Here is a long overdue training post on what I consider the beginning of focus work.
Getting your dogs attention is the first step in building your foundation to having a really reliable recall and for focus work later if needed. To accomplish this the first thing I do is teach the dog that its' name is valuable. When I say the dogs name "Fido" and they look at me I praise them verbally. "Good dog!" A happy tone of voice is important for verbal praise. Otherwise it has no meaning to the dog. If the dog comes over to me I will also add physical praise like petting and stroking if they like it. Note: not all dogs like to be handled, some are touch sensitive. Skip petting for a touch sensitive dog. Do not pet your dog on the top of it's head. Most dogs dislike this form of petting. (Watch your dog closely when you do this, do they pull away or duck? If so they are trying to avoid it.) I will also have a happy facial expression whenever I praise a dog. Remember body language is our dogs first language so they learn to read our body and facial expressions very quickly. If they come over I might also add play and/or a food reward. Our goal is to build a positive association to their name and our contact with them.
A review about using praise ~ The 5 most commons ways we can praise our dogs are:
1) verbally - in a happy tone
2) physically - if they like being touched
3) by smiling - communication in language they understand
4) engaging in play - fetch, tug, games they enjoy
5) using food rewards - high value treats
Because we can't call a dog to us unless they are paying attention we need to teach the attention first. We cannot guarantee we have that attention unless they are physically looking at us. Even then remember that we are competing with things we don't smell or hear so we may not have 100% of their attention, especially if we are outside. If they are sniffing something or looking at something else they are not trying to ignore you. Most times they are just focused on what has their attention and they don't hear us. Saying the dogs name and rewarding them for looking at us is the start of building great focus.
The next step is teaching the dog what the word "come" actually means to us. Now because I want "come" to always mean come to me and sit I teach it that way. If you want the dog to just come closer use a different word. Example: I use "let's go" to mean come along with me. One of the most important things to remember when using the word/cue "come" is to never use it for anything the dog considers a negative reason. For instance if they hate getting a bath and you call them to you and then stick them in the tub you will poison that cue. They will pause the next time you call them because you've used it with a negative association to them. For this reason I also use a completely different word for let's go back into the house or playtime is over. (sidenote tip: to get dogs to want to come back into the house or car toss some well loved treats and/or a favorite toy on the floor as you go out so as soon as the dog walks back into the house or car they get magically rewarded.)
You can teach your recall in a few ways, this is just one of them. I tend to begin with lure reward training especially if the dog hasn't learned his name means anything. Put the treat in front of the dogs nose and back away from them a few steps pulling the treat in front of your legs so they target their nose on it. AS they are coming towards you say the cue word "come". The reason you say the word as they are doing it is to pair the word with the action for the dog. Don't repeat your cue. When the dog gets to the treat simply raise it slightly back over the dogs head so they sit. You can also say the word sit AS they are sitting. Say "yes", your verbal marker (or click) and give the treat after they sit. My hand action pulling the treat towards me, and pulling the treat up, also become hand signals later for the commands. (Lure reward training is also excellent to use with deaf dogs. Use a thumbs up signal for your reward marker signal.)
If you teach your dog its' name has meaning you will notice the dog starts coming to you before you say the actual cue word "come". It can become it's own pre-recall command so make sure you separate the name from the come command with a few seconds. Otherwise "Fido come" becomes the command which isn't the goal because then when you say the word "come" alone they may not understand what you want. "Fido" should mean look at me so you can pair it with other things later, not just for the recall. Whenever my dogs come to me I always reward them in some way. EVERY time. This keeps the recall worthwhile to them. Remember that dogs are very much "What's in it for me" creatures. Rewarding them also establishes that coming to me gets them good things and therefore makes the recall a positive association. Most people have problems getting a dog to come when called because they try calling them when the dog is engaged in a more fun behavior. If we make the recall more fun than everything else that problem will resolve.
Now I know some clicker trainers prefer to get the dog doing a behavior reliably before they name it for the dog. This is also ok as long as everyone understands what they need to do to make that work. I find some people have a hard time not speaking to their dogs so I think this way accommodates that issue. There are some things I also teach before naming and putting on a cue, this just isn't one of them. (for me)
Trouble shooting: If your dog doesn't look at you when you say its name add sound. Clap your hands or make kissing noises. Say the name happily when they do finally look. Shake a toy when they look. Make them want to come to you. Whatever you do do NOT get annoyed and yell at them. Remember we are making positive associations. Practice inside first where there are fewer distractions. When moving your recall practice outside the house start out closer to the dog to be sure you can get their attention. Increase your distance over time. Do NOT say come until the dog is looking at you and on its way towards you. Make sure you remember to have them sit when they get to you. Don't repeat your cue "come" but you can make other noises to encourage forward movement. Keep practice sessions short so they stay fun.