It’s no secret that one of my doggie pet peeves is off leash dogs while walking. More so, off leash dogs with owners that have not taught their dogs good recall. So with this in mind, I came across this blog post about recall, personality and context.
Some dogs are naturally better at learning certain things because of breed and personality. Reggie is pretty good at recall because he loves people; he is more of a people-dog than a dog-dog. If you show interest in him or call his name he will gladly come to you. This required very little effort in training and reinforcement on my part (lucky for me).
However, put Reggie in a different context- like a completely new environment with different smells, new dogs to meet, etc.- and I hold almost no power over him. When he is in his stable environments, his house, his yard, his usual dog friends, he is responsive to my voice. When things get a little over stimulated I need to move to food motivators and break out the treats. And if there is a tennis ball (and other dogs around) I am nothing, treats are nothing, and a leash is required for extraction from that situation.
Different dogs might struggle with learning recall. Terrier or hunting/sporting breeds with a strong prey drive might need food motivators for training and lots of repetition, and constant reinforcement. Context and voice make a big difference too. If your dog is used to you calling his name twice before he comes, he will probably only come when you call his name twice, not once.
So back to the off leash scenario. Just because your dog is fantastic with recall in your house, your backyard, with recall this does not mean that they will be in an off leash situation in a dog park or just out and about. Recalls need to be reinforced with distractions and in different environments to be a truly effective and trustworthy recall in your dog.
I watched Frankenweenie this week. Halloween is my Christmas and I love the crazy Tim Burton movies, but maybe I shouldn’t have watched this one. Spoiler alert if you haven’t watched it! I think I cried the whole time. It does have a happy ending, but it’s a rough go to get there. The dog in the movie, Sparky, loves balls. The young boy in the movie, Victor, is playing softball and nails it out of the park and Sparky runs after the ball and gets hit by a car, causing his untimely death. I was crying and squeezing Reggie and he was having none of it and trying to get away. The point is that Victor was calling Sparky when he was running after the ball and he wouldn’t come; Sparky did not have good recall and he got hurt.
Good recall in all situations, environments and contexts is not just good training it’s good safety. I want Reggie to be able to stop immediately at my voice command to avoid potentially dangerous situations, or just situations I don’t want him in. Recall is something we are constantly working on- repetition is important- and you should be too!