“If your dog just ignored a squirrel and came back to you, playing a game with a chaser tug is a super reward to reinforce your dog’s super behaviour…”
Rather than getting down into the grass roots of recall training, to achieve true success you have to think of the concepts you need, rather than seeing recall as a specific behaviour that you teach. This week we’re sharing our recipe to recall success!
- How much value do your dog have for being close to you? When they off lead do they spend the majority of the time out ahead and far away from you having lots of fun? Perhaps playing with other dogs or chasing after a ball?
- You have to think about where most of the value is being spent when your dog is off lead. If the scales tip towards being away from you, then your recall will likely be unreliable.
- We suggest that 80% of value needs to be built in close proximity to you. Make being close to you a good deal for your dog!
- When your dog is off lead they have an abundance of choices that they can make! The environment is very stimulating and rewarding for your dog! Choosing not to interact with something is a hard skill that our dogs should have in their toolkit.
- Impulse control has a massive part to play in your recall training, so working on this concept generally is most definitely a must for recall success! Get cracking with those impulse control games!
Thinking in Arousal
- If we haven’t enhanced the concept of thinking in arousal, when our dogs get excited the ability to think decreases. This is the difference between your dog being able to process information or not.
- In the case of recall, this is your dog successfully being able to recall away from something they are about to interact with something, or already are. For example, if your dog was playing with another dog can you call your dog away from the other dog?
- Like with impulse control, thinking in arousal needs to be grown as a concept generally by playing lots of games that feed into that concept.
Get Creative with Reinforcement
When your dog does come back when called think about what you use as a reward! You have to consider matching the reinforcement with what your dog really wants. For example, if your dog was thinking of chasing after a squirrel, but successfully pulled away and came back to you, a piece of kibble as a reward will be a massive disappointment to your dog! Reward like with like.
In this instance a game of chase with you and perhaps playing with a chaser tug toy would be a super option! Think about what reinforcement you take out on walks and get creative! Use environmental reinforcement too! What is it that your dog really loves! Utilise this knowledge!
It can be very easy to fall into a bit of a pattern, a routine when walking our dogs off lead! Our dogs are very good at picking up on that pattern, they are constantly seeking out that predictability!
A great example is when it comes to the end of the walk. Imagine that your dog has had a whale of a time during the walk; running, playing, frolicking, generally being a dog! If you only ever really engage with your dog at the end of the walk, if this is the only time you call your dog in close to you, it is likely that your dog will soon pick up on this pattern and they will quickly learn that it leads to the end of fun times! This results in your dog not wanting to come in close to you when its time to go home! And some dogs pick up on this pattern very fast!
During the walk top up the value for close proximity and mix things up by infiltrating your training into your walks. Now, we aren’t saying you have to play training games for the entire walk, just here and there, its all about balance. Another suggestion is to intermittently pop the lead back on during the walk and mix in a little on-lead walking, then let your dog off again.
Being unpredictable is key, plus playing some training games within the walk will ensure that the value for close proximity is constantly being topped up.
Photo courtesy of Devon Dogs