I had just come back from a Bailey/Farhoody Chicken Workshop and had a consult with a young family with a lovely young lab. One of the main reasons I was there was that they could not get the dog to reliably come in from outside. This isn’t really unusual, especially when a smart dog figures out that most times they are let outside to potty before being put in a crate. Once they figure out that connection, well, not much hope of getting them inside.
There were other things to work on in that consult, but we started with recalls, and I started training my traditional way, many cookies every time the dog came up to one of us. Then we moved on to another topic (think it was counter surfing, surprise!), and the dog strolled off. I waited until the dog turned away and I cued the dog to come. The owners continued to talk, and while they talked, and I talked about counter surfing, guess what? I isolated the recall cue for that dog, and changed the way that I taught recalls forever. The dog started to look like a chicken to me, a side effect of many enjoyable workshops spent with the “white ladies” teaching me so much. An interesting side note was that one of the owners caught on that I was training their dog on recalls even as I was also talking about counter surfing. I briefly explained what I was doing, I don’t like to get into long detailed discussions on behavior with owners, and they want me to get results, not give a lecture. He looked at me and said “this is Skinner stuff!”, and then went on to tell me that he had trained pigeons in collage, working on some Skinner Box type experiments. Well, we got into a behavior discussion then!
Having a strong recall cue is so important in training, but have you gotten the advice to reward more, that is why your dog is not coming? Or maybe you were told that you need a special word that you never use except in desperation? Why would a dog that could gain reward not come when called? This is the question you must ask yourself as a trainer. Have you isolated this cue? Have you built the behavior to fluency? What kind of Pavlovian associations are happening as you train? All of these affect the strength of your recall cue, but seldom is the important behavior given that kind of through training.
Let’s do this thing! I am teaching a 4 week course just isolating the recall behavior. These are not competition recalls; I consider those so easy compared to a recall that I can use in real world environments. These are recalls that you can use in distracting environments, these are recalls where the dog has been taught the value of the recall cue and also that it’s the only game in town that pays. I am looking forward to this class; I have been whispering in Maggie’s ear that we are going to bone up on her recalls, something I like to re-visit often with her. I would love to have you join me for class! Registration starts on Wednesday, March 15th at 10.m., and class begins on Saturday, April 1st.