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Updated: Feb 8, 2023

I’d say this is one of the top complaints I hear. But let's not play the blame game where we put it all on the dog.

A poor recall is not something an owner rarely wants to admit. Nor do they want to hear that they are the cause of the problem. Of course, there are lots of excuses.

  1. “My dog is stupid.” - Honestly, I have yet to meet one, and I've been at this a long time.

  2. “This breed is known for being stubborn.” - Really? This is usually not true, although some owners don’t realize they are playing into their dog’s breed traits with which they are not familiar or didn’t even bother to do their homework on the breed. (Should have done that BEFORE they committed to bringing Spot home.)

  3. “I don’t have time to work with my dog.” - A really big really? Why ever not? Perhaps you should have gotten a cat instead.

  4. “The dog is more work than my cat.” Hello! Your dog is not a cat.

  5. People assume their dog will "figure it out" eventually, especially if they have what is considered a "smart" breed. Care to tell me how that works?

Please note that dogs and cats are very different creatures. They are even a different species. I say this because I’ve actually come across people who told me “a pet is a pet.” (More than that we won’t go into.) Dogs are social animals. Cats often are not.

A dog not listening to a recall happens for many reasons.

  1. Not enough time was devoted to basic training.

  2. The dog was not given rewards high enough in value to make it worth its while to cooperate.

  3. Poor or sloppy timing on the owner’s part.

  4. The handler’s "marker” had little value.

  5. The dog was given inconsistent praise (not just food rewards.)

  6. The handler constantly used treats.

  7. Commanding started before the dog understood what was asked of it.

  8. Not enough repetitions were performed for a solid foundation.

  9. The dog had its own agenda and the handler was trying to force the issue.

  10. The dog was given mixed messages, which created confusion.

  11. Training was done in a distracting environment.

  12. More than one behavior was being taught in the same session.

Here’s a two-legged example to which people might be able to relate:

It's like asking a first year med student to do successful brain surgery. Not going to happen, is it? As you can see, the student was set up for FAILURE. He/she didn't have the knowledge or experience to do the job. Unfortunately, many people regularly do this to their dogs, especially in teaching a recall.

Train for success.

  1. Pick a spot to train that has as few distractions as possible.

  2. Train only for one behavior. In this instance, the recall.

  3. Decide ahead of time what you and your family are going to label that recall. “Here, Come, Quick, Potluck, Cauliflower?” It doesn’t matter how the recall is labeled or in what language, but it must be used consistently by everyone interacting with the dog so that there is no confusion on Spot's part.

  4. Start at a short distance. Don’t get carried away. Build that foundation FIRST. Remember, it’s about success.

  5. Work for only five to ten minutes.

  6. Afterwards, put Phydo in a quiet spot or his crate for at least a half hour. This lets the dog’s short-term memory convert to long-term memory.

  7. Give your dog a nice gooey Kong or marrow bone during downtime. You want his time there to be one he looks forward to again.

Most importantly, the trainer must remember that building a solid behavior takes TIME. There are no shortcuts, only consistent proper positive effort and rewards.


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