April 5, 2015
I’ve started recall training with A.J. again. The best place we know of to let him run free is at the school across the street. There are no signs banning dogs (like at the Junior High next door), and there are usually plenty of birds for A.J. to chase. Unfortunately, for the past several months A.J. hasn’t been coming back when I call him. Not too long ago he even took off around to the front of the building toward the highway. So he had to lose his off-leash time, which he really loves and desperately needs. So last week I finally started working with him again, hoping we can get it back.
The school has been on spring break the past couple of weeks, so it was a perfect time to get started. I took him over these, along with his 20 foot leash. Then we just started at the beginning. I tell him to stay, I walk as far away as the leash will go with no tension, then I call him to me. He does really well with this. After doing that successfully a few times I would release him and trot along behind him as best I could, hanging onto the leash. Then when he got really busy sniffing something, I’d call him again. After some success with that, I would finally let him run, the long leash flailing behind him as he dragged it along. Then I’d call him again.
It’s this last part we’re still having some trouble with. Yesterday I tried calling him while he was chasing a bird. He ignored me until the bird flew off, then he looked at me and saw me walking towards him and decided it would be a good idea to come over to me. So he didn’t get in trouble, but we went back to me hanging onto the leash again.
When he’d been successful again with me holding the leash, I released him again. He came back when called a couple of times…then he didn’t. This is where the long leash comes in handy. When he slowed down to sniff something, instead of walking toward him I walked toward the end of the leash. I then picked it up, took the slack out – without causing tension – then I said “COME!” and gave him a good pop. He came right away, and we started over. We worked up to freedom again, but then I had to go and pop him again.
So it’s going to take a lot more work, but I actually think we’re making some progress. I just wish I could get him to associate more free time with behaving, but I’m not getting that message through. I guess if I can get to “you’ll stop getting popped if you just listen to me” that would be okay too. I just need to get him to start responding reliably again, he really does need his free time. And he really does LOVE his free time. Chasing killdeer is one of the most fun things he ever gets to do. (Geese are just an added bonus.)