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Dog with intermittent recall

(32 Posts)
FiveHoursSleep Thu 12-May-16 19:48:29

I'm a fairly experienced dog owner ( have had 8 dogs of my own ) and have always been able to train my dogs to recall.
Even our lurcher would come back unless she was chasing something.
We've had our newest dog ( Husky/Lab) for a year now, and, he was excellent for the first 9 months, but for the last three months he's started buggering off when it suits him. He's not even chasing stuff, just going where his nose takes him, then coming back to check i'm still there but running off when I approach him.
Then after a while you can see him decide to come back and he just approaches me for a pat and a treat. Often other people can catch him for me, and then he comes back to me as good as gold, no pulling away or trying to escape!
He's excellent at recall in our training class ( out in the park) and is doing well in agility ( not competing yet but maybe next year).
Sometimes he does the same for the dog walker- maybe 20-30% of the walks but can go for weeks without being a problem, then suddenly he has the wild in his eyes again. He does always come back eventually but his record is 3 hours of freedom!
We've also tried the whistle, he's fantastic at responding to this at home but when he goes feral he takes no notice of it.
My other dog comes back fine, but this dog isn't influenced by what the other one is doing. They play together quite a lot when running free but our newer one is quite happy going off on his own once our older one is on his lead.
We don't know his history but he was an Irish poundie, and seemed to have never been in a house when he came to the UK. He was a young adult when we got him, but acts like a puppy still.
We have some areas to walk him that are secure if he does decide to not come back, so the plan is to leash him everywhere else and keep working on his recall in training and agility.
Has anyone else had a dog with a dodgy recall that they have managed to correct?
Is it a matter of training and more training?
Or is he never likely to be reliable given that he's somewhere between 2-3 years old.

Wyldfyre Thu 12-May-16 22:00:43

My dads boy had dodgy recall which Flyball has helped with as he gets a treat every time he comes back. Still have problems with him if he decides he wants to poop though - he likes his privacy and I wouldn't be surprised if he rads the newspaper while he's at it, the time he takes.

Maybe go back to basics with a long line. Also liver cake = doggie crack. Have yet to meet a dog that wouldn't do ANYTHING for a bit b

FiveHoursSleep Fri 13-May-16 09:20:54

Thanks for your reply.
I guess everyone else has got dogs who recall well. I've been very smug about the obedience of my dogs up until this one, so I guess it serves me right!
A long line won't really work in the woods where we walk- too tangly.
I will try some liver cake though it looks foul to make.
He's not that interested in toys, but maybe a squeaky something might help.

angus6 Fri 13-May-16 09:38:42

I think a good proportion of it is down to the dogs personality. I've had 4 dogs, all of which have been trained the same. 2 have had 99% recall and the other 2 it was very hit and miss. The 2 that were hit and miss I gave up eventually and realised that they had to be on the lead all the time unless we were in an enclosed area. I couldn't risk them off lead as I couldn't trust them to come back.

My mil is currently on her 8th dog. All her previous dogs have been well trained and well behaved, but my mil is struggling with her current dog who is now 3 years old. My mil always fancied herself as quite a dog training expert and was always quite happy to tell other dog owners she met out walking where they were going wrong with their dogs. This dog has shown her that sometimes you just have to find ways of managing the problem, rather than fixing it.

EasyToEatTiger Fri 13-May-16 10:26:37

One of my dogs had no re-call WHATSOEVER. He was a nightmare for about 18 months. I took him and myself to training, and had all sorts of behavioural advice. When he was on a line, he pulled me over, gave me rope burns, knocked me over. He didn't respond to food unless it suited him. Eventually I happened upon a sheepdog trainer who sorted him out very quickly. He was a changed dog. He still runs for the hills but he does re-appear. I can get him to drop to the ground half a mile away and come back. When we are 'working' he is now the best dog ever. Do you think it could be the husky bit of him which takes no notice?

Wyldfyre Fri 13-May-16 10:39:24

Five just one tip, do not wash up using hot water, whatever you do!

At least, not in the first instance

Also be wary of giving too much, especially at first.

FiveHoursSleep Fri 13-May-16 14:57:31

LOL, yeah I imagine it stinks!

FiveHoursSleep Fri 13-May-16 15:00:37

I think it probably is the husky in him. But also he was probably born on the streets and is very independent and streetwise.
He's got out of the park on a couple of occasions and looks both ways before crossing the roads and goes and checks out all the front gardens while I'm chasing him.
He's never escaped from our garden though. In fact he much prefers lounging around on the sofa.

SweetLathyrus Fri 13-May-16 15:15:19

Five, I have a working cocker spaniel who does this - he will behave beautifully for weeks or months on end, lull me into a false sense of security, then . . .

"Up yours Mrs! I hear the whistle, but I'm going to look you in the eye then piss off in the other direction."

Walking in woods with a training line is a pain, but each time he does it, I put him back in harness for a week or so (three this time because of the bloody pheasants), and each time the stretch of good behaviour gets longer. He's 16 months now, I don't know if I'll ever trust him completely, but I'm learning the kind of areas that will put him at risk.

And if it's any comfort, I know a rescue husky that has gone from 3 hour excursions to fantastic recall in 12 months (mostly due to cheese).

grannycake Fri 13-May-16 15:18:04

Jack Russell here - 9 times out of 10 comes back but then randomly refuses. No longer let hr off lead as I just cannot trust her. Never had this issue with other dogs in the past

FiveHoursSleep Fri 13-May-16 16:14:38

"Up yours Mrs! I hear the whistle, but I'm going to look you in the eye then piss off in the other direction."
This is exactly what my dog does. Cheese is fine for agility but not dog training.

Lifeisontheup2 Fri 13-May-16 16:25:11

Liver cake doesn't work for my Border Collie, in fact nothing works more than a couple of times. However, his recall is improving as he gets older.

SweetLathyrus Fri 13-May-16 18:33:55

Just wondered if cheese was a husky thing, *Five! To be honest, only tinned mackerel, and deli meats (bloody hound has middle class pretensions, don't tell dh, it's his chorizo, I'm vegetarian!) work for recall, and then, only in the absence of pheasant and deer. Cheese and chicken for agility.

As difficult as it might be, turn your back on him and walk away. I just let SweetDog off in a VERY exciting field (heart racing), and just criss-crossed it, ducking down into the grass so he had to keep looking for me. It took a while, but by the end of the 45 minutes, he was returning to every whistle. Now I know I cant generalise that to a new field, but each success builds the pathways in his brain.

I also use a whistle, not because dogs magically come to whistles as some people think, but it has a longer range and is more consistent - a fixed pitch whistle doesn't display stress or anger. I use a 211.5 gun dog whistle, along with the techniques in Pippa Mattinsons Total Recall. but it has t be reinforced everyday - sorry there's no easy answer.

catsrus Fri 13-May-16 18:43:14

Really useful question - thanks. I've recently got an Irish pound terrier X via RSPCA. He has similar problems - the selective deafness is frequent. One problem we think is not being totally sure of his new name yet - don't know what his original name was. I will look up the Mattinson book. He's about dog no.9 for me, so I'm not a novice - and I've have 4 rescues.....

SweetLathyrus Fri 13-May-16 19:00:23

Also look at her website

Although it is focused on gun dogs, she also has lots of training advice for working breed dogs as family pets, that is applicable to any stubborn, driven breed. It's all positive training, and she acknowledges different dog temperaments, even within breeds.

I walk with lots of other owner of various breeds - and sometimes when I see their dogs trotting neatly along, I despair. But when SweetDog is good, he is VERY good, and gets lots of admiration, because a screeching halt and about turn from a busy dog is an impressive sight (when it happens, fingers crossed!). At any time, our dogs are trying their best, training is much more about instructing us as owners than them.

PuckyMup Fri 13-May-16 20:41:40

Tuna fudge for recalls and only recalls - never known a dog to not be crazy for this, especially if its kept as something special smile Initially start back to puppy basics for the recall - on lead and with a gentle tug to get him to come as if he was stupid with a reward every time, and then bring him back up to speed as he is. Daft as this sounds, keeping a short tab lead on him (the ones that are a couple of inches long) can often help with a bad recall as they have a bit of weight to them which helps re-enforce the idea of being on lead = come back regardless.

Tin of tuna in oil/fish in oil/fish in tomato sauce
couple of eggs
small clove of minced garlic (can add up to 3 big ones if wanted)
teaspoon or so of parmesan (can add more)
some flour.

Tip fish into bowl undrained, mash up. add 1-2 eggs and the garlic and parmesan, mix up. Add enough flour to make a sort of batter mix, tip into a greased baking tin. Into oven (roughly 180c) for roughly 10-15m - check it and when its still springy but a skewer comes out clean, its ready. Tip out onto rack to cool then cut into pieces. Keeps in fridge or you can freeze it

PuckyMup Fri 13-May-16 20:45:09

This is the tab lead I mean - they are fist length you want rather than the longer ones

FiveHoursSleep Sat 14-May-16 00:04:19

Some really helpful stuff here and it's nice to know I'm not totally alone in having a dog like this.

FiveHoursSleep Sat 14-May-16 00:04:52

And the tuna mix sounds much nicer than the liver cake!

Lifeisontheup2 Sat 14-May-16 08:14:42

Tried the tuna stuff as an extra special treat for recalls and no.... I think the only thing that would work with mine is a handy jogger or cyclist and seeing that's the only thing that stops him coming back I think I'm going to have to continue to wait for age and maturity to catch up which is happening slowly to be fair.
It's a good thing I love him. grin

Rubberduckies Sun 15-May-16 07:47:23

I second pippa mattison's total recall book. She has lots of great exercises for proofing a recall and a whole section on 'absconders'. It sounds like you might need to go back to basics in a maybe a different 'boring' area to get him out of the habit that running away and doing his own thing is super fun. He needs to think that you are always more interesting than anything he can find himself, which can be difficult to unlearn but definitely worth it. Pippa suggests teaching a whole new word or whistle command that they haven't learnt to ignore and only ever use it when you know they will come back.

Rubberduckies Sun 15-May-16 08:03:09

Oops Pippa Mattinson*

Someone mentioned her totally gundogs site too. She's really great at getting back to online queries on her websites (she also has a puppy one and a Labrador one, and a positive gundogs Facebook) so it might be worth asking her advice too.

From the absconders section a few of the things she suggests-
-safety first. If dog has absconded before he will likely do it again. She suggests going through all the retraining but not letting off the lead or long line until you're reasonably sure he'll come back
-hand feeding.making sure the dog has to earn the majority of their daily food ration from you in small training sessions rather than meals
-starve the dog. When you are planning to let off the lead again she advises not to feed him before so he has more incentive to come back
-avoid the scene of the crime. The longer you go without him running off, the less likely he will do it again but in places he's done it before he will remember what fun he can have there
- exceptional rewards. Provide something super special he won't forget- hot cooked chicken or gammon because they smell amazing. You won't need to use it forever but to start with its got to be the best you can think of
- increase off lead time gradually to build up good habits and increase the number of successful walks
- avoid corrections make sure that even if they've been away for hours you don't correct or punish. Being with you has to always be enjoyable

Rubberduckies Sun 15-May-16 08:07:49

I'm aware that I obviously have some sort of woman crush on this lady, but here is a link to an article explaining one of the exercises smile hope it helps. I'll stop now!

FiveHoursSleep Sun 15-May-16 20:39:39

Rubberduckies That makes perfect sense as that's what I have always done with my dogs when I got them as puppies. I have had no problem with recall with any of these.
We got our newest dog as an adult off the Irish streets, so haven't had a chance to do this when he was young. I suspect this is part of the problem.

catsrus Sun 15-May-16 21:20:04

I've never had recall problems with my dogs-got-as-puppies either five - or with any of the rescue dogs I've had that were treated in that way as pups smile. I doubt my new terrier [Irish pound > RSPCA> me] has ever been properly lead trained, or let off when on a walk. He sits beautifully to have his little harness put on, and is very happy on a flexi lead - that is what he is used to. I, OTOH, am used to dogs that I let off the lead but who come back to me because I am so awesome grin.

I've made the cake with smellyfish ( sardines) and both dogs now walk around the garden glued to my side lol. I will take it on the dog walk tomorrow and go to the park where I can let little dog off on the long line - lets see if this treat makes me more interesting than the dog in the distance smile

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