Safety First

We feel right in tune with our friends at Doggerel, because they wrote a great post last week that has been on our minds for a while. We want to know… how did you train your dogs to have a solid recall? Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us? And what do you think contributes to a dog having a really solid or easy acquired recall?

Tonka has the most consistent recall of our group, and was also the easiest to train. He is a dog that doesn’t need much in the way of treats during a training session… he is happiest and most focused when his reward is just attention and praise. He is the dog that can be in hot pursuit of a rabbit, and still turn on a dime to come running if he hears his name being called. On top of that, he’d really rather never be out of sight range from his mama, so I never have to worry about our boy. Have I mentioned lately just how awesome he is? If not, let me remind you… we shared a photo last week of a water excursion.


What we did not share was that we encountered a black snake in the water! Never in my 23 years of existence has this happened. Not only that, but it happened again this past weekend on our own farm! Both times, Tonka was within a few feet of the snake. Scary, right? Thanks to his strong recall, we were able to call him quickly to safety.

What scares me, is if it had been either of the other girls, the results may not have been so positive. I’m not sure if it’s because they were added to the pack later on (both later in their lives, and later as far as our multi-dog pack), or if it is because they are females, but they just really can’t seem to get the recall thing down. It doesn’t matter what treats we use, how excited we pretend to be, or how often we work on it… recall just isn’t their thing, even if they are both food-motivated! We feel like we have tried it all (the games, the treats, the works!) While Gaige is the more consistent of the two, sometimes her disobedience is just that… a nah-nah-na-booboo sass that she doesn’t wanna listen! As for Georgia, there’s no attitude, but I swear some days it’s like the girl just doesn’t hear us!  IMG_1459 IMG_1460 IMG_1461 IMG_1462 IMG_1463

So we wanna know… do you have a Top Secret training tip or idea that we could try? Maybe something that isn’t the run of the mill sit-stay-come-treat? We have faith in our readers! While we are responsible owners that leash our dogs when out in public or on public trails, we’d rather our girls not be relegated to on-leash living for the rest of their lives, or worse yet, experience a safety issue while roaming free. Because of that, we are open to any and all advice!

14 thoughts on “Safety First

  1. I wish I had some brilliant advice but all I can do is commiserate. Our pack is a little different than yours though, “generally” speaking the strongest recall bounces between Maggie and Tag with Maggie having the strongest preference to stay within eyesight of us and “check in” frequently. Buddy, oldest and longest pack member, is the hardest to recall! BUT this only applies when we are out in the open. If we are at home, it’s a complete toss up who will listen the best on any given day (though more often than not, it’s Tag.) Anyways, I can’t wait to see what people have to say, because I too worry that something bad could happen one day!

  2. I remember reading on someone’s blog (I can’t remember who – so fess up if it’s you!!) that they had an Emergency Recall word. What happens is we will call our pooches, they don’t listen, or we don’t have treats to reinforce when they do listen. So they came up with an Emergency Recall word (in this case theirs was “Treat Party”) that they only work on when they are assured the dogs will listen (like at the end of a long lead) and when they have some SUPER HIGH REWARD treats (we like using the Tuna Fudge recipe we found on Notes from a Dog Walker blog). Since it shouldn’t be a word that gets used often, they don’t have a chance to get immune to it. The ONLY time they get these treats is for emergency recall, making them extra special. Two Pitties in the City did a post on theirs, too.

    • This is such a great idea that I really want to try! My mom worked with a dog trainer who actually advised her to freeze baby food in those glass jars. If you were working on emergency recall, you could call your pup to you and give them these frozen treats. They go cRaZy for them!

  3. I did an, “Emergency Recall” and it works really well. Though my dog tends to become immune to any type of recall when there are cats involved. =/ The emergency recall is usually the same as hand targeting, so the common “Touch” command was what I use, and you just aim to reward heavily every single time, and use in case of emergency. I also re-taught him come using a different word to try and strengthen it. So now we use “Here”. One good tip is that you and J can split the pups dinner in half, work with them one on one and make a game out of it. So start across the room from each other and do really simple recalls, “Gia, HERE!” 🙂 Then just go back and forth until she feels like it’s a fun and easy game. Start easy though. Bringing it inside helps. Good luck!

    • This is great advice Casey, and the first place we started. Our pups quickly grew bored of this game, though =/ Not sure if it was the repetition or the fact that the ‘treats’ weren’t high-value enough, but even Gia, our resident food monger, wasn’t interested for long.

  4. I agree with training an emergency recall, but the thing about an emergency recall is you have to be very careful not to poison it and you really shouldn’t use it as your average, everyday emergency recall. My herding dog knows three different recalls and I use them in different situations. I wrote a post about how I trained her the cue “That’ll do” (which means, we’re done working the sheep now, please come back) using the Premack Principle. If treats aren’t working, I would suggest one of two things, really upping your rate of reinforcement (time out thirty seconds and let your dogs lick out of a peanut butter jar or a cream cheese jar or something really good, you’ll be surprised how long thirty seconds is) or you could try using the Premack Principle to your advantage (when treats are just not a high value enough reward). Feel free to check out my blog on teaching that’ll do as a cue or on the Premack Principle 🙂 Good luck!

    • Oops sorry, I should really read these before I post I meant to say “you really shouldn’t use it as your average, everyday RECALL” obviously you should use it as your emergency recall that’s what it is – DUH! Oh and if you have dogs that really like the car, I would try using “Wanna go buh bye?” or whatever you indicate to them that they are going on a ride is as your emergency recall. That always works for us 😉 but then you actually have to take them on a ride, lol!

    • Thanks so much! Can’t wait to check these out. We have been working more diligently with our clicker training, and that has helped a lot, but I still wouldn’t consider us recall ‘pros’ yet either.

  5. Rufus has a solid recall in unfamiliar places and if I “charge” him up with treats before letting him off leash, but it an be iffy if we go somewhere new or exciting. I’m actually considering going through a recall class with him this summer, but I do think that a lot of it has to do with personality type….so we’ll see.

  6. Really good questions, and ones I am working with too. I have started working with a whistle, and it is working alot like the above mentioned emergency word. So far, I’ve only used it where recall is guaranteed at 100%, and am using high value treats. Will start generalizing to other situations soon ~ I am hoping this is our answer!

  7. With one aging, deaf doggy and another that suffers from a doggy type OCD, recall is not the greatest in our house. Treats work for the most part but sometimes there is just something more interesting in the garden, we just don’t let Bundy off the lead unless we have the boundaries under control.

  8. Last night typist called her dog to her to get him into the car after their very long walk, he decided he didn’t want to go home yet and so lay down in the middle of the grass. Because they were in the middle of the country, with no busy roads nearby typist just waited it out, even when her dog decided he was going to bark at her instead of come. Finally he came right up and rolled onto his back for a tickle but it ‘s a fab new habbit he has developed! Sorry that doesn’t help you much, but she feels better for sharing!

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