This is easiest with a puppy who does not have a lot of bad habits yet, but with patience and persistence can be used with nearly any adult dog as well. Thephilosophy behind this method is fairly basic. Any dog will be attracted to the appropriate treat, and repelled by a threat.
Never, ever punish your dog for returning to your side. "Punishment" includes yelling, hitting, talking in an angry voice, standing with an angry stance. Anything negative in this situation will be viewed as "punishment" to a dog who is currently being rewarded with fun and freedom. Why ever would he want to return when that means an end to the fun?
Assess your dog. What makes him drool with delight? What grabs his attention and holds it to the exclusion of all else? It may be a ball, a squeaking toy, or freeze-dried liver treats, but every dog has a "trigger". Find your dog's trigger, and find a large, open room.
Start small. Call his name from across the room, and as soon as he reaches your side, give him a treat. Do this three or four times a day.
Got that down pat? Now let's take him outside.
Attach a long, don't let him loose yet, not even in a fenced area. Make sure your "long lead" is around twenty feet long; long enough to give him plenty of leeway to explore and feel freedom, but easy enough for you to reel in when you need to. And you will need to.
Always pitch your voice high, and make your side sound like the best place in the world to be. Never, ever, sound angry, or punish a dog for returning to your side. As soon as he is within touching distance, pull out that treat. Again, you need to repeat this process a few times daily for a while, until he realizes that , indeed, the best place to be, is by your side when you call his name.
Once he's figured out that you=goodies and fun, it's time to start adding in distractions. What are distractions? A good distraction would be:
- a neighbour, coming to visit
- a cat, strolling by
- children playing
- something good to sniff and within reach
- a new area to explore
- anything he's never seen before
While this does produce a reliable recall, I do urge you to never put this to the test outside, where you can not readily retrieve him. Accidents happen in the blink of an eye, and way too fast for you to call him back, if something scares him into bolting. The point of the recall is to be able to retrieve your dog, should the unexpected ever happen, or in the midst of a crowded arena that allows for off-leash play (like a Dog Park).