recall

Trust your dog, don’t control him!

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Lizzie had recently retired from a responsible position. 

She lived in a spotless and perfectly-kept home in the countryside with a husband who was always out at work. She wanted a dog for companionship and pleasant country walks.

Her children were long grown so it was a good while since she’d had a young thing to look after. 

So the advent of her puppy Bracken brought up all kinds of fears and anxieties in Lizzie - she was terrified something dreadful would happen to him, but she also struggled with the disruption a puppy brought to a neat, clean, adults-only, house.

At Puppy Class, Bracken was distracted and lively - typical of his busy and active breed - not, perhaps, the best choice for a first-time dog-owner of later years. 

Lizzie got very anxious and embarrassed by his behaviour at class. 

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She felt ashamed that she couldn’t “control” this puppy, and felt he was showing her up. 

She was perplexed that her image of the perfect dog trotting at her heels across hill and dale was not matched by the reality of a puppy who seemed to be always straining to get as far away from her as possible!

So I wasn’t surprised when Lizzie got in touch with me a couple of months after her Puppy Course finished to give me a long list of problems she was having with Bracken, and to ask for help.

Enter the prison!

When I arrived at her home I found something more akin to a prison! I was ushered through an airlock of two doors at the front door (a good practice in itself) to see an excited puppy leaping up at a baby gate. Bracken was not learning how to greet people stuck behind a gate!

She had four metal playpens barricading various rooms and corridors. She had baby gates in most of the doorways - this in addition to a couple of crates. And outside she had had fencing built round the patio to prevent Bracken’s access to the garden.

The house itself was spotless, with no sign of Bracken’s toys which had all been put away. 

Her focus was entirely on containing and controlling her eager youngster.

Her list of problems included:

  • Bracken was not yet reliably housetrained

  • He’d grab anything he could find in the house and initiate a chase game

  • Outside he’d get hold of stones and slugs, which Lizzie frantically tried to get off him

  • This was leading to a Resource Guarding problem

  • He’d steal any food so everything was locked away

  • He’d race off to any dog he saw on walks, play too roughly, and refuse to come back

 

The Program

This is what made Lizzie happy!

This is what made Lizzie happy!

  • I revised with Lizzie the games she’d learnt in Puppy Class - which had all been forgotten in the new clampdown era

  • I taught her new games - particularly for focus and recall - to show her that Bracken could keep his feet on the floor and engage intelligently with her

  • We played fast games so Bracken could learn to respond even while highly excited

  • Housetraining - we went back to new puppy basics

  • She revised her matwork with Bracken so he could reliably go to his mat when asked - and stay there till released

  • She learned to swap, not to snatch or chase. This stopped the stealing and the resource guarding, and dealt with the potentially dangerous slug ingestion

  • Lizzie learned to stop caring about stolen items so that grabbing stones was no longer the prompt for a chase game for Bracken, so it just died out on its own

  • She improved Bracken’s diet, going for a grain-free option

  • She learned how to handle a long line with soft hands so she could give Bracken comparative freedom without getting too anxious herself

  • She got a Freedom Harness for control without coercion

  • These both improved her Loose Lead Walking dramatically

  • We worked on a system for greeting dogs and people with self-control

  • She polished up her Tug play from class so that it incorporated masses of impulse control along with masses of high energy fun

  • She did some work using Dr. Overall’s Relaxation Protocol to teach Bracken to self-soothe and settle

  • And she started to use impulse control at every opportunity - every time she opened the fridge, every time she opened a door, picked up a toy or Bracken’s lead

Here's a taste of the course that Bracken got - specially-selected video lessons will get you fast results!

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The result

Over the course of a month - with much reassurance that Yes, Lizzie was an excellent owner for Bracken, and Yes, she could look after him well and give him what he needed, and Yes, he would become her perfect companion over time - all the playpens, fences, and gates disappeared. 

She became able to walk him on a loose lead instead of the vice-like grip on a tight lead she had before, and she was able to let him loose on walks without panicking that he’d escape (or even want to escape). 

She had entirely stopped chasing Bracken for stolen items, with the result that he no longer bothered to steal them - he’d much rather have the offered game instead.

Housetraining? “Oh yes, he’s fine now!”

The Conclusion

Bracken was a grand little pup who was being wound up on a daily basis with constant nagging, recriminations, and control.

He was simply exhibiting puppy and early adolescent behaviours which provoked a huge over-reaction in Lizzie, owing to her anxiety that she was somehow failing the dog.

Once Lizzie learnt how to relax and release - and to stop worrying herself into a panic - everything started to run smoothly.

By relinquishing control and instead giving Bracken choices, she elicited really good responsive behaviour from him. 

It was a delight for me to see that both Lizzie and Bracken felt free to trust and enjoy each other. The journey could now begin!

 

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Zip it! And get a fast response from your dog

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Are you a chatterbox? 

“Fido, Fido, FIDO, come, c’m’ere, Fido, over here, FIDO COME HERE, (**** dog), F I D O !!

We’ve all heard a frustrated owner calling this in the park. And what’s Fido doing all this while? Probably carrying on just as he pleases. When the torrent of yelling subsides he’ll look round to check his owners are still there. And if they start walking away, he just may come.

But this is isn’t what you’re wanting, is it? We’d all love to have a dog who spins on a sixpence as soon as he hears his name, and powers back to us at tremendous speed. We want people to see that our dog loves and respects us, and we certainly want to be sure he doesn’t make a nuisance of himself.

So how can you change this?

Only say it once!

The first thing to do is to change what you’re doing. Then you can change what your dog is doing. 

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So when you say anything to your dog, you ONLY SAY IT ONCE. He gets one chance to get the reward from you. You have got a super high-value reward with you at all times, haven’t you? Sausage, or salami, hot dog - whatever your dog thinks is heavenly. If he ignores your ONE call, then the reward is gone. 

Ok, you’re saying, how is that going to get my dog back? Well, you start with this in the house - in an area where you have little distraction and you know that if he doesn’t respond you can go over to him. 

This isn’t a capitulation on your part. It’s expedient. We’re not looking at who’s the boss - that won’t make things any better. Dogs do not have a secret agenda to rule the world, your household, or you. Dogs do what works, and if it works - then that’s going to make you both happy.

So you say your dog’s name ONCE. He looks at you - YES! here’s your reward And as I explain elsewhere, a reward is anything your dog finds rewarding: food (top of the list), cuddles (fairly far down the list), game, dinner bowl, lead on for a walk, etc.

Dogs learn by repetition and patterning. So it’s a case of repeat, repeat, repeat. (But don’t repeat his name!) Just get into the habit of saying your dog’s name ONCE and rewarding his instant response. 

So say “Fido!” and zip it. Some people actually find it helps them to remember when they say something to their dog to put their hand over their mouth! Whatever works for you. 

I’ve heard some mothers complain that they call the family down to dinner and get “just coming” ten times before they all eventually appear at the table. If those mothers called the kids ONCE, then - after a suitable delay - tipped their dinner into the bin, I think the next day they’d start getting a faster response. 

What do you think?

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander (it works just the same with dogs)

Dog training, new puppy, puppy training, dog behavior | Get a sparkling fast recall from your dog! | FREE GUIDE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

This is the same principle. When I say your name, there is a reward on offer. You don’t respond? Reward is gone. Over time (not necessarily a very long time, either), your dog will leap to attention when he hears his name. He doesn’t want to miss that treat!

Once you’ve got that working well indoors, you can start trying it outdoors - in a distraction-free zone to begin with - and in an area where you can go to your dog if he doesn’t come to you. When you go to him, you are not arriving like Thor firing thunderbolts. Rather you just get right up next to your dog and call him once from there. Then you reward him! Why? Because he responded to you!

This is not the whole recall fixed. This is the beginning. This is opening up the channel so that you can stop yelling and start communicating. For a thorough step-by-step program to develop a stunning recall, check out Here Boy! Step-by-step to a Stunning Recall from your Brilliant Family Dog

Want to really understand why your dog does what he does? And learn quickly how to change it?

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What do I do when it all goes wrong?

The simple answer to this is: go back to the drawing board and start in the house (where your dog cannot run off) and - critically - make it fun for your dog. If the sound of your dog’s name always means fun and games, why would he not come? 

You’ll need to ditch any ideas you may have had about being the boss, expecting instant obedience, punishing defiance, and so on. If you ask your partner or child to fetch something for you, do you expect them to leap instantly from their chair, abandon what they’re doing, and rush to obey? No! Much more likely you’ll get “In a minute,” or a slower heave out of the armchair. This is fine. This is normal. This is what we expect (and accept) from our housemates. Why should we expect something totally different from our dog?

By the way, ONLY SAY IT ONCE works with anything you say to your dog. So no more “Sit, sit sit, siddown, I said sit”, “Leave it, put it down, leave it, LEAVE IT!” and so on. This is a habit you’ll have to change in yourself before you can expect any change in your dog. For your dog to change - you have to change. So, discipline your mouth, be ready to cover it with your hand as soon as you’ve uttered, and practice saying things only once then zip it!

Focus on this for just five days this week. Every single time you address your dog, you’ll say something ONCE then zip it. See how soon the turning point arrives and your dog starts listening to you!

 

You can comment below and tell me when it happened for you.

 

 

Meanwhile, get your free download: Nine Rules for a Perfect Recall

9 Rules for a Perfect Recall

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9 Rules for a Perfect Recall
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