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We have a coton de tulear a little over a year old and she is our family's first dog. (She's a small dog.) She has trouble responding to most commands when she's preoccupied and rarely responds to come unless we have a treat and she isn't doing anything else. She has never come back to us on call when outside regardless of whether we are holding a treat or not. This is becoming frustrating fast especially when she's outside playing in our yard off leash.

We don't know what to do and are constantly worried that she'll get herself in danger or hurt because she doesn't respond unless she wants to. Help?
 

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Train her on leash to come before expecting her to come off leash, buy a long (20 foot) leash. Start the "come" command training indoors starting close to her then move it to outdoors, outdoors may have too many distractions. Find something she absolutely loves and use that -treats, toys, praise whatever her most important thing is. My dog Zoey used to come in pretty good and I always gave her treats. I suspect my sons don't give her treats when they call her in or her taste for those treats have changed and she wouldn't come so I bought string cheese and am using that ... she comes in right away now but we'll have to see how long this will last.
 

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What DP said. Make coming to you AS AWESOME as possible - you have to be way more exiting/interesting/good that whatever your dog is interested in. If you dog loves food, this is easier - in the beginning it might help to give your dog a high-value treat (hot dog, cheese, meat, whatever you dog goes crazy for) when they come to you voluntarily, without you calling, so that they know you have treats and that treats are a possibility if they come to you.

Recall training takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. We had the same issue when we first got Snowball (although part of it was just bonding and the chance in situation, I think), but his recall has improved massively in the 9 months we've had him. Still not 100%, but probably 95% without other dogs around, and about 75-80% (maybe higher?) with other dogs around... It was 0% with other dogs around when we got him.
 

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There's something I mentioned in my first post but it really is important - you need to ALWAYS reward, even when she 'gets it'. One common mistake that people make is once the dog gets it they stop rewarding.
 

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Everyone's right, recall is a hard one and takes a while! Two other things I think are important to remember (because recall is one of those life saving commands you really want to get right)......

Until it's SOLID don't poison the command, meaning never call your dog for anything unpleasant. For example, in the scenario you mentioned you always call your dog to come when it's time to go inside. When you think about it from your dog's point of view, why would he want to come when it means the joys of being outside are over? You are unknowingly poisoning your command.

Second thing people often forget is to not expect a command learned in a calm, quiet, distraction free environment to work the same in an environment like outside where there are a million awesome smells, interesting sounds, jumping bugs, and all kinds of awesome stuff. It's like expecting a one year old who just learned to walk run hurtles. You gotta learn to walk, then jog, then run, then run and jump. Get the command solid in a nice quiet bedroom first, then once that's solid (meaning you'd bet me 100 bucks he'll come when called) move to the kitchen (a more distracting room) then the front porch (on a leash as suggested) then off leash. If the dog can't get the command, you raised the expectation too soon and it's not solid yet at the former level of distraction. That's how you (eventually) get solid recall.
 

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One thing to add to the great advice above...make sure that when you have the dog come, and reward it, make sure you let it go back out to playing. Don't make coming to you always meaning the fun is over.

If you ever have the dog loose, and need it to come, (or if it accidentally gets loose), sometimes clapping and calling them to get them to look at you and then turning and running away from the dog while you call it in a "Fun" voice and laugh and run the other way will encourage them to chase after you. Try it on a 20 foot line at first, to help instill it. Extra points if when they get to you, you roll around on the ground and "wrestle" with them!
 
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