The recall is well known as the most important behavior you can teach your dog. Risa’s recall has always been a bit iffy. She’ll do it great if I ask her to wait in place and then call her to me. Risa has performed recalls past objects, other dogs, food, outside, inside, in class, during trials, etc. I have always been able to call her out of a play session with dogs. On rare occasions, I’ve called her away from squirrels or other super high value items. However, I would never consider her recall good.
Maybe it’s the sighthound in her that causes her to blow me off on occasion. That independent nature and love of the chase overriding anything I have to offer. Though she’s just as likely to ignore a recall following her nose; a trait not common in sighthounds.
I hate to make excuses for why I have never taught a solid recall. There really is no valid one for not teaching something so vitally important. Not having a yard or a safe place to work on it has been a main issue. And, for the longest time, Risa had no interest in anything involving me when we were outdoors.
Risa’s horrendous recall really reared its ugly head when I took her lure coursing last year. Lure coursing might just be the most awesome thing ever as far as Risa is concerned. Returning to me is nowhere near as rewarding as a chase no matter what I had. She does return to me eventually. But eventually is not always good enough. I vowed to work on her recall more after that day. After all, lure coursing is not as much fun for me if I can’t get my dog back afterward. How embarrassing. Not to mention making everyone else wait while I try and get her!
I started asking for random recalls while on walks. Granted, she is not very far away (it’s a 6 foot leash) but it’s something. I also started working on her recall in the yard. I rewarded with yummy treats and saw an increase in her “That means I turn and run to Mom” behavior. During one of our yard training sessions, I called her off of a squirrel which was amazing! 😉
A few weeks ago, I got out Ris’ small fleece tug that I made long ago when I was still trying to help her overcome her dog reactivity. It looked pretty humble but I knew Risa was really enjoying playing tuggie inside with her newest tug toy. I decided to bring that old tug on our walk and use it as a reward.
I used the tug as a recall reward for a couple days. I always held it at my navel and Risa would jump up onto me to grab her tug before we had a short play session. One day, I left it home and went back to using treats. When I cried out “Here!” Risa turned on a dime and jumped up onto me. I gave her a couple treats after her paws landed back on the ground. But she was disappointed. She’d been anticipating getting to play tuggie. All I had was food. 🙁
After that, I made sure I had the tug with me to reward her properly. It was old, poorly made, and we broke it last week. Fortunately, I have a friend who makes awesome fleece tugs (Tugs By Tena) and I ordered a small one to use for a training reward. We’ve been using it almost every day since and her recalls are definitely improving. Hopefully, next time we go lure coursing, I’ll just be able to shout out “Here!” and she’ll come sprinting my way, grab her tug leash, and I’ll be able to get her back easily just by playing a game of tug! Just goes to show you, the right reward definitely makes a difference.