Loki is growing up! This former student is now a gangly adolescent puppy whose lucky parents are on a voyage Beyond the Sea. They took advantage of the sabbatical to boomerang him back to Aunt Nancy’s boot camp, so he can get his recall and long stay all polished up and shiny like new again!
I like to teach a recall on an informal basis. What that means is, the dog doesn’t have to do anything fancy other than drop what he is doing and get over to me, on the double, like now.
I don’t ask for a sit or anything when he gets to me. I don’t want to dampen his enthusiasm. The concept of a square sit in front, as taught for obedience competition, is an entirely separate behavior.
I start teaching the recall when the dog is very young, and it all starts with name recognition. I use other dogs heavily for this. I make all dogs wait at the door. Each dog enters or exits when I say his/her name. I do the same thing when doling out treats. Coming when called becomes a natural extension of this.
Because Loki had already spent significant time at my house, and remembered the door rules, I wasn’t terribly worried about taking him off leash. I like to train off leash as much as possible. With a dog that is not 100% reliable, I will do it in a safe or fenced enclosure. Some people like to teach it on a long line, which is okay, but I prefer not to because the dog is still aware of the presence of the line. The line still serves as a physical reminder and doesn’t put the full responsibility on the dog. The dog has to be able to use his brain, physically apart from the handler.
In this case, I took Loki on a walk on a narrow trail with a river on one side, and cliffs on the other. Getting away from me would require some effort on his part, but he was not likely to do it because I was bringing his buddies along with us. Dogs, especially young dogs, are not inclined to leave the pack.
…Unless the dog is a hound, or really dumb.
Loki was ID’d through DNA as part coonhound, but he acts more like a high drive herding dog with an agenda. He also has wonderful food drive. Yay.
I walked him on the leash until we reached the area where the private homes ended and state land began. I unhooked all three dogs. I had done a couple of sits to make sure Loki understood I had food and was willing to dole it out.
After one successful recall, he took off.
He quickly realized that being on leash was a lot less fun.
We did a couple of photo opps, where he got to pose with Til and Jasper, and earned big praise and some treats.
After we had walked awhile, and Loki was calming down some, I tried him off the leash again. Jasper was basically just mugging me for the food, and Til was doing his border collie stuff.
Once Loki figured out that this was a training exercise, he started getting more and more happy. He loves to train! This had the added bonus of squirrels and exciting smells. He was having the time of his life, and his recall success rate shot up to four times out of six. The other two times, he still came, but with a lot less enthusiasm, so I didn’t treat him.
I continued switching off, calling the other dogs and praising and feeding them.
The taking turns system works really well with dogs, because they are more stimulated when another dog is working and earning food.
I expect our next session to be better.
After that, as weather permits, we will start working with Loki in different locations.