Puppy Boot Camp Day 3 – Loki Learning Recall, Beginning Agility (And the Power of the Time Out)

It seems to finally be dawning on Loki that his life is about to change forever. He kind of shut down during his training stint today. He acted like he didn’t recognize any of the cues he has just learned — he wouldn’t lie down, turn in a circle, or even sit. His eyes just got all glazed over and he kept jumping around acting like a kid on too much sugar.

So, we did a time-out. I call it, “Packing Up My Barbies.” If it’s clear that the dog isn’t in the frame of mind to be able to focus, I don’t force it, but I don’t keep giving him attention either. He had already spent the morning outside playing with Jasper. So, back outside he went. He just lay on the deck contemplating life, poor little dude. I sense he is a little overwhelmed.


He spent about an hour just thinking things over, while I set up my set of pathetic makeshift jumps.

By this time he was bored and hungry enough to want to concentrate, although a little bit of the fizz was taken out of him due to the prior activity.


Learn to walk on loose leash without pulling.

Stop jumping up.

Stop biting.

Come when called.

Stop chewing/destroying household items.

Stop chasing cats.

Thanks to the hula hoop action last night, his translation to these pole jumps went pretty smoothly. They started out at ground level. Again, he was hesitant so I clicked once for him just leaning over the pole. He instantly recognized the game and the word, “Jump!” and he stepped over the pole. I raised it in increments until it was about chest level on him.

I must add that dogs his age and younger have to be careful about doing too much jumping. The impact is awfully hard on their joints and can make them arthritic later. At sixteen months of age, Loki’s growth plates may have closed already; I’m not sure. So we are taking it easy.

loki jump.jpg

He was distracted by the pounding and buzzing of some nearby construction, so he kept wanting to wander off and look around. I just used it as an opportunity to practice the recall. He did come back every time.

Thanks to the hula hoop, he was even able to process me pointing at the jump and calling him over it to me. Loki’s new owner has an interest in agility, which would be a fitting career for a dog of his build and activity level.


This early jumping is all good practice for agility where a dog focuses on the task at hand despite the position of the handler. An agility dog can work from the right or left side indiscriminately.

This type of informal recall is the most powerful way to teach it. No leash involved. No yanking. It’s all free choice, and no tiresome, mandatory “sit” at the end. (One of my pet peeves! Why in the heck would you destroy a beautiful recall, on a dog who is just learning, by demanding a “sit” when he gets to you?! Throw a party when that dog gets to you! Forget the “sit”! Teach a joyful recall first, and then polish for formal obedience later. Even then, a “sit” should NEVER be demanded every freaking time the dog comes to you.)

Humans are cool. Humans are fun. Humans have snacks. “Hey, look over here!”

After our little recall and pole-hopping lesson, Loki was happy to get back in his “comfort zone” with his frozen treat, and is now snoozing away the afternoon.


For more info, check out my books:

25 Ways To Raise a Great Puppy

15 Rules for Clicker Training Your Dog

15 Rules for Clicker Training Your Cat


About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
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