We had week three of the recall class today for Cricket. WOW, what an awesome little girl. I can not tell you how much I am enjoying this little girl! At home she is just so cool, she follows me where ever I go in the house, she loves to play and loves to work. Little Cricket is a cuddle bug to boot. I do not think border collies are generally known for being cuddle bugs, so I am really loving having one. Our recall class meets at a different place each week and Cricket has done so good with all the distractions, new places and the other dogs and people. She is able to play and tug during class and even able to call of food. The rest of the dogs are adults, so it just seems to cute to me to see this little puppy doing her job so well, LOL. She does get distracted when other dogs are running right past her-the movement is really exciting, but she seems to lose her head for a split second then turn and come running back-so really pretty good for such a youngster.
The recall class is really a fun class and I feel like we are getting so much out of it. The first class is a bit slow, but then the fun and games begin. I figured I would sort of summarize what we have done in class so far.
First off training a great recall is a result of
Management-Planning ahead to set up for success
Relationship-Built on trust and cooperation
Training-modify behavior with positive reinforcement
and if you have a strong relationship and good management you are already well on your way.
First component of the program is making sure your dog gets plenty of off leash time. If they never get off leash then it is such a high value thing that it is tough to beat. Of course you need to find fenced in places, friends yards, where ever but our homework was to make sure to get the dogs out off leash as much as possible. If you really can not find an off leash place, you can make a drag line with knots in it so you can step on it and make sure the dog is safe but try to give the dog as much freedom as possible. While they were off leash we could NOT call the dog or try to get their attention, but wait and mark with a click or praise and treat each time they checked in or looked at us. The object was to get that as a default behavior where the dog kept track of us, and not us always taking responsibility for keeping track of the dog. Cindy called this game "who is paying attention to whom?" First week we did this behavior with the dogs just on six foot leashes, the second week we wandered out on the property with long lines, the third week we used really long lines and walked around a new place. Cricket does lovely at this exercise ;-), and very rarely even got to the end of her long line, or the second she did she came racing back.
We did the name game. Say the dogs name and then click and treat. Week one we did that with the dogs in front of us. The second week Cindy the instructor stood about six feet from us and engaged the dogs then we would call and click and treat for the head turn. Third week they were at the end of long lines in a new place, Cindy was giving them as much attention as she thought they could handle and still come when called. You can also practice calling the dogs name when they are with other dogs and then let them back to play as a reward.
Treat Toss-first week we would have the dogs on leash and throw a treat just a few feet away, as the dog gets the treat and turns to come back to you, click and throw out another treat. Second class we threw out the treat and let them go further out on a long line, click and treat as they came back and the dogs that really got the game were able to have the "come" cue added as we knew they were coming back. Third week we added a lot more distractions and added the "come" command, and the dogs were at the end of a long line. Cricket being the super star got to add more to the game, so when she was coming back I would run away from her so she was chasing me, and then we took the treat and when she was coming back I threw the treat in between my legs so she would go in between my legs and keep running-a good start for nice fronts in obedience because the dog learns to not be shy about coming right up to me.
Grandma's Rule was a great game we started on week two. Cindy would stand about six feet from us and have a boring treat in her clenched fist. The treat was presented to the dog, and we would pound the ground, make sounds, anything we could to get our dog to come to us, we did not use the "come" signal because you really should not use it if you are not sure your dog will come. This game reminds me of Susan Garrett's Its Yer Choice where the dog has to learn to come away from a treat to get it. So when the dog comes back you feed, feed, feed, the dog and Cindy would come over and feed the dog what she had too. The third week they did this exercise at the end of a long line, and with some strangers in a new place and Cindy really let them nibble a bit at the treat. So next week the dogs are supposed to be able to be eating and be called-which is just huge if your dog feels coming to you is more rewarding then hanging out with food right there. Cricket had this one down today so well that she ran to Cindy, and just used her as a push off board and raced back to me. I need to practice that this week with other people, so the problem will be getting other people that will follow the instructions.
FOOD OFF THE BODY-so today on week three we address the whole what to do without food on our body. Unless we live with a bait bag on they have to learn that even if it does not look like we have food they can still come and chances are great they will get a reward. For this one we threw our bait bag on the ground and Cindy held our dogs next to the bait bag. We went to the end of the long line and then called the dogs. When the dogs came we grabbed them and ran all excited to the bait bag and then rewarded for at least 30 seconds. Over time we are supposed to hide food around the area we are going to be working in.
Chase Me-step on your line or long line, when the dog wanders off or is distracted call them and take off running, when they get up to you whip out food or some fun toys and have an exciting game.
Three times a day we can do our really reliable recall that is a special word to be used only in emergencies. You ONLY practice this THREE times a day-make sure the dog is going to come and then treat for a full ninety seconds, which is a long time. You use tiny treats given very slowly-they refer to it as fine dining, taking the time and relishing the food.
We can practice a regular recall as many times as we want but it should have a very rewarding reinforcement history so it should be richly rewarded with yummy things and try not to call the dog if you think they are not going to come. Of course start with low distractions and build.
FIVE COMMON RECALL MISTAKES
Not training "come"
Adding distractions too soon
Punishing your dog for coming or doing unpleasant things
Failing to generalize the "come" cue-so your dog does not get lots practice in lots of places and situations
Failing to make "come" wonderfully fun and rewarding
Saying Come or the dogs name more then once, teaches them to disregard your cue and wait to see if you really want them to come.
It takes months and months of practicing and continuing to pay attention to your recall to make it really reliable, but truly worth it in terms of your relationship and the dogs safety! I do think you see some rewards and improvement is pretty quick, but to make it really awesome it takes lots of really great reinforcement history.
Anyway, I highly recommend and love the Really Reliable Recall by Leslie Nelson-it is one of the most valuable DVDs that I have.
SOME OTHER RECALL GAME IDEAS:
practicing retrieves-playing fetch is a great way to reinforce recalls with a toy or
Hide and Seek-throw a toy to distract your dog, then run and hide, call them and give
tons of praise and treats.
Round Robin-have a couple of people in a circle and one calls the dog, then another
calls the dog, etc...