natural instincts. After all, dogs are naturally hunting animals, and seeking out food is second nature to them.