I realize that it’s the end of January already, so maybe the term “New Year Resolution” isn’t really applicable anymore, but no matter if it’s the beginning, middle or end of the year, setting goals is always good. I’m not usually one to join in the whole resolution thing because let’s face it, most of us toss aside all of our resolutions by the time Mardi Gras rolls in. But this year was different.
Bosworth turns one year old in February. How did that happen?! Though he has a VERY good life, there are always ways to improve, especially in the training department. One of my goals this year is to work on a solid recall or “come when called”. This is the most important behavior your dog should be able to perform, in my opinion. A good recall can save your dog in times of trouble: as they are bolting out the front door, as they are about to run into a busy street or up to an unknown dog.
My puppy has recently found his voice and has taken to running out on the deck to bark at passerbys on the bike path behind our house. So, we’ve been practicing recall in this scenario. As soon as he starts barking, I call Boz to me and reward him. I always make sure to use especially yummy treats for a recall reward. I have a reserve of Stella and Chewy’s treats I use just for recall, which he loves. If he doesn’t come the first time, I go outside and bring him inside rather than continuing to yell “Boz, come!” as he ignores me. The idea is not to ruin the word “come”. The more you say a command and your dog doesn’t respond, the less power that word has with your dog. Eventually, he’ll learn that it’s in his better interest to come to me rather than continue to bark at someone on the path. We’ve been solidly working on this for a week now and I already see a difference. We are on the path to recall!
If you are having some difficulty with recall, here are some tips to get your dog to come to you:
- Run backwards.
- Make sweet interesting noises like whistles, handclaps, and high-pitched gibberish.
- Turn around and walk away.
- Gently reel them in with your leash.
- Be more interesting and more fun than the environment. If the distraction level goes up, your effort and treat quality must also go up.
- Use body language like crouching down, turning sideways and adverting your eyes.
- Practice “Watch Me.” Watch-Me’s are like mini-recalls!
Recall is just one thing on my resolution list. Our trainers recently held a Google+ Hangout in which we shared our New Year Resolutions for our dogs. There are some really great tips here, from enrichment tools to handling anxiety to increasing exercise, even hygiene. If you have a few moments, check it out.