Any training is about teaching the dog that if they do a certain behaviour, they get a positive reward. In your dog’s head, coming back to you should me to them “If I return right now, I will get a much better thing than the distraction over there!” Not “If I return now, I will get shouted at and put back on my lead!”.
With adult dogs, recall training should be done using a long line, giving them freedom and you control. This can be used for puppies, but I have older dogs in mind with this style of training.
Some dogs are bred to recall, and some are not. You are less likely to have recall issues with a border collie or Labrador than a husky or beagle, but all are capable of recall with counter conditioning through continuous, consistent and frequent training.
The first thing you need to do is pick the recall command you wish to use. A quick word that they can learn to understand means “Come back to me now.” Their name is not ideal, as this is their name, and they will not only hear it meaning come back to me, you may say “Rex no!” “Rex go away!” “Rex”, so a simply “Come!” or “Here!” will work well. A whistle can be one of the best recall tools, but unless you can do it yourself, you can be setting yourself up for problems if you loose or break your whistle.
With an adult dog, you must use a long line, as long as possible, 20ft is best if possible. To begin with, just let them go a few feet out, then when they are looking in your direction, call them, in a very high, happy voice, if they come back, immediately give them a reward, if they don’t, give them a tug on the line, if needed, pull them in, then give them a reward. Once they know to come back to you from close, let them gradually out further. Once they are coming back to you each time, then let the line trail behind them while running, so if they try to run off, you have the chance to grab the line. Use the opportunities that come up to call them. If they are running towards you, recall them and give them a treat. If they are looking your way, get their attention and recall them and give them a treat. If you call them when they are distracted, you are setting them up to fail.
Don’t whistle a dog when they are running away unless they already have good recall, or the reward for running away from your whistle will be whatever they were running to!
Dog will be dogs, they are intelligent animals, that learn from our actions. If they know that when they return, they will get shouted at or the walk is going to end, all the fun will be gone, then they may begin to stop wanting to come back. If by coming back, they get a reward, a game, a cuddle, a treat, they will be much more willing to come back.
If you call your dog, it ignores you, you call it and start to go over to it, it turns and walk away, you chase it, so it gets faster, it does not worry that it might lose you as you are chasing it and this behaviour is likely to be repeated, going further away and listening less to you.
If you call your dog, it ignores you, you turn and run away, it looks and sees you running away, worried that it might lose you, it chases you. Then you stop, call the name of the dog that is coming towards you and reward it, it is less likely to run away and more likely to listen to you.
If you call your dog, it ignores you, you call it and start to go over, it turns and walks away, you grab it and shout at it, it gets frightened of you and next time, it is likely to run faster away to avoid being shouted at.
If you call your dog, it ignores you, you tell it to sit, it knows sit, so it sits, you walk to it and praise it for sitting, it feels good and takes the praise, then you call it, it is close, it stands and comes closer, you reward it for coming, next time, it is more likely to listen to you.
If you let your dog out on a night in your pjs and slippers, you call it to come in, it ignores you, you call it again because you are not willing to go out in your pjs, then you get cross because it is not coming back, it very quickly learns this and becomes either frightened of you because you are shouting or just ignores you because it realises it can. Let your dog out for its last wee before you put your pjs on, or have an overcoat and shoes ready to go out.
If your call your dog and it ignores you because it is running to another dog, you run after it, by the time you get there, it is playing with another dog, and has rewarded itself for ignoring your recall by playing with another dog, you are inadvertently teaching it to ignore your recall. If your dog is running away from you and you know it will not come back, do not shout it, just go over, quietly put it on its lead and walk off, so it learns that by not waiting for you to allow it to play with the other dog it got put on a lead, NOT by ignoring your recall it got to play with a friend.