Come On Command: Some Advanced Theories On Teaching Your Dog To Come When Called

[Adam’s note: Remember, the difference between using food as a bribe versus using food as a motivator: As a bribe, you’re bribing the dog to do the behavior, and if he does… then he’ll get a cookie. Bad, bad, bad. Instead, use the food as a motivator by MAKING THE DOG do the exercise, and then after the exercise is complete, you can reward with praise and a cookie… if this is what motivates your dog.]

Wscott52 on our discussion forum made this excellent post: “I think for most people, the long line is basic recall training. This was my method with personal pets long before I read Adam’s book.

This method is based on my understanding of operant conditioning learned while earning a BA in Psychology. Start with the dog on the leash in an open area with minimal distractions. Call the dog and pull him toward you with the leash. When he reaches you praise him and reward him with a treat. The reward and praise have to follow the completion of the desired behavior immediately.

Soon the dog will turn to you at the recall without being prompted by the leash. When he is turning on his own wait for a moment after calling him to give him time to obey. If he comes give him praise and reward, if he stops after turning issue the recall again and gently pull him in with the leash When he is coming 100% reliably you need to start weaning him off the food reward.

A 100% reinforcement schedule is the fastest way to condition a new behavior. A behavior learned this was will also be the fastest to extinguish if you go from 100% reward directly to 0%. The key is to gradually wean him off the treats. Go to 50% reward for behavior and then after several sessions go to 1/3, then 1/4, 1/5. At some point where you are rewarding for only one in five or six trials you should go to a decreasing random reinforcement schedule. In other words reward after five trials but the next time wait for maybe eight then five or four again. Eventually you can wean him to 0% food reinforcement. You want to keep verbal praise going throughout.

The conditioning resulting from a gradual random decrease in the food reward will be the most persistent you can achieve. Eventually it will extinguish but if you occasionally give him a treat when calling him he should come reliably indefinitely. Also at some point during this process if he is coming 100% reliably you will start letting him drag the leash and only pick it up if he fails to recall. At this point too if you want to you can introduce him to an ecollar and do away with the long line.”