• Michael D’Abruzzo

    November 17, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Seems like most of the fine tuning will be related to “the Golden Rules” – timing, motivation, and consistency. How to tweak these just the right way is the key.

    Although hormones can certainly contribute to factors such as stubbornness, it shouldn’t be something that couldn’t be addressed with the right fine tuning.

    I’ll break down into your questions.

    1. This ‘meandering’ recall you describe could be due to different reasons. The most likely is probably avoidance behavior or a need for tweaking motivation to obey. Sometimes dogs will purposely sniff and act occupied to avoid conflict and hope you divert your attention elsewhere. They do this with each other as well. If the behavior doesn’t seem anything more than he would be doing anyway (if you weren’t calling him) than it is likely to just be a lack of motivation. Even though this doesn’t sound like the case I also want to mention that this shouldn’t be confused with an “arching” recall. This is where the dog comes but takes a wide angle instead of a straight line. This is usually due to an insecurity issue and needs to be fixed mostly by confidence building, positive reinforcement, etc.. I don’t think this is what you are describing but want to mention it for anyone else who reads this post because it wouldn’t be handled the same way necessarily.
    If you know positive techniques that will help you should definitely do them. Anything that can be fixed with a positive technique should always been done first and never discarded through maintenance training. One of the biggest mistakes that I see with some clients that learn how to correctly use +P and -R is that they forget how important the +R is especially to maintain the enthusiasm. Again, not saying this is the case but keep on using the +R.
    Some other tips:
    – Be sure to always keep the dog training trinity in mind found in our self-help obedience section. When he does come, most of the time let him go back to what he was doing. Therefore the faster he comes the faster he gets to go back uninterrupted
    – Never practice too many recalls in a training sessions at too close intervals. The dogs, like us, can get bored or annoyed at constantly doing recalls. Tweak frequency so it is something he looks forward to.
    – Don’t be too picky about the perfect competition style sit as a finish for a recall. Some dogs will actually avoid recalls because they associate the ending with stress if an owner is too picky about the sit or corrects the dog for not sitting properly. With my personal dogs I usually let the dogs recall into my open arms for some quick affection and then I let them on their way again. If he is very food motivated then the sit for a treat is usually easy to do.

    2. Testosterone rarely makes obedience easier (for us and them!) and could be a factor for making certain scents more of a distraction, giving him the urge to stop along the way and mark etc.., also the stubbornness factor that does go along with it. But, everything can be tweaked. In general we just have to use higher motivation levels for dogs that are equally higher distracted. Motivation can both be negative or positive types. Going back to my earlier reply from last week – one time of him having a training session where the behavior of not coming is not paired with a consequence can certainly move a step back wards especially in near future until enough repetitions shows that it is futile to ignore. I never use the conditioned punisher “no” without having the ability to back it up with the primary punisher – especially in early stages where there may still be a chance of a challenge. Emergency situation say no all you want..scream yell, etc.. Although what you did was an accident it still may need some time to flat line the reliable response from him again. Consistency means less corrections.
    3. I think you are on the right track here. Once you know your dog’s levels you will know not to bother with levels he doesn’t detect in certain situations. The faster the dog makes the connection to respond to the come the better. If he didn’t seem to respond into you escalated to 30 for instance. Next time he takes off after a cat start at 25 instead of 10 and quickly escalate. The numbers are of course all relative to the dog/situation.

    For your specific scenario with the lazy come. I would troubleshoot with the flexi or a light line first. You should not let him drop his head to sniff (just like on a heel) during the recall. Be sure your timing is very quick with “no” as soon as his head drops then correction if no response. If after the first of “no” than correction with word “come” – I wouldn’t give additional “no’s” during the same recall but instead go right to the correction paired with the word “come”. You would want the light line or flexi on him because there is the possibility even with the perfect timing that he can associate the recall itself with the correction. For instance if he is coming toward you but also has his head down sniffing he may associate the correction with the coming toward you or who knows what else. That is of course the tricky thing about remote training – it does not show what to do like other collars it only corrects. So have the line on him in case he gets confused to be sure he understands that the correction means “no meandering and keep coming”.

    You can potentially have a perfectly straight recall that is just very slow – and always the best way to rectify that is with positive motivation and letting him go back to what he was doing.

    I hope this answered your questions!