Improving His Recall (advice?) - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 03:39 PM Thread Starter
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Improving His Recall (advice?)

Right now, Trent's recall really leaves something to be desired. We would used to be able to go on short, off leash walks, but now I put on his leash even if he's heading outside to go to the bathroom.

Inside the house, his recall is stellar. The moment we go outside and add in the distractions, he's hopeless. He loves chasing after squirrels, birds, and cats, wants go run over to greet every person he sees, and loves to invite random dogs to play with him. I can get him to ignore these when he's on his leash, but otherwise, he may as well be deaf!

I'm being told that it's just him being a teenager, so for now, I just try to do my best to strengthen it. We're still practicing recalls at home and in the backyard, but does anyone have any suggestions for reliable recalls outside?

I keep my voice light and happy, never call him to me to correct a behavior or end a game, always treat him when he comes to me, keep my body posture inviting, etc. None of it seems to be doing us much good. He's doing fantastic in all other aspects, it's just coming when called that's going down the drain. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

- Grace

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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 03:48 PM
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

I would start working him on on lead recalls outside where FEW distractions are at a distance and slowly allow the distractions to be a little closer. This is one way that classes are excellent because your dog learns to listen around distractions in a controlled environment.


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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 03:59 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

That's what we did in the obedience class I took with Trent in October. He did great, then, but not he seems to have forgotten what he learned. Unfortunately, there are no more classes available these few months because of the holiday season, and the weather and long drive required to get to the classes, so I'm just trying to do what I can with Trent here.

I'm thinking of buying a 20 ft. leash to use, and follow your advice with working on his recall while he's on his leash. The deal with him is that he gets excited when he starts running outside, and especially when he sees other dogs or people and realizes he's off leash.

- Grace

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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 04:24 PM
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

Use a longline. Right now, he has learned that he can simply blow you off. Remember the guideline about never giving your dog a command that you can't enforce? I have a feeling you're doing that often on your offleash walks....

A dog should NEVER be given more freedom than he can handle. This goes for housebreaking, chewing, and recall work.

In fact, you may have inadvertently trained your pup that "Come" means the opposite of what you want it to. Recall how you taught your pup to sit? You waited til he was doing what you wanted him to -- moving his rear end toward the floor -- then you said the word SIT. This paired the movement with the command. Thus the dog learns the meaning of the word.

But too often, we teach our dogs words like come (and quiet) when they're doing the opposite of what we want. We should be telling our dog (when we're training him) Come when he's running toward us at full speed. But instead, the dog is standing still far away from us and we tell him to Come. Or he's running AWAY from us, and we tell him to Come. If we do this enough, pup learns that Come = Run away from owner. We call this "burning" a word.

If you've burned a word, or if your dog just completely ignores you when you use it, you need to start all over with a new word. Some people use Here, Front, Recall. Doesn't matter what your word is, just don't use the word "Come" anymore.

So, for now on, no off leash walks for Trent. At 10 months old, he's pretty young for off leash walks anyhow. If you want to give him some freedom, use a long line.

And start with your new word and start all over. Make yourself fascinating and train him the new word. Since you already have great recall in the house, this will take a couple days, if that. He'll recognize the tone of your voice and the fact that you're in another room and generalize the new command pretty quickly. Then start working him in your yard ON A LONG LINE. Keep the line short at first. Let him get a bit distracted, call him to you. If he doesn't respond right away, give the line a sharp tug, and step away from him (don't back up; step away, like you're something to be chased).

Slowly increase the distance of the longline that you give him. It's tempting to give him as much distance as you think he can handle all at once. But just because he's not distractable today doesn't mean he'll be so focused tomorrow. So we want to give him incrementally larger bits of freedom. Keep doing this until he is very reliable on the longline in your yard.

Then you can try him off the long line during the day in your yard. For some reason, my experience is that dogs are more reliable during the day than at night. Try to time it so that the neighborhood school hasn't just let out or there aren't any large distractions. Keep these training sessions short, but do them often

When he's in the yard playing, call him to you, give him a treat, and say "ok, go play," so that he never knows if being called is just snack time or if it means something else. Other times, call him to you and play tug with him (or some other game that he plays WITH you). This way, being recalled can result in something BETTER than what he was doing before.

Once you've been doing with for several weeks (at least), THEN, go to a park that has a fenced in area (baseball field, tennis court, etc), and start all over, the same as we did in your yard. First the short long line, then a bit longer, then working with the full long line for quite a while. Then working with no long line until you get full recall 100% of the time.

You still won't walk your dog without a leash. At least, I wouldn't recommend it, not until he has an adult brain. Adolescents are goofy. They don't think before they act. And lets face it, they're GSDs. Most people don't like GSDs rushing up to them offleash with no handler attached to them. I certainly don't, and I'm pretty easygoing about dogs in general. The risks to you are pretty significant. I know that your community is a lot more laid back than many, but letting your GSD "greet" people and dogs as he sees fit just isn't a good idea for anyone.

You have a nice GSD bred with strong drives. We can't expect him to act like a golden retriever. We need to give him training and guidance to be everything you (and his breeder) wanted.

Once Trent is an adult and can maintain a 6-10 or so ft radius around you all the time, then you can consider walking him off leash. I'm not saying it's not possible. I'm saying it will take a lot more time and work.
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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 04:29 PM
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

One thing we did worked very well for Siena's recall (and we still use it, esp. when she comes back after major distractions (like after chasing a cat)).

Find a really, really good treat (in our case, cooked chicken or beef) or something that s/he won't get very often, but truly enjoys. Use this treat ONLY when doing recall. You can start this inside where there are minimal distractions, then slowly add the distractions.

When s/he comes to you (even if she is already coming towards you and then you say "come") then 'reward' the dog with continuous yummy treats for 20-30 seconds. If you do this a few times a day, s/he will remember that last time s/he got something really tasty and will be encouraged to come when called.

Worked like a charm for us and was good advice early on from our trainer when we were not getting consistent results from the recall.

Good luck!!

Diana - owned by Siena Rose (Oct 29, 2006)

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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 04:37 PM
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

Good point Diana.

Rei, Costco sells sliced roasted chicken breast (already cooked-- so easy! ) that I use for recalls. If Trent can tolerate small amounts of grains, they have cooked meatballs in the freezer section that my trainer uses. Dogs will jump somersaults for these. Super easy. Super delicious.
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 04:45 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

Thanks for great advice. I really do appreciate it!

Quote:
Quote:find a really, really good treat (in our case, cooked chicken or beef) or something that s/he won't get very often, but truly enjoys.
LOL Maybe I should start carrying raw knuckle bones in my pocket, then! Cooked chicken doesn't do much for Trent, but he'll jump off a cliff for honey ham! I'll definitely give that a try.

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Originally Posted By: 3K9Mom
So, for now on, no off leash walks for Trent. At 10 months old, he's pretty young for off leash walks anyhow.
Oh, he hasn't had an off leash walk for months and months. The moment he started blowing me off, I stopped with the off leash walking. The times when this problem arises is when I let him off in a large, empty field to play ball. I try my best to only let him off in places that I know are empty and are likely to stay empty at that time, because I'm very well aware that having a large, rambunctious dark colored GSD could be unnerving for even dog lovers.

When we are alone, his recall is decent, and he obeys most of the time. But you bring up a good point about "burning" the word - I'll start trying a different one. I wasn't even aware of what I may be doing regarding the command and the associations Trent may make. He used to do very well with coming on command, I guess I didn't think about it as much as I should have. Bad puppy mom!

Thank you for taking the time to make that informative post

- Grace

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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

Quote:
Originally Posted By: 3K9MomGood point Diana.

Rei, Costco sells sliced roasted chicken breast (already cooked-- so easy! ) that I use for recalls. If Trent can tolerate small amounts of grains, they have cooked meatballs in the freezer section that my trainer uses. Dogs will jump somersaults for these. Super easy. Super delicious.
Meatballs sound good, but there's no guaranteeing I won't finish them off first

I did just buy a hunk of honey ham today, which Trent seems to love. I'll probably end up using that for now as the "special recall reward".

- Grace

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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 04:59 PM
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

Watch ham. It's really fatty, and can lead to pancreas problems.

Maybe if you take 1/4 ham bites and 3/4 chicken bites in a bag and mix them up together (shake and bake style) so that the chicken gets the ham flavor on it, he'd like it...?

Also, if he's expecting ham, he'll come running (regardless of whether you feed it EVERY time). I like to feed my kids a variety of really high value treats, so they never know what they'll get. I think it makes them more excited. They love Costco's juicy moist chicken, but I think they'd get bored with it if they got it each time. But when they don't know if it's going to be chicken, or cheese, or lamb lung, or something else that's scrumptious, it just makes it that much more exciting...and they RACE each other to see who can get to mom first.
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-22-2009, 05:02 PM
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Re: Improving His Recall (advice?)

With Jethro, who is only a month older, I use a tug toy to randomly reward his recalls. Tug is Jet's FAVORITE thing and it works to strengthen our bond as it is highly interactive and the reward is longer than it takes for him to eat a treat. I also do not BRIBE him to come by shaking the tug then calling him. I "try" (not always as good as I should be) to whistle to get his attention, then when he is in motion to me HERE, and I will take several steps back which usually increases his speed. Once he is coming fast I will present the tug which, one of these days will be painful for me because just like a Jet, Jethro has after burners and can hit Mach 2 on recalls. Other times he will not get the tug until he is already back to me. I like to mix it up and keep him guessing. Other times he will get treats, others praise and lots of attention. Depends on the distractions I am calling him from AND the distance.

I also take him to baseball/softball fields to let him run and play off lead with my dogs or his buddy Newman. They are nice because they are fully fenced except for the access points. If his recall was any less than it is I would leave him on a long tracking line but he is pretty good and he would tie himself to Newman with a long line the way they wrestle.


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