There had been a difficulty…
Our first dog, Sorrel, never really was that great with her recall. She got better after that time Gill had to come back from work to try and coax her out of the field with ham, sweet words, tears and occasional fist shaking. However she was never great.
You’d have thought we’d have learned our lesson by the time we got Roscoe – but honestly – we still didn’t really have a clue what we were doing.
When we tried leaving him with a dog sitter and we asked how he’d got on the sitter mentioned, in obvious understatement, that he needed recall work… there had been “a difficulty” in the morning before we’d arrived to pick him up.
Full and frank discussion
On the drive home Gill and I had a full and frank discussion – not a euphemism for something more intense – we just got honest.
We were both thoroughly embarrassed, coats were off, air conditioning was on but still our faces were beaming scarlet.
It was the guilt too, who knows what the poor fella had gone through. The fact he didn’t want to tell us actually made us feel worse – our imaginations creating all sorts of awful scenarios of Roscoe refusing to return.
Anyhow, the full and frank discussion led to us deciding we’d find out all we could about recall, what we should be doing, and if there were any tricks or tips that would help. We were determined not to let it happen again.
We discovered that there aren’t really any tricks to it, it’s quite straight-forward.
A simple plan repeated in the same way each time.
What we did…
We practiced recall constantly, in the house, in the garden, many times throughout a walk.
Initially we did it when we were most likely to succeed at getting a recall.
When he wasn’t far from us or when he looked like he was just about to trot back to us anyway.
Anywhere we could get an easy win.
We called him back with joy and sunshine in our voices and gave him mad praise.
And in the house or garden we always had a hidden tasty training treat ready for him accompanied by plenty of that lavish praise. (Roscoe is much more praise-driven than food-driven and refuses any food at all while out and about on a walk).
Make recall fun, a game, a job well-done
When we gave him treats we made sure not to attract him with the treat itself. We had to make sure he was coming back for us – and not the treat – we just happened to be associated with the good stuff!
So if we were in the house or garden we made sure not to go rattling about in the treat tin before calling him back.
Treats are a delicious thank you for a job well done – rather than being some kind of pre-job contract.
Roscoe was coming back for the fun of it, it was a great game to him. We didn’t realise it at the time but we were building up his focus on us – we were where the good times rolled – and often the tasty times!
We stopped scolding him when he refused to come back. After a recall-fail we had to be sure he didn’t associate coming back with a telling-off.
Over the weeks we saw the change. Roscoe was picturing the good-times-a-coming whenever we called him back – so he came back. He also loved playing the game of chasing back to us at full-pelt.
It was a simple plan and then came the next part…
Repeat with consistency
Repeat, repeat, repeat… repeat.
We just kept repeating our method all the time – and he loved it!
All boingy legs and tail as he frolicked back to us. Loving the game.
We tried hard (and it was a bit of a toughy) to do it consistently. It’s easy to start, trickier to keep going.
But we made sure we used the same joyous recall shout each time (I was also doing a big arm come-here gesture too).
And the same heart-felt praise every time he arrived back with us – even if it was only from the next room or a few yards in front of us.
There were fails initially but that was often on us trying too much too soon.
It was tricky not to be annoyed on those occasions but we tried hard not to let it show – some times more successfully than others – no perfection claims here.
Such a difference
It was this repetition of the same style again and again that changed Roscoe’s recall – he even does his own recalling now if he decides he’s strayed further than he’d like.
We’re still playing recall and as you can see from the video above he loves it.
He’s far from perfect in lots of ways and even with recall we’re aware of situations when things may become too much but it’s such a difference and one big worry off the list.
If you’ve got any comments, thoughts or handy help pop them in the comments below – us pet parents all go through the same things – it’d be great to help each other out…