Thought I’d posted this yesterday — THURSDAY. Didn’t see it today, so I’m RE-POSTING it today — FRIDAY. It will appear after “day three’ now — sorry! I’m kinda new to this Blog thing…
Well, the girls went 100% for Recall with treats in their own backyard, yesterday. In fact, it got tricky to catch them when they WEREN’T looking at me and/or hovering in hopes of getting another treat! This was not necessarily a bad thing, though. I want them to look to me as the source of GOOD THINGS, GOOD THINGS, GOOD THINGS — YEAH! This is one of the most important steps in making RECALL a HABIT.
Why would any self-respecting dog with half a brain want to leave all those yummy smells and fascinating new things to come over to mom or dad whom s/he sees every day? We’ve got to be at least as interesting as all that other stuff! Our dogs must learn to associate coming to us with treats, petting, praise, rides in the car, dinner, snuggles, playing ball, walkies, (fill in your dog’s own favorites.) Every time mom or dad calls, s/he should get a really nice, tail-thumping kind of good feeling. Instead, all too often, our dogs associate coming to us as the-end-of-all-the-fun, which is not a nice feeling at all.
The fact is that to make Recall a HABIT, we’ve got to alter the dog’s brain chemistry! When a dog experiences good things, certain feel-good chemicals flood the pleasure center of the brain. So, not only is an experience (eating a treat, for example) good, but it is doubly special when that extra chemical punch hits the brain! If a RECALL command is ALWAYS followed by something good, the brain will start anticipating that pleasurable experience and release those good-time chemicals at the sound of the command! This obviously, will make any dog MUCH more likely to come when called — if the hearing the call makes him feel good!
If only it was that easy…
In order for that good-feeling double-whammy to take effect, we must ONLY call a dog when we’re going to deliver good things. First off, to state the obvious, we can’t EVER call the dog to deliver a punishment: example — dog got in the garbage, owner calls dog over and swats him. Not quite so obvious is that we can’t ever call the dog to deliver what the DOG considers a punishment: example — dog got in the garbage, owner calls dog over to the door and shuts him away from the family while s/he cleans up. In addition, we can’t call a dog for anything that is LESS interesting than what s/he’s already got going: example — dog is let out for a potty break, starts to sniff squirrel trails, owner calls dog in and all go to bed — boring. And last, but not least, we can’t try to “trick” the dog by offering something good and then not delivering: classic example — dog won’t come, so owner gets leash, dog comes and owner doesn’t take the dog for a walk.
But it isn’t as hard as it sounds! I’ll talk more about this tomorrow.