I had to trespass into someone’s garden this week to get my dog back.
Brian had slipped under a fence, couldn’t get back, completely lost his brain and managed to tangle his trailing line around a garden planter to leave himself completely and utterly stuck.
It got me thinking about recall.
Because we often think about recall as our dogs coming back when they’re “told to” (be honest - how often have you ground your teeth in frustration as you call and call in vain, while your dog blithely ignores you and tears off after yet another bunny/squirrel/bird/tennis ball/other dog/person/leaf/bit of fluff?).
We think about it as a decision-making process that the dog is entirely in control of, and then we get cross when it feels like our dogs are ignoring us.
Sure, sometimes our dogs do make the choice not to come back when we call them. Sometimes they’ve found something more appealing than we were offering them, especially when we’re still building up our recall.
Other times, it isn’t that simple.
In the garden incident, Brian couldn’t have made the choice to come back even if he’d wanted to. By the time I reached him, he had had a complete brainfail. His head was one big tangle of excitement and frustration, and there wasn’t any room left for making good choices.
We all know what that feels like, right?
The thing is, when we can’t think to make choices, we fall back onto habits and our dogs are exactly the same. We don’t want our dogs to think about coming back; we want them to have already come shooting over to us before it occurs to them that they might have been able to make a different choice. We don’t want recall to be a choice; we want it to be a habit.
Obviously, Brian and I still have some work to do on that, but my suggestion for everyone this week is to do a little recall review.
Check out your recall habits. How often does it work? How quickly does it work? Does your dog come flying over or do they take their leisurely time? Is there anything that reliably breaks your recall every single time? What do you need to focus on in your recall training?
And then have a happy week of law-abiding walks!
Laura & Brian
P.S. If you’re stuck on how to make the step from choices to habits, or your recall is turning out to be more “really rotten” than “really reliable”, then drop us an email! I've just booked a training plan review with Morag to get us back on track.