Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Recalls-The Canine Kind or "Cinder, COME!"

  If you ask different trainers what they think are the top two most important things to teach a puppy, you're bound to start a conversation that could go on for weeks.  Everyone has their own version of what's important and sometimes picking a "most important" becomes a matter of perspective.  In my world, it's always subjective and varies with situations and settings as to the importance of certain things a dog should know. I'm topping my list with having a good recall. For those who may not know what a recall is: recall is your dog coming when you call, without any hesitation; and without detours along the way.
   Cinder will never be a working herder. We have nothing for her to herd. However, we will be taking her to all kinds of places and doing all kinds of things aside from the 340 acres of farm we roam regularly.  I'm also hoping that if she likes and shows promise for agility, MAYBE we will try a few trials. Obviously that means she needs a good recall.  
     Today was our first trial run to test her recall on the farm without the big boys with us. Gilley has a FANTASTIC recall for which I am grateful, but Cinder needs to learn to come on her own, without Gilley or Buzz.  We took her to the horse barn with us and took a walk with her on a long-line (25' rope). 
     The first test was just getting her past the chickens darting around the barnyard! Once we got her out of the barnyard and headed to the back fields, we were able to start letting her loose. I was apprehensive because she has a great recall within the confines of our house, but when she's with the big boys, she's merely following them.  With 340 acres to run, I got concerned when our first dozen recalls on the long-line were questionable because she kept sniffing and snooting - I had to tug her most of the way to me.  After about another dozen successful but lacklustre recalls, I was a little less hesitant to turn her loose, but not entirely convinced. 
   Finally I decided to let her loose with her long-line on.  My thinking was that if she headed into the woods, she'd get snagged up and I'd be able to get to her.  Once she discovered she was free, she took off at dead run and I was a bit afraid she may not stop.  As I crested the hill, I spied her atop the hill, stopped and staring at me.  I called her and  she came. Yay!  After that, Brian and I kept her in a big field punctuated with small hills; and surrounded by woods.  Using the hills, edge of the woods, and some old round bales of hay, one of us would "hide" while Cinder wasn't looking. After a few minutes, the person hiding would yell for Cinder to come.  It was me to start and then we alternated calling her between us.  Each and every time, she came running directly to whomever called, trailing her long-line behind.  A few times I thought to detach the long-line, but I decided it wasn't hurting anything to leave it alone.  We played this game all the way back to the little creek.  
     At the creek, we generally leash the dogs because that's a sort of last rest area before we're back in the barn yard and turn-out area.  Buzz has a horrible track record around the horses and chickens; and no recall once he starts a chase.  Gilley's awesome because I raised him going to the barn every day and he learned how to behave around the barn animals, but Buzz was already three when we got him. We worked to teach him barn rules and on leash, he's GREAT but the minute he's free, he becomes an unstoppable Tazmanian Devil, killing chickens and chasing horses (NOT herding, chasing); and he ignores all efforts to recall him or stop him.  Rather than fight it, we just habitually don't give him the chance. Cinder will learn by trips as the single dog with us and trips with Gilley. Hopefully she'll become trustworthy at the barn like Gilley, but right now, we have to reinforce the whole recall and be able to get it reliably before we tempt fate and let her loose at the barn. 
 Overall, Cinder did well for her first test on recall over distance and without the big boys.  I'm very pleased because I sure wasn't counting on it. Now we just have to keep working on it and add distractions to start making that recall reliable. Next time, I'll take a drag rope (a leash about two feet long) to attach so she'll have something we could grab if we need to, but not something 25 feet long trailing behind her.  We'll start varying where we walk so she learns in different settings, including the woods. For now, I'm happy enough she had good recalls in the open field and the trail to the creek.  She gets an "A" for today.  Bonus: she got her exercise, we got ours; and now she's tired enough she'll be easier on the big dogs this evening.

 That's one more small hurdle successfully accomplished in our daily life as we continue raising Cinder.



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