Vizsladogs, Ltd.

Overcoming Problems
with the Recall Command
By Lea Cogley from Melbourne Australia

There are other factors that influence recall training and one of these is the approx. 7-month and approx. 14-month juvenile periods. Puppy is no longer a baby, not yet an adult. The reproductive system is developing, seasons are imminent as is the testosterone surge that goes with male 12 month male maturity process. The startle reflex is developing, warning barking manifests. The urge to explore is strong and where a good recall may have been thought to be cemented, the pup now does not 'hear' when you call or decides deliberately to go the other way when you call. You will notice a distinct turn of the head when you call. In anthropomorphic or human terms, the dog _decides_not to come. If this period occurs and the owner has not noticed, the recall becomes unstable, to non-existent as the pup grows. You then have an adult who chooses not to come, especially when the distraction is more powerful than any motivation you may offer.

What to do? Try letting the pup/dog drag a 15 meter light line whenever you are in a situation where the pup might ignore your command, particularly in high stress or distraction situations. Around the house, let the dog drag a lead (under supervision of course) Stay within the 15 meter or lead length line. Do not pick up the lead/light line. Simply place your foot on it when puppy is about to abscond or ignores your command to come. Do nothing. Pup will play out to the end of the line and be prevented from going further. Once the line has played out, enthusiastically call the dog, click head turning, better yet, movement towards you, reinforce the good behaviour and keep repeating. Next step is to not put your foot on the line, call and click head turning/response toward you, bob down and throw your arms wide and welcome the dog for coming. Have a fun game or gentle cuddle depending on your dogs personality. Make coming worth the dog’s effort. Make yourself worth coming too, no anger or threatening gestures with your body. Release with a command e.g.. free or play and repeat until the dog is beyond contention. Practice in all situations. Do not go after the dog if it doesn't come. Talk to a tree, don't worry about the men in white jackets, talk to the ground, sit down and inspect a piece of branch,leaf. Tickle the dogs curiosity and when he comes to investigate, invite him into your game. It can be handy to have a long cotton line/very long flexi-lead while in the park. Horse lunging ropes are very good. Dog obtains free run, you retain control if a dog advances towards you that you don't like the look of. Your dog is prevented from inappropriate behaviour towards other dogs. You might try attaching the lead to the dead ring of the correction chain or to the “D” buckle of the collar. Once the dog understands that you are the leader and that he/she has no choice but to come, lay the long lead down on the ground but do not clip it to the lead. My favourite is a half martingale collar of cloth. The dog cannot panic and slip its head out of the collar yet the hold is a gentle one if the dog pulls. Most household owners or pet dogs do not develop the recall enough to be effective in all circumstances. The long lead is an interim method that gives comfort to pet owners, effectively cuts off escapism behaviour (burst for freedom) and allows the dog to run semi-free, investigate but still be under control. Pet owners need to still practice recalls to put the dog beyond contention when it comes to responding to the recall command. With practice, the recall is one of the most effective communicators with your dog. Correct leadership, trust and affection between dog and handler are never more evident than during this life saving exercise.

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