The exorcist

This past week I have helped a few students with recall problems with their puppies. The pups ranged in age from 4 to 8 months.  Without naming dogs and handlers I will describe the problems:)

pup 1- Won’t come to the owner when she wants it to come in the house, even if she is entering the house with the dog or she is calling the pup from outside to inside. The pups’ recall HAD been good until bad weather hit the area and she needed to clean the pups’ feet off when it came in the house. The pup quickly learned that any recall headed toward the house was negative. A simple solution was chosen, keep the pup on leash more, do lots of recalls outside so that she didn’t have to recall it in to her, and solve the wet feet issue by blocking off some portion of the area as the dog entered the house, so that she did not have to punish the dog with feet cleaning for a while. Dogs are so smart, a couple of negative consequences after a recall is enough to ruin your recall until you stop what happens after the pup comes to you.

pup 2- Comes slowly and not every time. Handler is using dog’s name and command come and the pup gets a reward given between the handlers’ legs with the handler reaching between her legs from behind. Long drawn out recall cue, no verbal praise after dog responds, paired with rewarding the pups’ slow responses and a reward that is slow to be delivered using a signal of hand between legs. Solution, hundreds of quick recalls on leash, dog’s name only, quick reward for fast responses given right at the handlers knee.

pup 3- Does not really respond to it’s name. Paired with a drawn out come command and then come on ,come on, come on, right over here in a not too exciting way and you have a pup that doesn’t care if you are on the same planet. Solution is getting help from a friend to hold the puppy away from the handler for a moment until the pup looks away, handler calls pups’ name sharply, and reward only the recalls where the pup turns his head so fast back to the handler that it looks like Linda Blair in the exorcist. Exciting praise like the priest has driven away the devil as soon as the pup turns it’s head, YAHOO!!!!, and quick delivery of really high value food at the knee. As soon as the pup is fed, the helper pulls the pup away and as soon as the pup is looking away from the handler, he calls again. If the pup does not respond like the scene from exorcist,  show the puppy the  cookie he missed (don’t give it to him) then have the helper pull the pup away a couple steps and try again. You should be able to get in hundreds of reps this way.

I want to teach my pup to twist his head to me IMMEDIATELY when I say his name. Then I start immediate praise and if the pup wants a treat he races in and is given one or two or three at my knee. I do lots of restrained recalls and try to make the food high value and the play and praise even more so. I use toys as well as food to reward my puppy. Scoop isn’t always perfect. Today he was BAD! He saw a students’ dog racing in the field and totally ignored me a few times when I called. Oh dear. Back on leash quick, lots of toy play, and work our way back to some level of success. Sometimes that means I need to leave the distracting environment with him, sometimes it just takes showing him the cookies he missed.

I hope your puppy’s recalls were good today and they are better tomorrow after you start playing the name game and getting your pup to respond like the devil is in em’