Recalls or coming when called is a skill that needs constant maintenance. There are so many wonderful, distracting, awesome things in this world that could easily entice a dog to choose not to come when called. A tantalizing sniff, a moving car, a squirrel chattering in a tree, a neighbor’s barking dog, a pile of rabbit poo. And a solid recall can save your dog’s life. I want my dogs to be able to easily make the choice to come when I call. So we practice recalls a lot in all manner of context. In the house, in the yard, in the woods, on leash, off leash. I work very hard to maintain my end of the recall bargain in that when they choose to come to me over engaging in something else, I have to be way awesome cooler than what they left. Make the choice to choose to come to me a no brainer.
Today we practiced in the yard, in the snow turning to rain slush. And we practiced recalling to me off of food treats scattered randomly in the yard. Both dogs needed a little tune up and did very well.
To start the review I did a couple of simple for them recalls from across the yard. I don’t usually do a ‘formal’ recall with a sit or down stay to start, and didn’t today either. The dogs were loose, noodling in the back yard. I call each, they come running to me, I praise, tell them they are brilliant and then take out a treat for additional reward.
After a couple of reps of that, stage 2 involved, they come, I praise, treat, then as I move away once more I toss a couple of treats off to the side as I call them to me. Success a couple of reps of that.
Stage 3, I toss some treats on the ground and call the dogs, asking them to ignore the food they are moving over and passing on their way to me. Success with that for a couple of reps.
Stage 4, I cue the dogs to “Find It” which is their cue to be allowed to eat tossed treats on the ground (or find a toy, context dependent), of which by now there are a number of in various areas of the yard. As they are eating the treats, I call them, asking them to leave the remaining food on the ground and come running to me. Success for a couple of reps.
And we end with once more a couple of simple no distraction recalls to me that we began with.
For my dogs, all of these stages are review, they have progressed through these stages multiple times in their lifetime’s worth of training. When they were each first learning, the stages were broken down even further to allow for their success, and stages weren’t taught all at once but in steady increments as each dog was able. And had today either or both struggled at any one stage, I would have not progressed to a harder stage but instead stayed focus on their success at the sub stage.