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Thread: Help me with recall training

  1. #1

    Default Help me with recall training

    I own a middle aged female mini foxie (pictured in avatar), who has always been quite wilful and has a dominant personality, only being submissive to me and my wife.

    I spend a lot of time working in parkland exercising groups of dogs, so she spends most of her day off leash. I've managed to train her in recall so she reliably returns about 95% of the time through only rewarding her with food when she comes back the first time I call, and by praising her but giving her no food reward if she makes me wait. It's been challenging but she's pretty good most of the time, snapping to attention as soon as she hears my voice, and she is very motivated by food as she is basically a bin with legs. She has had multiple other behavioural problems stemming from being locked in a filthy cat hoarder's house before I adopted her. When I got her I had to teach her normal dog behaviour such as how to play nicely, how to interact with other dogs, toilet training, how to dig, how to follow a scent, etc. I've managed to eliminate behaviours like incessant barking and whining, and harassing other dogs and she is now my obedient, well socialised little friend.

    However I seem to have hit a wall in her training, as very occasionally she is extremely disobedient - she decides that whatever she is doing is more important than what I am telling her to do, sometimes requiring me to go and remove her from whatever she is doing. This isn't much of a problem when she's found a dead possum or cat spoor as she will return once she's finished with it within 1 or 2 minutes, but a lot of the time this is caused by some well-meaning person patting her and even giving her food while I am calling and whistling for her. This is not acceptable as I need all the dogs under my care to stay together in their group for safety. If nothing else it sets a bad example.

    This is frustrating because I'm not sure how to proceed - she has a very extroverted, friendly, celebrity-type personality and loves getting attention from everyone, especially people she hasn't met before. I don't mind her socializing with strangers within reason but she is obviously learning that she can still get rewarded by these strangers for being very disobedient. How do I handle this?

    I thought about using raw mince as an emergency reward for these situations, to make my reward better than the strangers' reward of attention, and to condition her to return to me when being patted by a stranger, but usually she is so far away that she can't smell it. Like I said, 95% of the time she is very obedient, but the 5% of the time she decides to be disobedient is turning out to be a real problem for me as she is often out of my line of sight. The people patting and feeding her don't seem to care that she is being called away, assumedly because they are mesmerised by her prancing cuteness. Does anyone know how I should continue her training to make her recall even more reliable?

    Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated.

    [TL;DR: My dog's recall isn't 100% reliable, pls help.]

  2. #2
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    Sorry, but I did have a chuckle at this "a middle aged female mini foxie (pictured in avatar), who has always been quite wilful and has a dominant personality". I thought mini foxie and 'wilful and dominant personality' were synonyms.

    It sounds like you have done a fantastic job with her training, so I don't really have anything useful to add. I hate it when people - especially other dog owners - continue patting my dog when I'm calling her!

    I have done pretty much the same for recall training, with probably pretty much the same result. Or actually, with the added issue of my dog going deaf when she chases birds. I realised the other day that I dropped the ball in that regard and have now started to go to the off leash oval just before sunset when big flocks of galahs gather to do more training. I basically call her at various times during her 'chase the birds' game. If she comes, I give heaps of exited praise, treats and then send her off to go chase the flock again (gahlas seem to think it's a game sometimes too - only when they're fed up do they fly up into the trees). If she doesn't come, I'll walk over, firmly grab her collar and put her on the lead. If she is calm and pays attention to me, I let her off again, but call her pretty much immediately. And so on. I only just started doing this more intensive training now, so not sure how well it will work. I used to be able to recall her when there was a kangaroo a few metres away, but I have recently lost that power apparently, so need to do more work too.

    Just one thing I remember reading quite often is that it pays off to have a variety of treats and keep your dog guessing what she will get as a reward, including some very high value treats like raw meat or similar. I once read an article from a guy who used to hide whole steaks in trees before he took his dogs out to do off leash recall training! And every now and then, when he got a very good recall, he would magically make this steak appear. I thought it was priceless, but bit hard to implement for most people.

  3. #3
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    I think you are doing some quite good training...you need to train the people ........It is quite amazing how people do that when you are calling your dog and they keep your dogs attention.

    You just have to become more appealing..be it with the most awesome treats or a really silly happy game, that your dog loves....Even if it means throwing yourself on the ground. I did that with our new newfy rescue. he would start going and seeing other people, so I would throw myself down and and call him and play with him when he came........He would not do treats. But now it is easier because he does do treats. I have a mince ball with me. I buy these cooked meat balls from Shepparton cannery outlet and the dogs are willing to do anything for them. they are messy for me, but I leave them half frozen and manage them that way.

    I do the the re-call, treat and allow to go again, re-call and allow to go...i can do this hundreds of times on a walk. Start in a quiet area, no people and progress....if I can get re-calls on old newfies and other rescues this way, anyone can.. Just be reliable in being totally unreliable. Call let them go more often then call and keep them.....So be it a go sniff reward or a go see someone reward after the treat. let them go again.

    But start in quiet areas and work up to distractions.........Good luck and happy training
    Pets are forever

  4. #4
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    I own a middle aged female mini foxie (pictured in avatar), who has always been quite wilful and has a dominant personality, only being submissive to me and my wife.
    I really don't get this dominant / submissive thing. My dog will make all the decisions if I let her but that doesn't make her dominant. She's mostly a complete grovel dog, except when strange dogs walk past the front, or strange men come in the gate. Or the lawnmower man (what is it about cattle dogs and lawn mowers?).

    The Dominance Controversy | Philosophy | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

    so about the recall rewards - try a few random rewards during your exercise sessions, and at home. Call your dog when you know she's already headed your way and treat. Don't call when she's not likely to come, just go get her if you need her. Build up to harder distractions slowly. Ie start with easy things for her to ignore and really great rewards.

    And given she's a terrier, maybe a tug toy that looks a bit like a rat on a string might be more distracting than hoping she will come for treats. Just occasionally.

    Something like this...
    Clean Run: Skinneeez Stuffing-free Dog Toys—Minis

    There are cheap copies of these things but they don't last as long. The squeakers tend not to last very long in any toy if you let the dog chew them up by themselves, these are best used as 30 second reward for what ever training thing you're working on not as chew toys.

    That site also has tugs with rabbit fur on them - which my dog loves to bits.

  5. #5
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    Sounds like you have done brilliantly with her. Im middle aged, and coming back when you've just walked all that way, well, it had better be good!

    I would add in recalls anywhere, everywhere. with intermittent reinforcers, which is the highest reinforcing reinforcer in behavioural terms. Low distractions initially, and build on that. 95% is fantastic. What do you want to do, compete?

    so recall from garden to kitchen etc, recall when off leash - and immediate release again.

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    It also occurred to me that if it is vital for you to keep the dogs together in a group, you may just have to call your dog back before she reaches the person who is likely to try keep her focused on them (really, why do people do that?!). My old dog's recall probably only ever got to 90% (which I actually thought was pretty darn good for a crazy hunting dog) and I had to learn to call her before she became 'un-recallable' in certain situations. I learnt what her triggers were, like medium-sized black dogs (seriously!), Spaniels, labs and of course kangaroos. I would spot them before she did and call her before she had the time to start running towards her target. It still wasn't 100% reliable and it was quite annoying to always have to scan the surroundings so thoroughly, but it made walking her off leash quite a bit more manageable.

    The other option is to just try and proof her so she becomes less likely to go socialise with other people. It is kind of cute to have your dog be a social butterfly, but it is not strictly necessary. I don't think the dog's quality of life becomes any poorer if they don't get this interaction either.

    I had to try keep my dog away from strangers because she was a crazy jumping dog when I got her at 8mo. So over the top that very few people liked her greeting them! So I used to do the 'Look at that' routine with her on our walks when we got near other people. It worked really well, still does. And I have noticed she is not as motivated to go up to strangers anymore, which suits me just fine. Though if someone talks to her she will still turn into a wriggly, bouncy, over-excited ball of 'I love you SOOOO much'ness.

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    [QUOTE=Beloz;162942 I had to learn to call her before she became 'un-recallable' in certain situations. I learnt what her triggers were"

    This is so imperitive, brilliant point rarely mentioned.

  8. #8

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    Hi guys thanks for the suggestions,

    We have been mixing the types of treats we give her and looking for the signals she displays when she is about to be disobedient. Although she is still not as disciplined as we'd like her to be, it appears the wall we hit has been chipped through and she's now returning even more reliably. The overall problem we seem to be having is that she doesn't seem to recognize that what we do is work, not a big party especially for her. Like I said she's pretty good most of the time, but when she decides to play up she turns into a little devil. We don't let it stress us out, but it would make our lives a lot easier if we could teach her to be useful.

  9. #9
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    .......Our walks are a big Party for the dogs, it is all about the dogs. I try very hard at making my training fun. And I think that is why my dogs listen, because they think even more fun is going to happen.

    I know there are many different training methods, but i walk four dogs off lead in traveling Stock Reserves and find keeping it all fun, we have more control. I do so many fun re-calls whilst walking and allow them to go again, that they always think it is worthy of a return, because most likely they will be allowed to go again.

    The treat i carry on our walk are not even awesome any more......Just Black hawk dry food, I have that in every pocket. it is the only dry food my dogs get, as i feed mostly RAW ( so maybe that does make it special).......But mine think it is worth it. Training initially started with amazing treats though.

    Just keep at it, but keep it fun
    Pets are forever

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Or the lawnmower man (what is it about cattle dogs and lawn mowers?).
    haha Hyac it's funny i read this just now, i was just mowing the lawn yesterday, and everytime i mow the lawn i have a cattle dog hanging off the wheel!

    about recall,
    sometimes when my dog gets into those sorts of moods, I give the Look command to get her attention first, then recall.
    the Look command makes her focus her attention to me, then she will come on recall.
    "He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion" Author Unknown

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