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Pleeeease help me with recall, I don't know where I go from here

(11 Posts)
gymmummy64 Wed 24-Oct-12 22:57:53

I’m just over 5 weeks in with my rescue dog. He’s estimated 18 months old, is (possibly) a retriever collie cross. History not really known but from Ireland and I think didn’t live in a house and had the run of considerable outside space – ie he could do what he wanted. He has a very high, though rather confused prey drive driven mainly by scent. He’s terribly good natured and very affectionate.

We’ve done loads and loads of recall training. In the middle of a big field with no trees, hedgerows or other distractions he will recall to a whistle and treats 100%. We’ve done it over and over. He will do the same with a ball. Both of these I’ve done with another person so he’s been off lead running from one to another or to the ball and back. So quite a controlled environment. I’ve also done loads of long lead recall trying to increase the distraction level very gradually. When he’s not distracted, again it will be 100%, but there is a very definite cut off point where I and the sausage might as well not exist.

Buoyed up by our mid-field success, I did 4 small off-lead walks with him. Big, empty field, me walking down the middle well away from the distractions round the perimeter. He was great – kept checking where I was, no sense of running away or not wanting to go back on the lead, couple of great recalls from other dogs, I was thrilled! Walks 5, 6 and 7 went badly wrong. He followed a scent (foxes probably) on walk 5 which lead him to the river. Walks 6 and 7 he was pretty much gone as soon as the lead was off – once to the river, once to woodland. I spotted him a few times but voice, whistle, smelly treat, nothing registered whatsoever. Ok, he did come back, but he came back when he was ready -15, 20, 25 minutes. He’s been back on the lead since.

I don’t mind a challenge, I don’t mind hard work, I don’t mind it taking a long time. My problem is I don’t actually know what to do differently this time. I’m back to the recall stuff we were doing before but this now seems more like playing games with him rather than anything that would actually be effective once he’s seriously focused on going off on his own.

I read time and time again on here that no dog should be off the lead unless recall is 100% reliable which I agree with but which makes me so miserable as I just don’t see how we will ever get anywhere close to that point.

deste Wed 24-Oct-12 23:03:40

I could have written your post. I also don't know what else to do.

gymmummy64 Wed 24-Oct-12 23:12:46

Well Deste, let's both just hope someone comes along with some great ideas and insight ...fingers crossed!

gymmummy64 Wed 24-Oct-12 23:18:09

Well Deste, let's both just hope someone comes along with some great ideas and insight ...fingers crossed!

tazzle22 Wed 24-Oct-12 23:20:39

the first thing I am thinking actually is.............. flipping well done to get him that far in such a short time. grin He is young, a rescue and used to being able to do as he pleases in large areas ( for maybe 18 months ) !!!! You are not just training a young dog from scratch who is emotionally attached to you from puppyhood ....... you are undoing the lack of previous training give yourself a break !!!!

I think that using whitle and treats and all you are doing is spot on....... and when anthing I am doing hits a hitch I do as you have done .... back up a step or two and keep at that for longer.

I would just stay on long line ..... even if it seems like a game the repetitivenss in it will eventually make it more of a habit......... and maybe override eventually his other older and stronger habit !!!!

only thing I kinda wondered ...... is a ball the only toy he values as a reward or is there another even higher reward play item ??? Could changing them around for variation make a difference if he "tires" of one.

BoneyEm1972 Thu 25-Oct-12 12:15:06

You have my sympathies. I also have a crazy Irish rescue that has collie in her somewhere grin and have exactly the same problem. ( see post below).

It's a good job they are so lovely grin

gymmummy64 Thu 25-Oct-12 13:01:33

Thanks Tazzle, I needed that boost smile

Ah Boney, don't know how I missed your earlier thread, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels like they're failing their rescue sad I get the impression my dog's been thinking 'finally!! i can be a real dog' when he's off and it's very disheartening. I don't want him on the lead any more than he wants to be on one.

We're back to doing the long recall stuff or middle of an empty field stuff if there are two of us, but I'm much more nervous and cautious now and I think I've lost momentum and confidence. Sort of feels a bit like going through the motions for both of us. Dog looks at me when I blow my whistle as if to say 'what that again? oh, ok, if you like'.

So, I need to revitalise my campaign and be more positive. Having trawled these threads extensively, my cunning plan is two-fold. Firstly I'm going to up the ante on the treats and try some stuff he's not had before and won't expect. I'm thinking wings, livercake.. The sausage feels a bit take-it-or-leave-it now.

Secondly as Tazzle suggests above I need something other than an edible treat to ensure I am the centre of all things both delicious and exciting. Now he's not particularly toy-driven though a ball is useful but we know he goes bananas for anything that squeaks. So bananas in fact that he's not had anything squeaky for weeks as he just eats them. I've just bought three squeaky balls that look exactly the same as my normal non-squeaky tennis balls. I'm thinking squeak-squeak to get his attention but then give him the non-squeaky one to destroy play with nicely.

I will put my plan in action this afternoon and try to stay positive!

EasyToEatTiger Thu 25-Oct-12 14:29:53

You are describing our horror dog with remarkable accuracy. I tried all sorts of things and was contacting behaviourists and trainers up and down the country to sort out this problem. A local behaviourist said to do all the things I was already doing, which was useless, and patently not working. He suggested using long lines and treats by the ton. When leggit dog legged it, before long he would have tied himself in a mess, barked once then left us to find him. None of the usual things worked. I did not go down the line of electric collars because all things considered I anticipated that it could easily make the situation far worse.
If you can, I would certainly reccomend you contact Sarah Jenkins here She helped with horror dog, and although he still loves running and running, he is now far more under control, and a different dog. Our relationship has changed completely and very much for the better. If you don't live nearby, she may be able to recommend someone closer to you. She works a lot with pressure and release. I can't really explain it simply. For us it is the difference between having a dog who takes absolutely no notice of us whatsoever, and one who seems to enjoy our company and being with us.

NotmylastRolo Thu 25-Oct-12 20:09:12

OK we also have a rescue 2 yr old border collie who is an ex-farm dog, No recall, never been in a house, not house trained. Bit of a challenge, but the rescue centre spotted something in his gentle nature that made him worth taking off death row and into rescue. It was love at first sight for us! That was back in May. We now have a sound collie with plenty of character but still hit and miss re-call. Trouble is he is used to working on a farm. He also bolts if he hears loud noises.

A friend made a really good suggestion which I will pass to you because it made a difference and we are progressing with recall now. Find an enclosed outdoor tennis court (or if you are very lucky you may have a special fenced in dog enclosure near you) or disused toddler playpark that is completely fenced in. Use that for re-call until your dog is good at it and comes when you call him (using a whistle, or just a "come" command with lots of arm waving or cheese or a squeaky toy or whatever works for you). Practice every day until he knows what to do. He will have enough space to run far from you but will be safely enclosed (unless some wally opens the gate and lets him out!).

I do admit that we have also done two dog training classes (beginner and novice) and he is good now with sit, down, stay, wait and leave. That has helped with general doggie manners and obedience. Recall is a hard one as you only really need it when you are out in the open spaces and need the dog to come back to you when you want him to and not when he thinks the walk is finished!

I hope this helps. Let us know.

daisydotandgertie Thu 25-Oct-12 20:24:01

If it helps, it is utterly impossible to achieve an absolute fail safe recall with any dog. Impossible and anyone who says it is is talking rubbish.

There is ALWAYS something which will trip any dog up - and as your training continues and strengths, the number of 'somethings' will diminish.

Dogs are not robots. They have their own minds, instincts and agendas; we train them to try and teach them to listen to us before they listen to their 'urges'! They need to learn self control as well as the commands you're teaching and that will take time.

The most highly trained, champion dogs I know have off days. Both the dogs and their handlers make mistakes. We all aim for 100% obedience but actually expect 95%. 100% is just a dream!

You have done outstandingly well in just 5 weeks. Take the pressure off yourself and lower your expectations. It will take more time; keep on as you are though your progress is fabulous.

tazzle22 Thu 25-Oct-12 21:00:45

definately agree with daisy ...... 100% is only that till even the best the dog finds something just that teensy bit more exciting lol. I remember many years one very good level obedience dog, , some unusual retreiver I think (big black and curly) was doing a recall. Unfortunately he was going towards handler who was stood with her back to the river ...... he just shot past her and launched straight into the river grin

With mine its squirrels ..........even Lady who never runs if she can walk and does not "do" play of any sort !!! Recall is not always successful once they are in full flow, I have to get them just as they set off !!!

and usually I can control them both off lead in a field full of sheep for examplewink

good thinking re upping the value of the edible treats too....... my collie x will come for anything as she is a dustbin ...... gsd far more picky and it HAS to be dried liver !!! Variation may be the key grin

btw I had my rescue gsd on the long line for months before I could trust her espcially in the horse fields, it was VITAL she not chase / bite them and she had lunged at them at them quite "visciously" when she first arrived.

I know your boy wants to bee off lead, off course he does, but to be safe he will just have to be on line for as long as it takes. I used a long horse lunge line as it does not tangle as easy as a rope for example... dont know what you use but if this is to be for a while maybe worth a go.. I also attached it to a harness rather than a collar to lessen any risk to tangles / sudden jerks on neck area.

As Daisy says.... these are sentient animals that have needs / desires / instinct that can sometimes be of higher priority than out training / rewards. I have the same with my horse....... she is a very well "trained" and "habituated to all sorts" ( even burst balloons) and works with people with learning and physical impairments. That cannot guarantee that she will not react to something like a wasp ( she was stung by one once and will def remove herself from ones vicinity toot sweet wink or a pheasant flying up under her feet.

For dogs its prob the chase of summat running lol

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