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Investigating Recalls

Posted on 07/02/10 20 Comments

Okay with all of the responses to this thread you guys have got me really charged up. I have been burning the midnight oil! With the help of my friend Kim, I put together a survey to better investigate what is going on. So if you get a chance please fill it out at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/recallhelp Even if you have an awesome recall (and maybe especially if you have an awesome recall) I would like to hear from you on this survey. The more input I get the better the data.

Vintage shot of me play a recall game with my past, great girl "Twister".

Surveys can be a powerful thing. You know we ran the survey a few months ago about the USDAA going to 24″ weave pole bases and just this week the board approved the move! I am not saying it was our input that made it happen but I am sure it gave them all food for thought.

I would love to have just as big a response to this survey. Please if you have some time, fill in the survey. I have this weekend off and will be working on some tools for all of you. Stay tuned, I promise help is on the way, both to fix a broken recall and to improve what ever you got (I am so excited by some of the things I have planned I am going to do them with my own dogs . . . extra reinforcement into a recall is NEVER a bad thing!)

Today I am grateful for the amazing weather we have been having at camp this week. Today I get to be a camper as Greg hangs around for an extra day working threadle drills!


  1. karin says:
    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 11:23am

    Wow, i trained the recall training like you told us Susan..my dogs loves it and he’s very fast.. brilliant..he likes the game and me to 😉


  2. Sharon says:
    Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 7:17am

    Omigosh Dorothy! I have a dog who is also terrified if there is a fly in the house. However in her case, it doesn’t cause a recall problem because she comes to me desperately seeking to be saved. LOL! She also settles down once I can show her the dead fly. I have no idea what precipitated this fear in the first place.

    She is also afraid of them outside as well which can be a problem at an agility trial outdoors, but if I can keep her focussed and moving during a run, we can get through it.


  3. karen says:
    Monday, July 5, 2010 at 12:14am

    I will admit that I have terrible recalls on my dogs – I haven’t put nearly the time into them as any number of other “tricks” or behaviors. Maybe it is because I didn’t think I would be successful, and if I didn’t try then I had a reason … afraid to fail I guess, which I know sounds bizarre considering how important this is.
    I want to fix this, I want to believe I can do better for my dogs, even tho I am concerned because I don’t have a strong Tug / toy drive with them either. It would be immensely helpful if food reward options were presented, too, I think I have exceptional timing with food rewards. Thank you, Susan.


  4. Katie says:
    Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 9:34pm

    Susan, I really appreciate you doing this, and I can’t wait to see the result. One thing that has been a challenge for me is pack dynamics. I have 3 dogs, and I walk them off-leash every day. They’re generally pretty good, but if one of them has a sudden impulse to do something unauthorized (chase a bunny, run up to a strange dog, eat horse poop, etc.), the other 2 tend to follow suit. In fact, my oldest dog spends most of the walk on leash now, because she has such a tendency to get the other 2 in trouble. They’re much better behaved one-on-one than they are as a group.


  5. Dorothy Jones says:
    Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 1:13am

    Here is one I have not read anyone speak to. My dog is terrified of flies in the house. If I want to call her in the house and she thinks there is a fly in the house FORGET IT! If I show her the dead fly after I have swatted it, she is fine. But otherwise she is OCD on this one. This is not a self rewarding thing as far as I can make out, but a fear issue… Or is it???


  6. Chris says:
    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 4:40am

    Wow. I’m just so glad I found this blog, Susan. I’m amazed at all of the things I’m learning. I have a 2 year old Pug named Charlie. I just love Pugs. He’s so adorable. I’ve been skimming a lot of your posts and must say that you really know your stuff. I will check out the survey as soon as I am educated enought to fill it out knowledgeably.


  7. Val says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 8:56pm

    Like Sharon, I had trouble answering the question about playing. My dog who I responded about plays with my other dogs. But in the occasional situations where she is allowed off-leash with other people’s dogs, she really doesn’t care to play with them.


  8. Amy says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 5:17pm

    We did the survey, but I’d forgotten to put in one comment that I’d wanted to:

    Layla is my Novice A dog, and I had no real plans of doing any performance work with her. It’s just been a wonderful bonus. I had no idea how far behind I was with different techniques. So we’re very behind with a lot of things that other people do with their dogs (now that they know better); things like letting them run in the yard with other dogs and discovering that dogs might be more fun than people, etc. I’m not trying to make excuses, but I honestly didn’t know any better.


  9. Lesley Bowen says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 4:21pm

    My youngest dog is allowed off leash in the backyard to potty and play…and chase squirrels. So now, when I call her, she comes from the back of the yard, zooms past me, and goes to the back door…which is what I want, but…needless, we are both works in progress. At least she knows to go straight to her crate, because SHE has played Crate Games. Maybe there’s still hope.


  10. hornblower says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 3:08pm

    I filled out your survey. I have a malamute x gsd who only recalls well in low distraction areas; when something interesting catches her eye, she FIRST goes to do what she thinks she needs to do (tell another dog off usually) and then comes. 🙁

    Leaves me in the awkward ‘do I reward this because you did come but only when you finally felt like it’ situation. Obviously, I try very hard to limit her chances to practice this bhvr.

    My english setter I adopted from rescue as a 6 yo. He’d been previously trained on an e-collar (which I don’t use). He is very birdy & would chase birds across the continent from what I can see so he’s not been offleash in an unfenced area in the year I’ve had him.

    I don’t walk them on flexi’s but I use long lines a lot with both of them.

    I’ve just started working Pam Dennison’s whistle recall training with both of them. I look forward to incorporating your tips too!


  11. Naomi says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 1:27pm

    Just filled out your survey! Interesting topic that I love to learn more about!
    My brilliant recaller (not by your definition- because it has become less )- the major reason is I spent less time with him. Also I saw a big change in him after we took him out of sports to rehabilitate after an injury- we were always the centre of his world but then he started noticing more things- remarkable change. That has gotten better now – valuable lesson: always gotta keep investing in it troughout life:)

    I admit I am at loss at teaching my youngest (just 1) to recall away out of play with others (then my own dogs). I just don’t know how to get a good setup for practice. Another reason is I feel insecure about is which reward I should use. … learning every day :)))


  12. Kathy says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 1:06pm

    I have great recall with my dogs-but I couldn’t call it brilliant because I could think of at least one instance where each one MIGHT not come the first (and only) time I call. I only call once and then I go get them. My dogs get a lot of freedom but they still have to come when I call them. I have no problem restricting a dog until they prove they can handle more freedom. I can’t wait to see what you are going to come up with…..


  13. Natalie says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 12:36pm

    Too funny. Yesterday I commented about my Standard Poodle’s recall being spotty around other dogs. While at agility last night, I had her off leash, getting ready to run, and she bounced off toward a Golden Retriever that was maybe 20 feet away. By the time I reacted, I gave her a firm “Addie, Come!” when she had about reached the dog. She turned on a dime and sprinted back to me. I was quite proud of her : ) However we still need work – this is not 100% consistent.

    I filled out your survey and at least for us, the thing we need work on most is recalls around other dogs… but I don’t know how to proof that well, especially since most of the dogs around us have spotty recalls at best. Are you going to cover this in the tools you’re talking about? I can’t wait to read what you have for us.


  14. Kim Laird says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 11:37am

    I would actually have filled out the survey again for my other dog, now deceased, in case this would be of interest. My current dog is growing up very differently than the first one, because I don’t live next to farmland and because I walked my first dog on flexis most of the time. We were in a very rural area. I would also turn her loose in the farm field and on the campus near where we lived. I’m pretty sure that lead to a lot of the recall problems we had, and the slow recalls in the obedience rings. She felt like recalls were punishment, I think. This one does not and returns very cheerfully. Where we have a problem is with distractions like birds, other dogs, etc.


  15. Karissa says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 11:20am

    Michelle makes a good point — I didn’t choose the dog with the worst call as my choice for which dog I would like to improve. Poor guy gets the short end because he is a breed who *every* breeder says, “Never let these dogs off leash.” I do occasionally and he is now 100% at agility trials, even at outdoor unfenced trials — but I rarely let him off leash in an uncontrolled environment because I worry about what might happen to him. He doesn’t even care about my other dogs (who tend to be great teachers for keeping new kids around).

    Speaking of — I’m quite sure the reason my third dog’s recall is not as good as I would like is because of the lack of work I have put into it. I more or less have taken for granted that she generally sticks around my oldest dog and comes when he does. Remove him from the situation and often her ears turn off — go figure! I still carry a treat pouch on me and reward her for almost every recall, but it surely doesn’t have high enough value to bring her back to me when she’s found something rotting & dead to eat, or a small animal to chase.


  16. Michelle says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 10:56am

    I took the survey and I can kind of see what you are getting at with the questions that were asked and how one could respond. One thing I did note was you asked about the dog you wanted a brilliant recall on, but it seemed to assume it was the one with the worst recall. That may not necessarily be the case. That is my situation- my older dog with the terrible recall made me try harder and better with my second dog. My first dog is old and deaf at this point. She is managed with a good recall signal (if she’s looking at you), other trained behaviors, leashing, and double door systems. My second dog is 1000 times better than my first in the recall department (and many other behaviors). He’s not “brilliant” by your definition, but he’s really good. About the only weakness we have is with rabbit/squirrel chasing and quite honestly I do not know how to proof against such a strong instinct- so I don’t. I manage it with leashing. With my breed, I don’t know if I would ever trust any amount of training I did to withstand such a distraction. It’s just not safe. As solid of a relationship I have with my 2nd dog, I’m fighting 100s of years of him being bred to NOT listen to humans when on chase of a prey animal. I continually work on our recalls and try for that ellusive idea of one day allowing him to romp through the woods off leash. Yet, I doubt there will be a day I ever take that step. The risk is just too high if I’ve missed something. A question though- does your criteria for a brilliant recall translate to other people calling your dogs? I know my recalls errode a bit when other people are calling them. I’ve tried to work on this in case they get away from someone else and I’m not around (a more likely scenario in my world). Yet, I have less luck here.


  17. Sharon says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 9:57am

    I could not answer #5 in the survey because there was an option missing. 🙂
    My dog plays with our own dogs frequently but not other dogs. I don’t encourage it because for one thing, she is quite small, and I don’t feel she needs to interact with other than our own dogs in order to have a good life. In any case, I am happy that she also doesn’t seem that interested in other dogs.


  18. Jenny Ruth Yasi says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 9:35am

    My almost six year old french waterdog still can have her brain turn off around certain distractions, but she is so much more reliable than she used to be! She’ll turn on a dime most of the time, but I still won’t entirely trust or test it around any distraction! It was interesting to me that you didn’t ask breed questions in your survey, as I see SUCH a difference in “natural” ability to recall. Some dogs have SUCH very intense prey/chase drive! I took her to the beach yesterday, she was great, but I needed fifteen minutes of sitting and waiting for her to settle down and focus on me before I dared let her off leash (for intense fun retrieving training games, not just wandering around). If there had been a flock of geese on the beach, I maybe wouldn’t have been able to let her off-leash. When prey-stimulated, she just can’t think. We will do field trials this summer, in the hope that doing her “natural” job will help her feel less of a barrier-frustration around birds.

    When she was a teeny pup, every time a car or bike or jogger or anything moving passed by, she used to leap at it and land on the end of leash. I had to train her to sit on vehicle cue, and the leaping after cars disappeared 99% of the time, but yesterday, walking to the beach, she was so excited to be going to the beach, that old “jump towards the moving vehicle” behavior recurred! I was very glad she was on leash! So, although she is recalling (ie, thinking) really well around most distractions, I don’t trust what would happen if a feral cat stepped into her path. It’s just DIFFERENT with a dog like this, who naturally points and quivers, and loads up with chemicals. It’s really a different problem than the problem of teaching a recall to a dog who doesn’t have that intense genetic hunting instinct. Some dogs naturally follow (even, herd) the owner around, and they learn brilliant recalls pretty quickly and easily. Other dogs require much more training, much more management, more socialization and habituation, more time to develop and mature emotionally, more careful management, more work, and they STILL might not have a brilliant recall around EVERY distraction! Trainers should be honored not for what a brilliant recall their dog has — for some, that’s pretty easy! But for knowing their dog, and respecting and accepting where the dog is at, and working from their to improve and develop their recall. When trainers expect their dog to have brilliant recalls around any distraction, they might beat themselves up, or beat their dogs up, hate themselves or their dogs for being imperfect. But for lots of dogs, being imperfect is pretty normal, and that’s what we need to expect!


  19. Deanna says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 9:34am

    Susan – maybe you can touch on a little bit on this … I know a 6 year old dog that has brilliant recalls. The owner can pull him off of anything…BUT a month ago while in the ocean swimming he spotted a dolphin at that point nothing existed but that dolphin. The dolphin was friendly and after a dolphin sniff the dog came back. Thank God it wasn’t a shark! How are you so sure of a dog’s brilliant recalls even with a distraction you’ve never proofed ??


  20. A&J says:
    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:50am

    Thrilled you are doing this. A brilliant, absolute recall ( a BAR? 🙂 have been a thorn in my side for awhile now. I just reworked my PoA, and even though it’s trial season and I really want to do sexy sequences, I’ve put Recalls and Crate Games at the top of the list. Thanks much, can’t wait!


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