Despite Holly’s anxiety problems she was relatively easy to train as far as the basics are concerned. Sit was no problem because she was always very eager to get the treat on offer. Take a look at our post Teach Your Pug to Sit to find out how we worked on that.
Once we’d mastered Sit we used her new found skill to work on her recall, which was particularly bad! We got in touch with a trained professional to help us (yes it was that bad!) and in between our one-to-one sessions we worked on it ourselves in the park.
Hugo is a very easy going pug and will tootle around the park saying hello to anyone who comes near. Holly guards her humans fiercely and I mean fiercely! Any dog within sight is a threat and will be dealt with accordingly!
This made walks very very stressful for both Holly and for us. Even keeping her on an extendable lead was hard work when other friendly dogs came over for a sniff. We heard the ‘it’s OK he’s friendly’ line too many times and often the reply ‘but she’s not!’ couldn’t be heard over the warning barks from Holly.
In our one-to-one sessions Holly started on a 10 metre line (not an extendible) so she felt like she was running free but when necessary we could stop her in her tracks. We started in an empty field working our way closer to a small dog in the distance. When Holly spotted the ‘threat’ and ran for it I used our trigger word ‘Holly Come’ and gave her the length of the line to respond. If she didn’t respond the line was gently pulled in until she was back at my side (well actually in front of me) where she was rewarded with a treat.
We worked on the trigger word without a ‘threat’ too which really helped her concentrate and understand there would always be a treat waiting if she returned when called. A lot of the time the threat was too stressful and she completely ignored the trigger words but we continued to work without a threat too and eventually we got a response! When she came back we gave her a jackpot of treats and fussed her loads!
Holly still sees other dogs as a threat (and we’re working on that separately) but I know now that if we let her off her lead in the park she’ll come back when called. It’s still never an easy amble as I have to watch her every move, and that of the other dogs in the park, plus a pocketful of treats is always a must but she has never let me down and never failed to return when called.
To sum it up, here are our 5 steps to a perfect recall
- Pick a recall trigger word and practice with a long line
- Treats are a great incentive. Reward every recall
- Practice without a ‘threat’
- Practice with trigger word, treats, long line and mild threat
- Once you’re confident practice without the line and keep practicing
Now Holly’s so confident she’ll return to wherever I ask her, ‘in front’ facing me or ‘in close’ standing beside me. Clever girlie Holls!