RECALL, day three

To keep the Recall 100% positive just takes a little time, thinking ahead and creativity.  It also means changing OUR habits, which can be the really hard part.  First of all, take this rule to heart:

Any time the dog comes to you of his/her own free will, s/he is the most WONDERFUL dog in the world and needs to be praised!

“What?” (I hear the cries of outrage echoing down cyberspace) “When s/he’s knocked over the garbage while I went to the store, s/he’s NOT a good dog, let alone the most wonderful dog in the world!”   True, but your dog won’t think you’re praising him for making a mess if it happened more than 15 seconds ago — a dog’s cause-effect connection is limited to a few seconds.

[Sure, your dog looks guilty (i.e. is cringing and slinking and not jumping around happily in his/her usual greeting) but it probably isn’t guilt (feeling bad about making a mess) so much as knowing that when garbage is all around the house — you YELL!  That makes the dog feel bad, so s/he’s starting to feel bad in advance.  A dog doesn’t think messes are bad (they’re FUN!) and can’t understand why we do, but they can and do associate garbage on the floor with yelling and bad feelings.  But I digress…]

In any event, if you come home to see garbage strewn all around the house, it is useless to yell at the dog.  Calling the dog over to you and locking it away somewhere is just about as negative.  (I have upon occasion, given MYSELF a time-out until I could control all my own negative energy.)  But you have to get the dog out of there a. because s/he’s overdue for a potty break and b. s/he’ll get in the way of you cleaning up.

So, you’ve got a couple of choices.  1) If your dog comes to you (in the midst of the mess) in an up-beat voice, ask him/her for a SIT or DOWN or some well-known behavior that you can enthusiastically praise with a good conscience.  Then send him/her outside to go potty in an up-beat voice.    Or  2) If your dog is slinking and hiding because s/he expects the fireworks to start, go outside yourself, leaving the door open, and call him/her in an enthusiastic, up-beat, excited voice.  When the dog dashes out, you can in good conscience praise him/her BECAUSE S/HE CAME!

Any time the dog comes to you of his/her own free will, s/he is the most WONDERFUL dog in the world and needs to be praised!

Another example — one that I deal with frequently:  the Dog On The Loose scenario.  Rilka, my escape artist, gets herself and Kita “out of jail” (their point of view) about once a month on average.  Sometimes they do this while I’m away, at other times right before my unbelieving eyes.  In either case, I do the same thing.  Put a couple of leashes around my neck like stethescopes, fill my pockets with treats, plaster a smile on my face and go out calling.  I DON’T shout “Come-come!” (their recall CUE) because I know very well that they will not instantly abandon their freedom, the fascinating scent trails and that wild turkey they are chasing to come back immediately, and I don’t want to teach them they can ignore a command.  I DO call their names in a bright, chirpy, happy voice, alternating with “Puppy-puppy-puppy!” and “Where are my girls?” All very up-beat.  Before too long, they crash through the underbrush, wet, panting, covered with burrs and race over to me tails wagging, ears up and their whole body telling me they’ve been having FUN!   Exasperating — Yes! Do I praise them?  YOU BET I DO!  They CAME to me!  They ARE the most wonderful dogs in the world.  They left their fun and found me!  They stand there calmly letting me put the leashes on them!  You BET I praise those girls!

So, even though I don’t get an instant recall response from Kita and Rilka, they are already in the habit of coming back to me — which is half the battle.  We’ve put in quite a bit of work to get there, too.  The biggest part is that I always, always, ALWAYS PRAISE them and give them treats and good scritches when they come to me.  Whatever the circumstances!  More on Monday!

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