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Eldest dog's recall gone to pot, where to start from to get it back?(10 Posts)
Hello all! I've got two female spaniels, one 2 and half years old, one 6 months years old. Recall training with my youngest is going very well and she doesn't potter off too far when we're walking. My eldest however has taken this as an opportunity to play up. When she's called back, she does so in her own time in the most convoluted way with lots of circling. She's not food led and so offering treats for coming back quickly whilst a nice idea in theory, won't encourage her to come back quicker as much as it does with my youngest. She's a typical spaniel in that if she sees a pheasant or similar she gets locked on and and it is very hard to get her back quickly. I'm lucky in that she is walked on private land so her transgressions don't impact anyone else but I'd still like to have her come back as soon as she is called. Has anyone got any suggestions for helping to encourage her to come back as soon as she is called rather than when she fancies?
I have a spaniel and the key for me to maintain recall is to constantly be working with him on walks. If I ignore him he gets bored and would find his own interests e.g.hunting.
Do you think that because you are concentrating on your younger dog you have inadvertedly taken your eye off your older dog who is now bored on walks and is playing up?
I play ball and hunt with my cocker which keeps him focused on me on walks and he comes back because it's more fun with me than chasing deer or rabbits (although he has been known to drop the ball down a rabbit hole )
A gun dog trainer also told me not to let my spaniel get too far away from me. They are breed to work closely with you so if they get too far away you have lost control of them and they are harder to recall.
She's always preferred investigating to playing, but just recently she's really taken to a whistle ball so perhaps I'll use that more to keep her entertained. I don't think I ignore her but it would be stupid of me to say she doesn't get any less attention now I'm training my youngest. I'll be sure to call her back as soon as she even looks like she might wander off instead of waiting until she does, and I'll bring back the treats even if she doesn't much care for them! Thank you for your help 😊
Whilst battendog's recall has always been ok if it's just us, he is easily distracted by other dogs, hares and pheasant. He is a springer.
We've been working on the following which is really helping:
- I use a trailing lead on all 'off lead' walks. This is 10m biothane lead without a handle. It clips to his harness and just trails on the floor most of the time. If I see anyone else in the distance, or if I start walking somewhere I think it more likely we will meet someone, I pick up the end and hold it.
- I only hold the lead as an emergency measure. What I am aiming for is to 'control' him without the lead ever going tight. That way, I know the control is through his choice, not because I have hold of a lead.
- We always try and practise 'wait', 'stay' 'with me' and 'heel' on walks. Just for no reason, with plenty of treats when he gets in right. The 'stay' has been especially useful because we have built up to him staying while I walk 20m or more away. I then recall him and reward him when he comes to me. The act of running towards me after a stay appears to hold some element of reward in itself.
- These also give me the tools to regain control if I spot another dog and do not have hold of the lead. We use 'wait' and I walk to the end of the lead and stand on it. I say "with me" to encourage him to walk in the same direction as me, away from the distraction.
- I would also hold that lead in areas I know we might find pheasant or hares - both are too tempting for him.
- To recall I have started to use a high pitched "pup, pup, pup" rather than a word or his name. Firstly, it's not a command I use at any other time (unlike his name) so I know it is not poisoned or has any other meaning to him. It is a very hard command to poison by shouting it angrily, you just cannot say "pup, pup, pup" angrily . I also read that humans all over the world use high pitched, short noises to encourage animals to do something more quickly. As I want him to come back to me quickly I thought we'd give this a go.
- I don't ever recall unless I am 80% sure he will come back to me. If I am not sure, I go and get him.
- I always reward for a recall. Battendog is not so treat focussed himself so the reward might be the chance to chase me for a few seconds, or a thrown toy, or the chance to explore something odd like a fallen tree. I carry high value treats, such as hot dog.
- I change direction often and for no reason. I expect Battendog to be watching rather than wait and call him. I also hide if he's not looking (obviously still keeping a sneaky eye on him).
- I stay engaged with him. No plodding along in a daydream. Lots of talking, interacting, praise etc.
Agree with bitey about keeping them close. Another benefit of a trailing lead is that it is a clear marker for me to tell how far away the dog is. Once the lead isn't close enough for me to grab or stand on, I know the dog is too far and needs calling back closer.
My intention is to continue for quite a while, until I think his recall around other dogs is reliable. Then start cutting bits off the end of the lead - gradually making it shorter each walk, so he doesn't twig that he is suddenly off lead and free.
sorry - mammoth reply. I got a bit carried away there...
Do you mostly stay in sight and /or walk a similar route?
My eldest spaniel will go a lot further away from me if he is confident he knows where I am and where I am heading. So I regularly, suddenly change direction/ move out of sight to make him responsible for keeping up with me. He stays much closer this way.
Missbattenburg, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a helpful (if long 😉) reply! It's never occurred to me to not use her name when calling her back, but now you mention about using a command only for recall it makes a lot of sense. She is an absolute star on the lead and will walk to heel on and off lead, maybe I should be doing more off lead heel work with her. She also knows wait as she had been trained to stop at field intervals and gates to wait for us before attempting to get through the dog hatch, so this is a command I could definitely make more use of. I need to start being more generous with the treats too, and with the ball throws! Thank you so much for your help, lots of fab suggestions 😊
You also just reminded me that in early days I taught him a hand touch which was only ever something we did for fun. It then became a game we played on a walk, for him to run back and touch my hand. As he did so I would mark it with a celebratory yell and he would get treats. Again, most the reward appeared to come from the act of doing this, rather than the treat that came.
I didn't know why at the time but I heard about a lecture in Uni of Cal. recently in which the professor talked about how dopamine (the chemical that makes us feel happy for getting a reward) is released before the reward - when you know you are going to have a chance to access the reward. It's not released when you actually get the reward. That would suggest the act of running back can become a rewarding experience because dopamine is released then and not when the treat is delivered. Maybe just one reason why practise in the house first helps - because it lays down the experience that means the dog recognises the chance to get a reward. Food for thought, maybe.
@battenburg thank you for that too, you been very helpful before on the same issue when Billypup was younger, she’s still a work in progress and I bought a long line this week but am not ready to drop it and let it trail yet. My friend who also has a border collie but pure mine is retriever x said the other day that her dog was never as wilful as Billypup 🤯