Its been a while but the daycare has kept me busy over the last couple of weeks! My blog has been on my mind and words have been swimming round in my head so here goes…
When we add a dog to our family, how do we go about equipping ourselves for the new addition? Dogs need food, water, exercise/play, rest, shelter, veterinary care… the basics. These are all obvious things but what about the less obvious – The time & emotional input… the understanding of a dogs nature
I love to see Edge being a dog – he, like most other dogs likes to sniff & collect data around the environments or as I like to call it “read the pee-mail”. He has a strong desire explore in dog-friendly areas, soak up the scents of whoever has been there before him. His innate talent to chase kicks in whenever a bird fly’s over or an insect shoots past his nose. But I think his absolute love is to run free… Really stretch out and run at top speed! He proved this by dominating it at the Pooch Races last year in Cambridge – to my amazement was faster than the Greyhound in his heat! For Edge, if there are others to race against then that’s even more fun! (although then total disregard for ones own safety kicks in!)
On the weekend my girlfriend & her 2 female border collies joined us for a bush walk. Although our surroundings were nature at its finest, the view of 4 dogs free to roam, run & sniff was a sight to behold. I was proud to watch these 4 dogs being DOGS.
I voiced my observation to my girlfriend – she in turn pointed out a very important point… We can do this with our dogs with confidence because we have taught our dogs to return to us when called.
A dog’s skill of coming when called or as we call it “a Recall” isn’t a skill that happens by itself. The recall is a learned behavior and a very important one! If one is not taught there can be very serious consequenses. I think back to when Edge was a youngster, we played lots of games together, I mean I got a dog for company/companionship so I did stuff with him every chance I could. I played Hide n Seek in the house, I let him chase me to get the toy, I treated him every time he came when I said his name, I would often call him into me then let him go on ahead again straight away. He learnt very quickly that life at my side was fun & rewarding so coming back to me wasn’t a punishment, it didn’t mean the fun would stop. I became my dog’s reward.
So walking through the bush gave him freedom to tear around madly but checking in with me came naturally, almost like he was checking to see if I was having as much fun as he was!
As you know, my days are filled with looking after other people’s dogs. We have a very diverse range of breeds and one thing that has come to my attention on many occasions is the frustration levels in some of these dogs. In some cases I have spoken to the owners only to find that these dogs aren’t let off lead often (or never) because they can’t trust their dog to come back when called. Even sadder is that these people have no idea how to remedy this or who to turn to for help. So many trainers focus on the SIT – DOWN – STAY they address the jumping up, the leash pulling and so many other important things.
In the big scheme of things the fundamental training contributes to the a recall… any bonding that is achieved via basic commands will help but are we telling our students this? Are we as trainers reminding to our student to BOND with their K9 sidekicks? My training styles have evolved over the years – My first dog a Border Collie who was born with bilateral deafness was taught with a check chain! (Cringe!) Being deaf made it challenging to communicate with her and if she got loose I felt I have no way of calling her back. I remember many a time boosting it up the road in chase of my beautiful friend in complete terror she would end up under a car, so I know firsthand how these people feel! I did manage to achieve a recall with her eventually. But, if I had known then, what I know now, that recall would have been learnt so much quicker!
I know that there will people reading this and anticipating a quick fix answer to this problem… Sorry folks, there is no magical item you can buy or one action that will gain you a bullet-proof recall. No, good ole fashioned QUALITY TIME with your dog is going to be the answer. When you walk your dog – BE WITH YOUR DOG, not on your phone, not in your own world listening to an iPod and not the classic that I see way too often, clusters of dog owners chatting without a clue what their dog is up to. Just recently I was a local Dog Walk Event where there were many people with dogs on leads, Edge was beside me lying down whilst we waited for the organisers to make all the announcements. I dog nearby on a lead cocked its leg on Edge and peed… the owner had no idea, she was there with her dog but wasn’t actually paying attention to it even though it was on the end of a lead. It was a face palm moment for me! A dog is not an accessory, please don’t treat it like one. If there are behaviours that your really want your dog to have, Ask for help, take a class… you won’t be sorry.