Regular readers of the Blog & followers on Twitter, will have seen me mention 'engagement' a number of times. It's the key topic for Michael Ellis, whom I am a MASSIVE fan of. A great deal of what we do with our pups has been heavily influenced by Michael Ellis. I've watched numerous videos of his and read many, many articles of his. I'd love to get over to the States one day & do a bit of work with him. The stuff he gets his pups doing is amazing, & is really the benchmark we're aiming for with our pups.
If you've never come across Michael Ellis, go over & check out his work.
To me, the 2 real key elements to an effective recall are; the engagement I have with our pups, alongside the use of a whistle. I've done a separate Blog on Whistle Recall, but if you just rely on a whistle for a recall it won't be as effective as using it alongside a fully engaged dog.
Here's a Leerburg Video on the importance of Engagement taken from Michael Ellis' website. There's lots of great videos on there, & all are well worth taking the time to watch.
The reason - I believe - that our pups come on so well is down to our relationship with them. The work & training we do with them, is done because the pups WANT to do it for us. The pups WANT to please us. I've said before, the most important thing to do with a dog when you first get it, is to bond with him.
You need to become the dog's world, so that he wants to be with you & so that he wants everything you have. Only time & positive experiences create a bond with a dog, which is why I always recommend people take a couple of weeks off work when they get a new pup. It's such a crucial stage of their development.
I was asked to have one of the new WMP Dutch Herder pups, but I've had to unfortunately decline running one on. Simply because, when they're ready to be allocated, I'll be in Thailand, so the pup would have had to go to a 'tempoarary home' before I could pick him up at around 14/15 weeks old. I had to unfortunately decline, because I would miss such a crucial period of time with him. Around the age of 6 to 14 weeks with the pup is where the most important work starts - & I would have missed it.
|First Dutch Herder pup bred by West Mids Police|
I would have loved the chance to work with a Herder, however I have to consider what is best for the dog & ultimately the management of the dog when he gets older. Missing a crucial stage in his development is very important, & developing a bond is also important. So for the pup to have effectively have had 2 homes by the time he's 14 weeks old isn't an ideal situation.
So a bond & having an engaged dog is the real key to an effective recall - not just a strong whistle recall.
An Engaged Dog
To me, having an 'engaged dog' means that the dog is more interested in what you are doing than anything else around it.
However, some dogs are easier to engage & motivate than others. Take Taylor & Bandit as a prime example.
Taylor is a Beagle & therefore his mind when he is out walking isn't really too bothered about me. He'd much rather sniff, sniff &. . . . sniff. If his nose is down & I say something, it's very likely that he'll just carry on sniffing & totally ignore me!!
So keeping Taylor engaged is a little more difficult than keeping Bandit engaged.
The reason being, is that 2 totally different things motivate & engage them.
If I have a ball/toy, Bandit is all over me like a rash - however the ball/toy does absolutely nothing for Taylor. If I threw a ball for Taylor he'd probably look at me like I'd just chopped off my own head!!
|Bandit & his Kong Squeezz Ball|
If however, I have some tasty food with me, Taylor is all over me like a rash, whereas Bandit isn't overly bothered about food.
So it's vitally important to understand what motivates your dog enough for you to be engaged with him.
This is where recall training gets difficult. You HAVE to be the dog's world, you HAVE to provide all of the dog's enjoyment & excitement whilst you are out - otherwise he'll go off looking for it himself.
You'll have seen in previous Blogs that I'm always talking to, hugging, picking up & playing with the dog when I'm out. It's what helps create the bond & engagement with your dog.
|Me & PD Ozzy in the Peak District|
My absolute pet hate when I'm out, is other dogs running upto us to say . . . 'hello'. My dogs are not interested in running over to other dogs to get their enjoyment - they get it all from me. So similarly I don't want me or my dogs providing someone else's dog with it's enjoyment. I actually get quite grumpy about it - especially if the owners are calling the dog back from the other side of the park!!
I do understand if the dog is a young pup though, however there are a few 'regular culprits' of this in our local park!!
Like I said in one of my previous Bandit Update Blogs, if I cannot remain suitably engaged with my dogs to ensure that they are under control, I will not allow them off the lead.
So just having a whistle & blowing it, will not ensure that your dog has an effective recall. Alongside the whistle you need to ensure that you have enough motivation for your dog to come back to you. You also need enough engagement with your dog to ensure that really he doesn't need to go running after any other dogs or people.
|Dogs running around in parks|
The number of people I see pointlessly blowing a whistle, whilst their dogs ignore it & carry on running around with other dogs in the park is crazy. As with any piece of dog equipment, it will only work if used correctly & that you have taught the dog what blowing the whistle actually means!
You need to be energetic, exciting & fun for your dog to be around. You need to play with & engage with your dog to ensure he sees YOU as his source of fun, & not a bird, another person or another dog.
If however, your dog does have an overriding urge to chase after something, & the urge is too strong & they decide it's more fun to chase that than engage with you - then you need a very good recall.
Sear used to LOVE chasing squirells & 'Mad Ozzy' used to LOVE chasing anything - including aeroplanes flying in the sky!! So you are not alone in having a dog who has strong desires to break the engagement piece every now & again!! Like I say, my pups aren't always perfect!
|PD 'Mad' Ozzy|
Fortunately, having a strong recall rescues the situation & for this I use a Whistle Recall.
I really like & recommend John Rogerson's book - The Dog Vinci Code:Unlock The Secrets To Training Your Dog. It's a really good & informative, easy read book, with a whole host of useful topics & information.
An extract from the book, highlights exactly how I think all dogs should behave for a recall:-
"When you exercise your dog in the park & it meets another dog, it should be able to politely hold the following conversation:
Hello there, I don't believe that we have met before, but my name is Rover & I live just a short distance down the road. What is your name & where do you live?
Oh, you must excuse me - my owner has just called me so I must go, but it was nice meeting you
What you don't want is the following conversation:
Hi there, what a great day to meet you in the park. Are you up for a game a chase? Actually, there are another group of dogs over there - why don't we run up & surprise them? I know all their names & most of them just love to play chasing & wrestling games....
What was that? Someone shouting Rover? Anyone here called Rover? No? I can't understand what these people keep shouting. Anyway it's no concern to us - let's play!"
So once you have developed your bond with your dog & have the dog engaged with you - you can start to use the whistle as your Recall command tool.