So you have a dog who ignores you when you call them back. You have one of the most common dog training issues so you are not alone. Muttley Solutions offers recall training classes to help you turn that around. I specialise is providing teaching and support around this training issue on a one to one basis.
Does your dog ignore you when you try and call them back?
I will usually find that a poor recall and the dog pulling on the lead go hand in hand and can sometimes be symptoms of a wider issue such as poor leadership.
So how do you know you have recall issues? Most clients I see will say they have some sort of recall, but this is usually in the house or the garden.
However, the usual indicator that the recall has gone wrong is they say they were down the park. They had the dog off the lead and it was playing with other dogs. The owner calls the name and the dog totally ignores them.
On further discussion I will ask if the owner started to get angry and frustrated and shouted louder. Usual reply is yes. Of course this just makes the situation worse.
Remember the failure of the recall starts as soon as you get your puppy unless you start the correct training before you let them off the lead
One client told me the dog would ignore her for 1-2 hours and in the end she used to sit in the car in the car park and the dog would return when ready.
This may sound extreme, but owner experiences of when the dog doesn’t come back when called is actually very common.
What is meant by the term 'Recall'?
Simply put it means the dog will come back to you when you call them. If only the actual process was that simple!!
I have my own way of explaining the recall and that is the dog will return to you when it doesn’t want to.
Every waking moment the dog is working out ‘What’s in it for me?’ They will perform behaviours and actions which potentially deliver the greatest reward.
If those actions deliver a great reward they quickly become learned behaviours. From my experience as a dog trainer I usually find the behaviours the dog discovers itself, which are highly rewarding, are not the behaviours we desire.
A dog who doesn’t come back when called has most likely learnt it is actually more rewarding to ignore the owner and carry on playing. The owner reinforces this when they start yelling and shouting what they will do to the dog when they get hold of it!!
Many owners tell me they have a recall. The reality is the dog has nothing better to do so it comes back to the owner.
The scenario I often see is the owner has practised the recall in a hall at training classes or in the garden and assume they have a recall. Out into the park and off lead and the dog quickly proves that the owner has no control of the dog and it is actually the dog who determines if the owner has a recall or not depending on where the greatest reward is.
The dog quickly finds that ignoring the owner is rewarding and this becomes an established behaviour.
Here is a now famous video clip of a recall gone very wrong for many reasons and I use this to highlight this to my clients when training. This could be you on your next walk without having a good recall in place.
Over to Fenton and turn the volume up!!
The dog doesn't come back when called: What does this mean from the dog's perspective
It is important to view the world from the dog’s point of view when looking at training issues. However, most owners only see the problem from a humanistic point of view and so fail to see why the dog ignores us when we call them.
What we also need to understand is these bad habits are learnt in the very early months of the puppy’s life and then reinforced each time the dog ignores the owner.
By about 6 months many dogs have really honed their skills of ignoring the owner when out in a moderate to high distraction environment.
It has already been highlighted that the dog works on the basis of ‘what’s in it for me?’. From a human standpoint this might appear selfish, but that is a human concept and dogs have no understanding or need of selfish, morals, guilt, sharing, right or wrong etc……you get the picture.
For a dog it is important to consider ‘whats in it for me?’ because it is an old survival trait. It is pointless expending energy if there is no reward. Nearly all modern dogs no longer need to hunt for their food so it it more about fun rewards than pure survival.
Of course prey drive can be a great reward and playing the simple game of fetch the ball is rewarding their prey drive. Gun dogs work for us because we train and setup scenarios whereby we can harness their great skills of finding, hunting and retrieving.
So from a dog’s perspective what does it mean when they are called back by their owner? The answer really depends what they were doing at the time they were called back? If the puppy is in familiar territory like their garden then the reward scale is going to be quite low.
Therefore, if the owner calls them it could be going for a walk, get their dinner, play games or to have some fuss. In this situation the owner is going to be the most rewarding and the pup decides to go back as there is nothing better to do.
Of course, the owner is happy because the puppy came back when they called it, so all that training in the village hall is paying of and the owner proudly tells her friends her pup has a recall.
When out in the forest or the park the owner lets the young dog off the lead confident they can call them back. Dog suddenly gets the scent of a rabbit or finds some playmates and the slippery slope starts. The owner shouts the dog’s name, with a hint of concern in their tone. Dog looks around briefly and sees the owner holding the lead and not looking happy.
When faced with a recall a dog has two choices
The dog is faced with two choices. Go back to someone who is not looking happy for some reason and then be put on the lead and taken home. The dog looks round at the play mates or the rabbit in the distance and decides this is far more rewarding and so ignores the owner. No emotion, punishment, loyalty or any humanistic trait came into play when the dog made the decision to ignore the owner.
It was purely based on where was the highest reward. It is very important to grasp and digest this last paragraph because then owners will stop taking the dog ignoring them personally and understand they are just choosing the most rewarding; then the recall success odds can be adjusted in their favour.
With this information we can start to turn around the dog ignoring us with targeted recall training classes which plays to what the dog needs.
What are recall training classes?
To me recall training is not so much a training exercise, but more a process of understanding how your dog works.
It is about understanding why the dog ignores you and the factors which contributed to this. It is also about realising it is nothing personal on the part of the dog. I have come across many owners who accuse the dog of being selfish given they provide for all its needs.
In these cases I have to work with the owners to get them to change this mentality before I can even consider the dog. When commencing recall training you need to dump the baggage and start with a clean slate.
We need to setup situations whereby the owner and the dog learn what is a required in a very low distraction environment. Once they can both get it right then we increase the distraction.
If the dog suddenly starts to fail then the distraction is most likely too high and we need to step back. However, it could also be the owner who is not raising their game if the dog is getting distracted.
We build this process up and monitor both the dog and owner for successes and issues.
Recall Failure Protocol
A key thing many dog trainers who teach recall training don’t teach is to have a recall failure protocol in place.
This is something I teach at my Recall Training Classes and the owner will practice it many many times. It needs to become second nature because when it all goes wrong and your dog is off you only have seconds to perhaps turn the odds of avoiding a Fenton moment in your favour.
To give you an example of why I think having a recall failure plan in place essential. My Bronze, Silver and Gold syllabus all have recall as a test. You can actually fail the first recall part if you implement correctly the Recall Failure Protocol.
The success of a recall is not the ones which work, but turning around the one that could have failed!!
Recall Training Equipment
To start recall training with a puppy or older dog we need the following:
- An effective method of communication with the dog
- The dog to be whistle trained
- A long line
- Very high quality treats
- Failed recall protocol
- Failed recall tools
- The understanding that until the dog has a recall then off lead time will be limited
- A low distraction, live environment
- Bucket loads of patience and being persistent and consistent.
- You, as the owner, putting in the practice ‘proofing the recall in different environments.
- Understand there is no quick fix in dog training
The common question I get asked are
- How long does recall training take?
How long does recall training take?
We are all guilty of it. We want a quick fix. I often say that in dog training there is no quick fix and if a dog trainer claims they have one then it will most likely involve pain for the dog and this is not a road we want to go down.
I never give a time scale because there are too many variants involved. These involve the owner, the dog and the environment.
If I am training a puppy recall then we have a blank canvas and we can easily teach the puppy that the default is to return when they hear the whistle because we never expose them or give them opportunities to learn that ignoring us could be actually more rewarding.
With older dogs the journey is both more challenging and will take longer because we have to show the dog the very rewarding behaviour of ignoring the owner when called is actually not that rewarding.
We have to set up win win scenarios where the dog is not rewarded for ignoring, but gets very high quality treats for returning to a whistle.
If they like a ball the job is a little easier. This takes many repetitions and the dog getting rewards when they come to you, but never getting rewards from ignoring you.
Remember behaviours which are not rewarding become a pointless exercise for the dog so they will switch to those behaviours which are. How quick will this happen?
Depends on the breed, relationship the owner has with their dog and the amount of time and patience the owner has. Anyone who thinks dog training is easy is mistaken, but it is great fun and very rewarding as you start to see the dog understand what we want.
Recall Training Classes In Dorset
Here at Muttley Solutions I specialise in working with the client and their dog to turn this around. I will take on any breed of dog with a recall issue and will put in place a plan to improve the situation from where you currently are. I make no promises and will be honest and realistic.
For some dogs it is so hard wired to ignore their owner it can be a challenge. What I will say is we can get you to a better place than where you are now. I often say that if the owner is being proactive rather than reactive to the dog’s decision making then the need for a recall can be avoided most of the time.
This course will be about teaching the owner about 70% and the dog about 30%. Once I get the owner doing things right then we can expect the dog to start doing things right.
Most trainers focus on the dog when recall training. I focus on the owner as that is where most of the issues lay.
If you want to be in a better place than where you currently are when you let your dog off the lead then contact me and we can have a chat.