Puppy Zoomies: Def. puppy brains leak out of puppy eyeballs. Previously obedient puppy then turns into a gravity-defying missile that ricochets through space and time, running past you, towards you (and mostly) away from you. Owner most likely turns into a chimpanzee, hooting and chasing. As one might expect, this has a low success rate in retrieving puppy.
It's time for a recall project update! I've had one case of puppy zoomies this week and while I did than the initial incident, I could have done better still.
What I did: Called her 1-2x when she broke criteria of the game (ran past the toy, then stopped to look at a man on the sidewalk). When she ignored me and bolted, I didn’t panic this time - tried to keep track of where she went and follow her - but didn’t engage - didn’t chase - follow unobtrusively, tried to not let her see me. I attempted to engage her in the game of "chase Mel" when she came towards me.
What I should have done:
Prevention: Drag a long line from her collar - We were in a safe (but not enclosed area) and while I've been granting her more freedom as she earns it, she should not have been at liberty without a line in this situation. The line I had was heavy, bulky, and picked up debris. I had taken it off for the exercise we were doing because it was interfering with the lesson. My friend has loaned me a light length of climbing rope since the incident and its much better. She had been excellent during the lesson, so didn't expect to have an issue with our last toy toss/retrieve. Without a line on, I should have thrown the toy much closer for the retrieve so I could have maintained better control.
Once the zoomies happened - Do. Not. Call. Her. Even if I have a 50% success rate for recall in these situations, that's 50% too low and a major reinforce for her to continue to ignore me. Instead I should have turned my back and walked away. Perhaps even go around a corner so I was out of her line of sight if she continued to look at me, but not come towards me. Under no circumstance should I have moved towards her or chased after her.
Zoomies are a result of her getting really excited - which is a good thing - not necessarily that she's trying to get away from me. Once the zoomies start, it's not a recall issue unless I call her - and at this point in the recall project, calling her when I know I have a low chance of success is counterproductive. Dealing with the zoomies in a neutral - not negative way - in order to preserve the enthusiasm for our play sessions, while reinforcing the lesson that she cannot ignore me is a fine line!!! If I don't make a big deal of the zoomies and continue to reinforce the recall and having her keep track of ME through the games below and the recall project, eventually the zoomies will become a non-issue both because of training and she'll grow out of them somewhat.