The Accidental Recall

Thanks to Fern Camacho for having me back on his Great Dog Adventure podcast!

He’s started having real-world case studies, and I was more than happy to brag about how well Leo is doing with my magic string cheese method. When I heard that the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop theme for this month is “Recall,” I thought I’d take this opportunity to add another update.

Leashed Leo

My dogs do not have good recall. They don’t run off for no reason, but we lost Mia to a deer for one scary hour, and Leo has been untrustworthy in a few off-leash situations.

One of the parks we go to has a trail, so I bring string cheese along for the on-leash portion of the excursion. The other day, my god, we encountered a lot of challenges.

First, Mia dropped her ball down a blackberry bramble-covered hill, and we went back to get another one from the car.

Then on the way back down the trail, we passed a woman with a long-haired German shepherd that bared its teeth and snarled at my dogs. My dogs barked back. The woman said, “I guess he’s intimidated.” I was very cheerful back, because believe me, I am empathetic to people with reactive dogs. To quote the guy whom Isis bit, “No one could be more understanding.” I know I should only feel sorry for this woman that she didn’t know better than to bring her dog to the park. But I’ll admit, I was annoyed to see later that she hadn’t left the park, but instead was on her cell phone, throwing a ball down one of the trails, essentially preventing us from walking that way. (Plus we saw her a few days earlier, mindlessly throwing her ball to the dog while on her cell phone.)

In the play area, a Labradoodle stole Leo’s ball a few times, which happens, like, every time we go to the park, but I was distractedly getting the ball back from its owner and missed the appearance of a man on a bicycle. When I saw him, I calmly said, “My dog is going to chase this bicycle,” and leashed up Leo to take him to the other end of the field. However, the man had a dog with him, so he parked his bicycle and stayed a while.

Then, Leo pooped. So I tucked the Chuck-It under one arm, and took out a poop bag, and then it seemed like Leo had run off, so I looked over my shoulder to see another bicycle riding along the path… and Leo running through the field … TO ME. He wasn’t chasing the bike! At the risk of overstating what happened, I think Leo saw the bike and thought to himself, “When I see bikes, I get cheese.” Or else he was on his way to chasing the bike when I redirected him with my offer of cheese. But either way!!

Not that the cyclist would have minded; he was encouraging a dog to chase him, and rode a loop around the whole park.

I of course gave Leo string cheese for coming to me, and then put his leash on. He did lunge once toward the bike as it made its way back toward us, but did not bark, and he put his attention back on me as I continued to cheese him.

I leashed him up two or three more times on this weird park excursion, more than once because I wanted to walk them down the trail that the lady and her long-haired shepherd were monopolizing. When I saw she was still there, I set my dogs free in the field again. I had a few other occasions to call Leo to me in exchange for cheese. And he came back!

So. In addition to accidentally training him with the cheese when I just meant to manage him, I accidentally have improved his recall.

I’m so, so, so proud of my boy. (And sorry that I called him “dopey” in the above podcast.)

Positive TrainingThis post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads,Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. This month’s theme is Recall and the next hop begins on April 4th. The April theme will be training for safety/emergencies for National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. The hop happens on the first Monday of every month, and is open for a full week – please join us in spreading the word about the rewards of positive training!

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12 thoughts on “The Accidental Recall

  1. It sounds crazy – but the best recall command for me is “treat – treat ” They understand and comply every time. I could probably keep Harley off leash but I don’t. He loves wheels, and I am so afraid that he will see a bike (like your Leo) or a motorcycle or God forbid the mailman and take off. So I don’t – but on those occasions when we are safe and my husband is with me – I will let them have some fun and remember to holler “treat – treat” when I need them back.

  2. Good jobber, Leo!
    My old dog Beebs was so very stubborn when it came to recall. Finally I hit upon a solution. I yelled “Lunchmeat! Lunchmeat!” whenever she began to wander, and as soon as she heard those magic words, she ran back to me. Of course, I had to make sure that I always carried lunchmeat, not the smartest thing when hiking on trails shared with bears, lol.

  3. I LOVE when you get to see the success of a CER before you realized one was so powerfully instilled. And please, I call my dogs all kinds of names, much worse than dopey lol. Affectionately, of course.

  4. Great job with Leo – I think recall training is a life long process and I’m still not positive any my dogs have even 90% recall. I just have awesome food on my person at all times and even the young guy stays on a longer lead so we train constantly. I’ve had to chase my doxie into brambles before and no one was happy about it!

  5. Awesome training success! Picking up after the dog is such an attention divided moment especially when they’re off-leash. One time I was picking up after Mr. N, and another dog had him pinned down and it took me a minute to run over there. Thanks for joining the hop.

    • Recently during a walk, I had to leave a huge poop in the middle of the sidewalk momentarily because we had a loose German shepherd coming at us from one angle and a hooded stranger coming from another. Fortunately no one stepped in it during our successful two-minute detour to keep Leo under threshold.

  6. “When I see bikes, I get cheese” is the perfect slogan for a perfect recall. Seriously I’ve had some bad days at the park but nothing like that in recent days. I couldn’t imagine how stressed out I’d be, but then to turn around and see my dog running back to me – that’s just awesome.

  7. OH MY GEEEEE – I’m so happy to read this post today, because this is what I’m doing with my dogs. I’m trying to train them to associate bicycles with treats. I’ll have to try cheese. I used to give it to them, but stopped. I’ll pick some up at the store today.

    Thanks for this post. I try not to judge other dog owners, because I’m not perfect and have had my own challenges with my dogs, but sometimes I want to offer tips. I don’t, because years ago when I was clueless, I didn’t want to hear anything from anyone. Instead, I focus on my dogs and keeping them safe.

    The other day I was walking my dogs and a woman was allowing her off leash dog to approach us. She asked if it was okay and I said “no, it’s not.” I think she expected me to say “yes” and continued to allow her dog to approach. As I’m backing away, I’m repeated, “no, it’s not okay” until she hears me and calls her dog. It’s situations like that one that try my patience, but I know that losing my cool isn’t good for the situation so I stay polite.

  8. Yay for Leo! I love classical conditioning. I love it so much that I would totally marry it. Clearly you’ve done an awesome job creating a positive CER for Leo and bikes!

    As for being “dopey,” maybe it’s a GSD thing–Nala’s a little goofus, too. She’s definitely smart–but she’s not effortlessly smart, like the northern breed dog I fostered. She’s smart because she tries really, really hard and she’s a total dork about it, and she gets really silly when she knows she’s doing well. A total dope. 😛

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