Posts Tagged With: recall

A month of classes

We’ve been going to class for around a month now so time for an update I think.  Spen has been improving slowly.  Not so that anyone would really notice for the most part but I’ve seen the tiny steps in the right direction that keep me going back and working with him.  His recall when I’m with people has been awful for a while.  I think I’ve somehow taught him that he doesn’t need to pay attention to me when others are there so he just goes off and does his own thing.  He doesn’t run off, he keeps an eye on me and won’t go too far, he just doesn’t tend to come to me when called so I have to go and get him.

Today he came when called.  Not instantly, it wasn’t as easy as call him and have him turn and come sprinting back to me, I had to actually work to get his attention and then work to keep him coming to me once he did start to come back.  But a huge improvement.  He has decided that it’s now warm enough to go swimming at every opportunity but I don’t mind that, it’s not like he runs off to go swimming, the walk is along the river in places and he’s happy enough to have a splash around and come out.

He also ignored several other dogs today.  Not class ones, he ignores them completely for the most part anyway, one was a staffie who came looking for treats, we carried on training while it pestered other owners, then there was a collie who came up and sniffed his bum, he looked round and went back to the important business of reading his pee mail.  And then there was a Cav who we walked past on lead without a second glance.  He’s been a lot better with that in general lately.  I guess perhaps dogs aren’t such a novelty now so it’s much easier to just walk past them without greeting them.  He’s usually still keen to meet and greet if the other dog approaches but it’s so nice to be able to pass without any real issues.

Things aren’t going so well with the head collar though.  He’s no objection to it being put on, no objection to doing static work in it.  And half the time no objection to walking in it.  However, when he wants to sniff and is thwarted by it it’s a completely different matter.  Tantrum isn’t even in it.  And he is so adept at removing it very, very quickly that it’s becoming a major point of frustration for me which upsets him and makes him even more likely to object to it.  We’re going to switch to a front attaching harness instead in the hopes that will give me the control I need at the moment without the objections from him.

And some recent pics of him.  Coz how can I have a post about Spendog without photos?

I was sorting through some boxes and stopped for something to eat.  Went back to the bedroom to carry on and this had happened.  Apparently he must fit on the bed no matter how he has to curl up to do so.

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Sock monkey.  This was a present from his secret santa and we can’t go anywhere without it at the moment.

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Out on walks.

 

 

 

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And in my parents garden.

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Of snow, nail clippings and cuddles

Still very little of interest to report here really.  We’re off back to the UK for a visit next month so my beloved Spendog is going to go in kennels.  How am I supposed to survive 12 days with no dog??  The kennels we’ve used here are lovely though.  Nothing special, just the run and bed but the lady who runs them is fantastic so I’ve no real concerns leaving Spen there.  Well, none except for the fact I’m leaving him anyway lol.

Spencer has discovered the joys of the sofa in the last few weeks.  Here’s a very rare pic of me (I HATE pics of me, I’m a big fat blob at the moment!) with him cuddled up.  He doesn’t look too comfy, he’d much rather be sprawled across me than lying next to me.   Excuse the make shift computer desk made of boxes lol.

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When he can’t be cuddled up next to me or across me he lies at the other end of the sofa.  We’ve had to buy him his own fleece blanket because he’s been so intent on stealing mine to sleep on.

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We’ve had snow here recently.  Up to now the winter has been really, really mild but last week saw snow and temperatures of around -13.  It’s warmed back up a bit now and today was a positively tropical zero apparently.  It started out as a light dusting that made it look like everything had been sprinkled with icing sugar.

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But then we got more of it.  Just in time for the husky meet.  Or the Spencer, Demon and Willow Show as it seems to be now.  We left a load of blood soaked snow behind this week, that’ll fuel the rumours of fights and mega serious injuries that seem to have sprung up about the meet.   I don’t know when these fights and injuries have been happening, I must be hiding under a rock while there because I’ve seen none. There wasn’t a fight or a serious injury this time either, Demon simply broke the end of his dew claw off and of course it bled massively.

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Sadly Spendog has had to be kept on leash a hell of a lot in the snow because his nose goes into overdrive and his ears stop working.  I’m not sure exactly what the snow does to scents but it seems they’re more interesting in the snow and Spen gets a little carried away following them.  If he notices me calling him he’s happy to return to me but getting his attention is a work of art when it’s snowed.  So he’s been stuck on a Flexi except for the husky meet.  And todays walk was more like bambi on ice than a walk.  For both of us.  Slipping and sliding everywhere!  I think we may have to stick to street walks for a bit until it either snows again or it all melts.

Leash walking is coming on well on the way home from our walks though.  He’s anticipating it now and at my side without me saying a word or luring him.  He still wants to go off and sniff so he gets rewarded for a brief stretch of walking nicely by being told to go be a dog.  Then brought back in for more work.  I wish I could get a pic of him walking to heel looking all attentive and happy but all I get is a blur of leg and dog.  Still a work in progress on the way out a he’s so excited to be going out but the actual pulling seems to be a lot less most days.

We’ve practised recall in the snow despite the cloth ears.  Of course he had to do his village idiot impression didn’t he?

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And we’ve started work on nail clipping again.  Spens nails are horrendously long and always have been.  The problem is that the quick is almost as long as the nail so I can only take a very tiny bit off without making them bleed.  Apparently if I do it regularly enough the quick will shrink though and I can get the nails shorter. So today we bought some better clippers coz I struggle terribly with the ones we have and I’m going to attempt to get them shorter.  They’re not curling under his foot long or anything but they’re longer than they should be.  Anyway, sat there on the sofa with his dinner in its bowl next to me tonight.  Clipped a nail, gave him a piece of food.  Clipped another nail, another piece of food.  He offered me his paw so I could clip another lol.  Unfortunately he only offers the left paw and I had to insist on the other one being given so I could do those nails.  But he was more than willing to have his nails cut.  I just have to get over my fear of doing them now.

And I shall leave you with this photo I took.  It’s so very rare to get a nice photo of Spen just standing, he’s usually got his nose to the ground, tail in the air and off after a scent.  Or if he is standing still he’s sniffing.  But I really like this one.

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Belated happy new year

Well I’ve been slacking here again haven’t I?  I guess I should have made a new years resolution to update my blog more regularly.  But anyway, Happy New Year to everyone!  Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year.  I managed to hurt my back some time between the two so spent the start of the year hobbling around and trying to entertain Spendog as I couldn’t walk him. Then just as my back was getting better and I was able to walk again I pulled it again!  Not the best start to the year lol.  But all’s well now.

One new years resolution I did make was to spend some time each day working on Spencers loose leash walking.  I’ve sort of let it slip after the disastrous attempt to really focus on it a few months ago that ended up with me stressed and annoyed and hating walks and him plodding along looking miserable.  So I said I’d spend around 10 minutes a day working  on it.  It’s not a huge stretch of time but I can do 10 minutes without getting angry or upset and he can easily focus for 10 minutes at a time so it seemed ideal.  Truth is, I’ve probably not even been doing 10 minutes a day on it.  I chose to walk on it on the way home from our walk each day.  It seems the best time to start off as he’s not excited about going out, he’s had a good run around to burn off excess energy and is generally in a pretty good frame of mind to do something that’s quite frankly not very exciting lol.  And I don’t think it usually takes us 10 minutes to get home from the field.

So, we’re two weeks in to our loose leash walking work now (first week of the year I did nothing due to the back injury) and I have to say we’ve made more progress in the last 2 weeks than we have in the last 2 years.  I think because I’m not stressing about it and because I’m being more clear about my expectations.  Not just aiming for not pulling but for him to actually be walking by my side for the short session.   Two weeks ago I started out using shameless bribery, waving a treat under his nose and luring him to take a step or two by my side with it before feeding and releasing him to go sniff.  Today we walked all the way home with him more or less by my side (not aiming for perfect heel work) with no bribe.  And when released to sniff he mostly decided he’d rather walk with me instead.  On the two occasions he did go sniff they were only brief sniffs before he returned to my side of his own accord.  The last few days we’ve even managed some very short stretches of it on the field itself.  It’s very difficult for him there as he so wants to be off sniffing but even a couple of steps is brilliant progress.

And he did absolutely wonderful one night last week.  I’d taken him out at that ridiculous time when it’s not quite light but not quite dark when I don’t really like walking for some reason.  Day time walks are fine, night time walks are fine, those murky half light times are not.  I don’t know why, just don’t like them.  Anyway, since there was nobody around I had him off leash and he’s way, way up ahead doing his sniffy stuff and I’m pottering along keeping one eye on him and trying not to fall flat on my face in the mud when suddenly a load of deer burst out of the trees and run across the path right in front of him.  He stopped and stood there watching them for a moment.  Then when I made a noise (didn’t dare try a recall coz I didn’t expect him to do it) he turned and came to me for a treat.  He got half the treat bag while I clipped his leash on and rambled on at him about how good he was for not chasing the deer.  Glad nobody was around to hear me really lol.

Other than that I have nothing really to report lol.  We’re just doing the same old things really.  He has discovered the sofa though and that he likes to sleep on it.

And now for pictures.  We’ve had a really mild winter so far, fair bit of rain but only one lot of snow and that didn’t last long.  As a result most of our walks look something like this.

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However, it appears my dog may be teflon coated as he ends most of them looking like this

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He does like to splash around in the puddles and the mud so god knows how he ends the walk so clean.

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Couple of recall pics

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And this is his “I know you’re going out so gimme my damn Kong and get gone!” look.

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Picking My Battles

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to work on stopping Spencer pulling on his harness.  Up to now our work on loose leash walking has been done on the collar and the harness used to get from A to B and when he can’t be off leash but I want to give him a bit of freedom.  Well it’s not been going so well.  Very, very little improvement on the harness and a hell of a lot of stress for both of us.  I realised yesterday that I’m marching along like grim death and my usually happy, relaxed Spendog is plodding along with his tail down and shooting me worried glances out of the corner of his eye when he’s not pulling.  Not a happy dog and not a happy owner.  So we’re ditching the loose leash walking on the harness and just going to put more effort in on the collar.  He’s really not too bad on his collar now, my main reason for wanting to stop the pulling on the harness is because I use it with a long line.  And 2 hours of pulling on a long line is NOT fun.  So I’m not sure where to go with that now.  Can’t use a head collar with a long line even if Spen would tolerate wearing one and I don’t think the front attachment harnesses are safe with them either.

Other than that though we’re having fun.  Recall is going great.  Still not tried it around approaching dogs but once he’s passed a dog he can go back off leash and not bother about it.  Also managed to increase the speed of his response so he’s not stopping to pee, detouring to sniff or going “yeah, just a minute” which is good.    We’ve also been practising Wait (stop and wait where you are) which is going quite well too.  And downs and hand touches while out on the fields are usually pretty damn quick now.  Sadly I’m sure other dog walkers must think I’m a bit of an idiot running around making lots of noise and waving toys around but oh well.  If it gets results I’m gonna use it lol.  It’s actually quite fun.  But shh, don’t want people thinking I’m nuts!

Trying to teach him Spin as a trick now.  I’m still not sure how well that’s going, we seem to have gotten stuck at “lean on human while staring over left shoulder” lol.  I think I’m going to have to use a lure for this one rather than shape it.  Been slacking on the trick training lately, really need to get back at it coz we both enjoy it.

And now for some pics.  We went on the nearby field a few days ago and the pond is back.  So of course Spendog had to go for a swim.  I’d taken his ball so we played some fetch in the water for a bit.

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Got a video of him swimming to get his ball too.

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And last week hubby came out with us.  Husky meet wasn’t on due to remembrance so instead he drove us up to the polo pitch in the afternoon and we had a walk around it while playing with Spen.  Well, hubby played with Spen, I watched.  Apparently I suck at throwing things lol.

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Let’s talk about recall

Well I guess I should start using this blog for a bit more than pictures and random Spendog updates.  Like for the training blog it was actually meant to be lol.  I am not a professional dog trainer or behaviourist or anything like that.  This is all just my own experience with my own dogs and the occasional help given to a friend.  I clicker train and most behaviours I teach Spencer are taught by shaping (breaking the behaviour down into small steps and reinforcing each step until we reach the end goal) but I do use lures now and then and occasionally the dreaded “no” word comes out of my mouth.

So, recall.  Or the art of getting the dog to return to you when you call it.  Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?  Well with some dogs it certainly seems to be.  I know a few people who’ve put in no real effort to teach a recall and yet their dogs stop on a dime, whip round and race back to them the instant they call no matter what they were doing.  Am I jealous?  Oh hell yes!  But for the rest of us recall is often something that has us tearing our hair out.  Well, it is for me anyway.  Shadows recall wasn’t good.  I still remember our trainer, who always said never to chase a dog that wouldn’t come to you, legging it around a field along with several others trying to get him back so we could go home.  And if it rained while we were on the field he would disappear.  I have no idea where he went, there was no for him TO go, but he’d come back a while later bone dry while we were soaked to the skin.  Wolfs recall was excellent, the stop on a dime and come back no matter what type, but I think that was purely an accident.  Rupert had an okay recall but at the slightest hint of prey he would head for the horizon so couldn’t be trusted off leash unless in a secure area.

And now I have Spencer.  Spen is a pretty easy going fellow who for the most part is happy to do whatever it is you’re asking of him as long as he knows what is being asked.  But, he came to me utterly obsessed with other dogs.  One of those dogs who’d leg it across a field to go and bounce on another dogs head in sheer excitement and desire to play.  Recall?  What recall?  Oh he’d come back happily enough providing there were no other dogs around.  But add another dog into the equation and forget it.  This is something we’re still working on but we’ve gone from him being likely to leg it across a field to see another dog to him being able to recall with another dog much closer than that.  When it gets to within about 10 metres is where it starts falling apart, it seems.  I can’t be sure as if we have to pass close to another dog I leash him until I can check it’s okay for them to meet.

Sadly there is no magic trick to getting a “perfect” (sorry, I don’t believe you can ever 100% guarantee a dog will recall no matter what) recall.  You can’t just wave a magic wand and instil your dog with excellent recall in all situations as much as I might wish you could.  As with everything else it’s a case of teaching the dog what the cue means and putting in the time and effort to proof it in different places and different situations.  The more a dog practises a behaviour the better it gets at it.  Which is why management while teaching is so important.  If your dog is allowed to keep running up to other dogs then the more ingrained the behaviour becomes and the harder it is to stop. I used a long line with Spencer on walks to give him some freedom to run around, do doggy things and burn off some energy while preventing him from legging it to say hello to any other dogs who appeared.  We did lots of very easy recalls at home and just outside our flat.  I varied the rewards so sometimes he’d get hot chicken covered in melted cheese, sometimes a lower value food reward such as cheese or sausage, sometimes a piece of kibble.  Sometimes I even took a tupperware container filled with minced green tripe out on our walks and spoon fed him a little each time he came when called.  I also used toys and playing chase as rewards for coming when called, sometimes food just doesn’t cut it, not even for a stomach on legs Labrador and Spen would much rather play than eat.  I also made a point of recalling, rewarding and sending him back to what he was doing.  All too often people make the mistake of only calling their dog back when it’s time to go home so of course the dog associates coming when called with the fun times ending.

Another thing I did was teach him that simply coming to me from time to time without being called was worth his while.  All I did with this was click and toss him a treat any time he glanced in my direction.  Or if he happened to come close to me (even if it was accidentally while trotting past or stopping to sniff something).  He soon got the idea and started offering to come walk with me.  Now he tends to come up to me every five minutes or so without me calling him.  I get a lot of “oh but he’s only doing it coz he wants a treat!” but quite frankly I don’t really care.  I’d rather him come look at me for a treat or a game (again I didn’t just use food rewards) every so often than be off doing his own thing and completely ignoring me the way I see so many dogs doing and the way he used to do.  He does still do his own thing, sniffs and marks and does zoomies and splashes around in any water he comes across, he just keeps an eye on what I’m doing and gets rewarded for it.

Spencer is not perfect, I cannot guarantee he would recall from another dog at close range until he’d said hello and he is still managed in some situations with a long line or by being put on leash for a few minutes.  But we’re getting there.  I am comfortable letting him off leash on our usual walks, I don’t worry any more abut him disappearing over the horizon because he’s heard a dog bark or legging it off to visit with a dog half a mile away.  We go to meet ups most Sundays and he checks in with me of his own accord fairly regularly now rather than being so excited at the prospect of having other dogs to play with that he forgets all about me.  I’m not sure he’ll ever be one of those dogs who turns on a dime to come racing back the instant I call but I can live in hope.  After all, 12 months ago I wasn’t sure he’d ever be one of those dogs I’d be comfortable letting off leash unless I could see for miles around.

An excellent book, in my opinion, for anyone wanting a sort of step by step guide to working on recall would be Total Recall by Pippa Mattinson.  For those with dogs not known for being biddable When Pigs Fly by Jane Killion is an excellent read although not recall specific.  It’s also an excellent read for those with breeds generally classed as biddable, you just have to ignore the assumption that your dog simply hangs around waiting to be told what to do lol.

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