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Posted: Jan 30 2005, 02:37 AM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 28-January 05
by Vera Marney, APDT 00791
Many people think that Pyrs and recall training is incompatible. True, the Pyr is independent, probably will never have a 100% recall - and a Pyr should never be let off lead unless the area is perfectly safe (and preferably fully fenced). But recall training is still important and will increase control over your Pyr. Apart from that, it is fun if done correctly.
There are different ways of teaching recall; some methods are more effective than others. The method I use is a step by step exercise (sometimes called "Puppy Recall") and is suitable for all dogs. As the recall is taught step by step, it means that each step can be practiced separately, in different locations, with different distraction levels etc. Correctly taught, this will make the recall a reflex-like action rather than something that the dog thinks about and then decides whether to follow the command or not.
• Don’t do any training with your dog, if you are in a bad mood as you would only end up being impatient and too critical.
• Never call your dog when you know he will not respond. If you do, the only thing he learns is that he can ignore you and get away with it.
• Never tell your dog off when he does not come back immediately.He will respond less and less because he will not associate the telling off with ignoring you, but with coming back.
• Use a cheerful, happy voice when calling. There is no reason for him to come back to someone who is angry.
• Don’t make your dog sit when he comes back. Instead, touch his collar. You want to praise him for coming back, not for sitting. By touching his collar when you give him the treat and praise, he will associate this with something nice. He will therefore not turn into one of those dogs that come when called, but never close enough to grab hold of them (to put on the lead, to touch etc.).
• Use high value treats.Treats that work indoors don’t necessarily work as well outdoors. Cheese, sausages, frankfurters or meat usually work well. During the training stages, I feed the dog every single time he comes back (or give toy if a dog prefers that).
• A recall should just be a pit stop for a treat, a cuddle or a game.Do not just call your dog when you want to go home, when a dog is in sight or when putting him on the lead. He will quickly learn that you have a reason to call him and will avoid coming back (some dogs may actually look around first to see why you call!). Call your dog frequently (every couple of minutes if necessary), and release immediately.
• Practice in many different places and situations. Dogs do not generalize very well. Start off in an easy situation (e.g. in your sitting room) and only progress to a more difficult situation and location (e.g. in your garden, park, when dogs are around etc.) when it works 100%. 100% is if your dog turns on a six pence as soon as you call and comes back instantly without thinking about it. Gradually increase the level of difficulty for each step. Don’t let your dog makes mistakes by progressing too fast before he is ready.
• Keep your dog within reasonable distance at all times.All dogs have a certain distance within which they are controllable and respond to commands. Once you have figured it out, keep him within this distance and don’t let him run off miles and miles away from you.
Teach your dog to look at you on command. Hold a treat to his nose in your fist to get his attention. When he sniffs it, lift your hand up a few inches and say “Look”. As soon as your dog looks, give him the treat. Timing is vital. If you are too late and the dog already looks away again, don’t give the treat, only the second he looks at you. Don’t forget to also praise verbally.
Practice until you can get your dog’s attention on command for as long as you want. With practice, your hand can move towards your eyes, so your dog eventually starts looking at you, rather than just the treat. When you come to that level, only give the treat when he looks at your eyes.
Note: make sure that you practice this exercise everywhere, not just where it is easy. If your dog cannot pay attention when you ask him to, he will not be able to be obedient either and certainly won’t do a decent recall.
Once you have got your dog’s attention as above, run backwards and encourage your dog to follow the treat you are holding in front of you (quite low, not too high up). You might need a gentle tug to start off with. As soon as he follows nicely, use the word you want to use for the recall (“come”, “here”, whatever you chose), praise and give the treat.
Again: practice in all sorts of situations, starting off easy and progress to more difficult ones. Only one this step works 100% in every situation, go to:
Walk along normally, loose short lead, then suddenly call your dog (“come” etc.) and run backwards, just as in STEP 2 (again, a gentle tug might be necessary to start off with). Praise your dog and give him a treat when he does well.
Just as before: first call when your dog is not distracted, then gradually increase the difficulty level (e.g. call when he is sniffing somewhere, when he is watching dogs/people/etc.).
Once this works 100% in every situation, go to:
Use a longer lead, eventually a long training or flexi lead (up to 30’) and do exactly the same as in STEP 3. Make sure that your dog is safe by using a harness with a long training lead or flexi lead. If attached to a collar, a long lead can be dangerous if a dog runs off at speed.
Only once your dog’s recall is perfect on the lead, do you have a chance of a good recall off the lead.
Of course you need to make sure that the area where you let your dog off the lead is safe. You may want to practice in a fully fenced area first (e.g. tennis court) to test your dogs reaction once off the lead.
If your dog has instant recall on the lead, he most probably will off the lead as by now, having gone through all the steps, it will almost be a reflex, not a decision as to whether he wants to come back or not!
Go through the same steps off lead before you let him have full freedom.
Once your dog is off the lead, the general principles at the beginning of this post are even more important as you cannot physically enforce your command anymore.
You might find that you can do STEP 5 in certain areas (e.g. at home/in the garden), STEP 1 in others (when near dogs/children/small animals etc.) and STEP 3 in others again (e.g. park without dogs around). By breaking the recall training down like this, each step can be practiced individually depending on the situation.
Equally, if you find that the recall has got worse for any reason, you can always go one or more steps back and practice again.
• You can hide behind trees every so often to keep your dog alert.
• Vary your walks so you don’t become predictable. This too will keep your dog on his toes (and makes it more interesting for him too).
• Change treats every so often. Even the tastiest treats can become boring.
• Even if the recall is great off lead, it does not hurt to practice the first few steps on or off lead as a refresher every so often.
And last, but not least: Good leadership as well as general reward based obedience training (see pinned thread on Basic Behaviour and Training Principles) will also help with the recall as a good relationship based on trust and respect is the basis for recall.