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Thread: Recall - why is this so hard?

  1. #1
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    Default Recall - why is this so hard?

    I am a bit disappointed with recall, nah be honest I am really peeved.

    Mags can do everything I ask her at home or out if there are no distractions. If there are, her brain is GONE and she will not recall until she is good and ready. Today she was heading towards an industrial lawnmower in the park and it could have been a disaster.
    She is very pack driven, ball and stick driven, food only works if she hasn't eaten for at least 12 hours and will not work when we are out.
    I am thinking this based on my reading
    >she knows she should come but is choosing not to as we are less interesting that the moving things
    >she has a good notion when the run is over and doesn't want it to end

    I reward her for coming and try very hard not to sound crabby when she doesn't ( I am sure she knows I am though) she doesn't come for the reward anyway. I have played hide and seek so she can't be sure where I am and never chase her.

    I am now beginning to be very tough with her ball ( her true love) and until she comes and sits I will not throw it. She can bring it and place it in my hand if I insist. I am hoping that this will help her switch from gotta chase and run to "oh she wants something"
    I can tell from her eyes she is not tuned in when she is on the run or the ball is visible.The drive to chase is ferocious and of course bred into my little farm biddy.- is this likely to work?

    She is a pleasure at home and a pain in the butt outside of home and we exercise her twice a day. She is now vastly improved on the lead but recall...ARGHHHH Now she is 7 and a half months wondering if we are now in teenage stage, a mix of gorgeous and aggravating just like my kids were!

    I have had no trouble in the past as I had food driven dogs that adored me as the source of yummy stuff. She loves me as the ball thrower!

  2. #2

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    Sounds like you need to go back to basics and start from scratch again. Start by practicing in the garden with no distractions, move on to the park and only call her when she's already running towards you or when you're 100% sure she'll come back. Don't call her when she's distracted or when you don't think she'll come back, you don't want her to associate the command with any level of disobedience. After that challenge her and call her from longer distances with some distractions. Dogs that are tough to motivate with food can usually be won over by raw mince or chopped chicken hearts.

    Most importantly, when you're in the early stages, make every time she comes back to you a happy enthusiastic moment, even if you feel angry and frustrated. You are basically competing with all of the distractions out there, and you want her brain to prioritize you.

  3. #3
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    As with all training, you must train a skill at each successive level of distraction. As each new level is taught, your dog comes closer to generalizing the skill. Skipping levels messes with this big time. One must work out prior to commencing training what each level is, as it will be unique to the dog.

    And, yes, if your only recall at the park is to go home, your dog wil predict that. It's better to do many random recalls, reward each and release back to play/go back on leash.

    Maybe the DVD 'Really Reliable Recall' might be something that would help? I don't have a web address off the top of my head (Hyacinth would, though), but a google search will get you there.

    Recalls are honestly no more difficult than anything else if you have your training goals clear, your training process clear and you apply some basic 'dog Behaviour/communication' principals.

  4. #4
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    HIya Farview: my first dog was a bordercollie. He won 7 challenge certificates in the uk for obedience. But his recall remained consistently crap!

    That was due to my training. I knew no better.
    these days i cheat, and play swap to get a recall. ie. "if" you come back/sit/spit. I"ll reinforce with the reward of throwing another 2nd ball. For initial stages, i use a high bounce ball. These balls behave very differently to a tennis ball. And have the magic squeeze that my dogs love! I cant describe what i mean, but get one for $4 and try it, you will see what i mean. It brings out that 'pouncing' behaviour, as the balls shoot off in another direction, and dog can get two chases out of one throw.
    This way, i get roughly 30 recall practices in every single walk we take. That is a very high ratio for training. With 100 commands =100 rewards. And at no point, does the dog twig that a recall is being trained. It happens by default.

  5. #5
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    Hi Farview
    The key is the ball, it's actually great having a dog that is more ball focussed than food! My BC Oscar is like that, he has the "eye" and goes into the zone when focused on the ball. The ball will beat any other distraction in an "eye" BC (my other BC doesn't have it, is food focussed and recalls perfectly now at 2 yrs). Just think of the ball as the recall, "you come to me and you may or may not get the ball." I can have a pack of dogs around me at the beach fighting or carrying on and Oscar will be totally focussed on me and the ball, oblivious to anything else.

    If I see a potentially dangerous situation I don't even bother with the recall word, instead "Oscar, where's the ball?" is going to be 120% effective. Me and a ball trumps absolutely anything, even 20 kids with a soccer ball. I would be happy, not peeved at her focus. This is a working breed and her brain is now going "this is my job, I am working" when she focuses on the ball. It is great to have her think she is working.

    Also of course she is hitting the terrible teenager stage, so things are going to be patchy for a while. Saffie was a horror at 8 months, recall was crap, but I persisted and tried not to get cranky and all's good now.

  6. #6
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    Oh, and just to add. Be sure to work on an "off" switch or she may drive you mad. When the ball game stops, it stops. With Oscar I deliberately didn't teach him to bring the ball back and give it to me as I didn't want a dog that constantly harassed me by dropping the ball at my feet unasked - friends had a dog like that, he'd bring the ball or stick, drop it at your feet and stand there barking until you threw it. Maddening.

    Instead I just taught him "give" which means he just drops it wherever he is and I go get it (just means I say "give" when he is quite close to me). And when I want to stop the ball disappears and I say "no more ball" and go do something else. Sometimes he will sort of bring a ball to me, sometimes I respond, often I don't.

  7. #7
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    First of all, I think it's important to realise that to the dog the link between coming when called at home and coming when outside with distractions is most likely not as crystal clear as it is to you. Which is why you have to do the training in lots of different situations indeed.

    It think Bernie is on the ball here (pun intended, lol). You need to call and release lots and lots of times whenever you are out. Until she thinks it's all part of some never-ending game. Extra rewards for difficult recalls too, like when there's other dogs. Or mowers!

    PS: This website is really almost impossible to post to from a mobile or tablet!
    Last edited by Beloz; 09-20-2012 at 06:46 AM.

  8. #8
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    Love a ball driven dog. I'd much rather walk around with a ball than food.

    Agree with all the other things said. The usual dog only gets called when it's time to go home is so easy for the dog to predict.

    Know your dogs downfalls, eg moving objects by the sound of things and predict and call your dog back before it's totally focused.

    While trying to progress to off territory recalls I'd build that love of the ball up even bigger and I'd be making sure the dog knows I control it. No more freebie balls throws use it to your advantage.

    Go for little successes and you'll get there. Best of luck.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troppo View Post
    Hi Farview
    The key is the ball, it's actually great having a dog that is more ball focussed than food! My BC Oscar is like that, he has the "eye" and goes into the zone when focused on the ball. The ball will beat any other distraction in an "eye" BC (my other BC doesn't have it, is food focussed and recalls perfectly now at 2 yrs). Just think of the ball as the recall, "you come to me and you may or may not get the ball." I can have a pack of dogs around me at the beach fighting or carrying on and Oscar will be totally focussed on me and the ball, oblivious to anything else.

    If I see a potentially dangerous situation I don't even bother with the recall word, instead "Oscar, where's the ball?" is going to be 120% effective. Me and a ball trumps absolutely anything, even 20 kids with a soccer ball. I would be happy, not peeved at her focus. This is a working breed and her brain is now going "this is my job, I am working" when she focuses on the ball. It is great to have her think she is working.
    Also of course she is hitting the terrible teenager stage, so things are going to be patchy for a while. Saffie was a horror at 8 months, recall was crap, but I persisted and tried not to get cranky and all's good now.

    You have described her she most definitely has "the eye" I see the far distant wolf ancestry, very fierce.
    She ignores everything else if I have the ball 99% of the time.I sometimes think it is sad she won't see sheep but chances are she may have ended up in a shelter if adopted by someone expecting an easy pet! She is our delight and we will get there, the advice here from everyone is all helpful. Thanks

  10. #10
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    I know her breed was bred to do farm work but I'm sure I was born to be a princess and be waited on by a team of handsome servants too, but I make do with what life gave me. And who knows, despite her strong instincts, she might be crap at being a real sheep dog anyway? You are doing the best you can to cater for her needs and she obviously is happy with ball chasing too.

    I also meant to say, really try to set her up for success. For now, if you are not sure she will come, don't call her. Instead try to just very slowly and calmly walk up to her (if she tends to bolt, don't even look at her when you walk towards her) and grab her by the collar to put her on the lead if need be. I also do this still if Banjo doesn't come the second time I call her. I call twice just in case she really didn't hear me the first time, but there is never a third call. Fortunately, that doesn't happen much at all.

    I also give Banjo a jackpot for responding fast to emergency recalls, which she fortunately seems to do instinctively, but I still want to strongly enforce that.

    But at first, lots and lots of very easy recalls with guaranteed reward. Then bigger reward for really good recalls and lesser reward for sloppy ones. Then you can start being a bit erratic with your rewards to keep her guessing.

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