A frequent behavior I am asked about in class and private training alike, even for day train, is training a dog to have a strong recall (AKA coming when called). This behavior is nearly on every owner's top 5 list. Why wouldn't it be? We all want to be able to call our dogs back from danger and the better the recall, the more places they can go and remain safe and happy.
However, training a recall isn't really about training a recall. You see the keys to a "perfect recall" (I put that in quotes because dogs aren't robots and until we as humans are perfect, dogs won't be either!), are relationship and impulse control. Due to this, I always have a cloudy answer when asked if a dog will have a great recall after one round of class. The answer is, "I don't know." This is because the matter depends greatly on the relationship the dog has with it's owner and the owner putting in the work to create a dog that has great impulse control.
Can a dog that has zero relationship with someone be called to that person? Yes. But the circumstances would be such that the person would either have a massive reward to entice the dog OR on the flip side, the dog would be heavily punished for not obeying. If there was zero external reward from this person with no positive relationship to the dog and no known punisher greater than the environment, the dog simply wouldn't come, because it would be more rewarding not to come.
So if recalls depend on relationship and impulse control, where do we start?
Relationship is being built every moment spent with the dog. It doesn't matter if the dog is an adopted dog, bought from a breeder, age, breed, size, temperament. You can build a relationship with that dog by finding things the dog enjoys and creating a positive association that you are the giver of those things. It goes deeper than that, but a good start is writing out a list of things your dog likes and being the keeper of the gate to those coveted things. Does your dog like toys? Great, play tug! Make sure you have rules like a nice drop (there is that impulse control!), letting the dog win is of course fine, but a drop is a good thing to have. Keep a few special toys hidden for just you and your dog to play with together that aren't in the toy box. Throw in some obedience cues for the added impulse control like sit, down, stay etc.
Does your dog enjoy food? Of course he does! Use his meals for training, reward well and happily for behaviors you like. Always keep training positive and never with punishment so your dog knows training is awesome! You will be working on a formal "come" and doing it with a reward leaves a lasting positive tone when you need it for real (even when you are empty handed).
Does your dog like to lay with you perhaps? Get cuddles? Go for walks? Play with brain toys? Do all those things! Be your dog's best buddy and he will love spending time with you away from home alike.
The impulse control part, can be boring for some owners. I love it though. Impulse control is basically the ability for the dog to stop itself from doing what it wants and looking to you for permission instead. Yes, dogs exist that can do just that (mine do and so do many clients dogs that have reached this stage!). This means if I am out with my dog off leash and he sees a giant hole with a gopher's head in it, he won't just go try to eat that gopher, he will pause and look at me for permission. Sometimes I tell him that he sure can dig up a hole and sometimes I don't. The power in that is that my dog realizes I MIGHT let him do the thing he wants, so he might as well ask versus if he takes what he wants, he will be prevented from gaining that "joy." In the case of the gopher, if he decided to take off, I better be super quick to block that hole or get him back so he doesn't get reinforced! That is where a long line comes in handy for younger untrained dogs.
This impulse control takes place anytime a handler calls their dog. The dog balances the idea of continuing what it was doing, or coming to the handler. In order to have a dog that comes to the handler MOST of the time, it is imperative to have a dog that has learned turning AWAY from food, gets me the food OR laying on the mat when there are distractions gets me a reward OR dropping the tug means we continue the game OR sitting for guests means I get pet. The list can go on and there are plenty of games and exercises that start at square one and advance to teach a dog (and owner) this vital information on how to put listening to the handler ABOVE the natural rewards of the environment.