Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The recall project - the beginning

The resource for this project is:  

Tess has a good recall.  It's excellent in low distraction environments or in places she's familiar with.  It's less than stellar when there are certain types of distractions - an excellent rawhide chew that she's found, birds, butterflies, and strange livestock.

Good is not good enough.

Recall is very important to me.

Maybe THE most important thing.

It was the first training behavior that I decided to utilize treats for, even before I learned about clicker training because I wanted to be POSITIVE and I wanted it to be PERFECT.

W pointed me towards the Susan Garrett article that I have posted at the beginning of this post.  Some of the concepts I have already started - keeping her on leash (even at home) if there is a distraction present that she might ignore me.  This includes playing with other dogs, large uncontrolled areas (fenced or not fenced), any location with lots of birds and butterflies.  Just by not letting her be distracted, and being more involved with her during play and her "free time" (time not spent actively training, or in her kennel) I've noticed an improvement - she's much more reliable.

After reading the article, I've decided to take a more structured approach and really "nail" the recall.  Did I mention nothing is more important to me than the recall?

The defining moment for me in dog training was chasing Tess through the fairgrounds during a bluegrass festival in a merry game of "chase the puppy".  She kept just in front of me.  I knew enough not to say come, as there wasn't a snow balls' chance in hell that she was going to respond.  I chased her silently towards the exit, and the only reason she didn't end up on the highway is because she skidded to a stop at a drainage ditch to drink.  I didn't let her off leash on purpose, I was grooming her and had my hand in her collar.  She did a colossal leap, evading my reaching hands (of course!) and took off.   She wasn't a bad puppy - she was a bored puppy.  We had reached a plateau in our training, I wasn't sure where to go past sit, come, down, heel.  I was treat training, but not clicker training and although I tried to keep it fun and engaging - compared to what we are doing now, it had to be dry and boring for her (and for me!).

The week after this incident, my classmate W offered to help me and Tess and introduced us to the work of clickers and molding behavior.

We've come a long way in a few short weeks, and it's time to add this layer to our foundations

Step 1-Decide on the command

I'm torn.  I've been really careful with the word "come" and it has a lot of positive "deposits".  It's easier for me to pronounce than "here", and it carries better because of the hard consonant.  But everyone uses come, including my boyfriend, who may or may not use it in the way I want - ie follow the process.  Does anyone else have a good word for their recall?

UPDATE:  I have settled on using "Check" for my formal recall word.  As in "check in".  I have a bad habit of putting "come" in a lot of every day tasks, so it's better that I use a completely seperate word.

Step 2- Compile a List!!!!!

I love lists.  I'm suppose to put down everything that distracts Tess that keeps her from coming to me when I call and rate them from 1-10.  I'll rate the major ones here, and add a more complete list to the skills list for future reference.

Fluttering ribbon
Horses and other livestock
Blowing leaves
Other dogs running at play
A really sumptious rawhide chew that was found leftover from another dog.
Other dogs on leashes
New place
Matt's shoes
Holt in my hand
Food scattered on ground
Container of food
Eating horse poop
People (men are more distracting)
Sniffing trash in kitchen
Couches and furtinure (she likes to jump on stuff and pretends to misinterpret commands as "up" - meaning get on something)
Out of sight
Grass (likes to flop around and roll and sniff)

Step 3-The plan
Three recall sessions daily, ~20 recalls a session.  Start with distractions rated at a 1 and see how it goes! 

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