Monty goes hunting. He comes back when he is ready.
On the left is eight month old Springer Monty, finding it so hard to sit still while I took his photo! He lives with elderly Cocker, Millie.
The main and ultimate thing they want just now is for young Monty to come when he is called. He will do so, when he is ready and if there is nothing he would rather do.
Monty is a teenager after all. I myself remember the trouble I got into when I was told to be home by ten and didn’t get in until eleven! I was even willing to endure my parents’ anger and do it again next time.
Sometimes ‘recall’ is a straightforward training procedure and classes will fix it, but this isn’t always the case.
Reliable recall starts at home.
If our dog doesn’t find us sufficiently relevant so doesn’t listen to us at home, if he is selective about how quickly he does as we ask at home – even simple things like sitting, and if he only comes when he wants to when we call him from across the room, then it’s not reasonable to expect him to come to us in a field full of smells and little animals to chase.
Reliable recall begins when he listens to simple things we ask him to do for us at home. We can make a game of recall around the house so that he is conditioned to come when called. Most importantly, he has to have reason to do our bidding. Is there something ‘in it’ for him? These things should be established inside before he is granted freedom outside again. Meanwhile they can give Monty exercise on a long line and work, work, work on a reliable recall in the face of distractions.
We tend to do things back to front. Because a puppy normally sticks with us, we give him freedom. Then, when adolescence strikes we may try to take that freedom away. Far better the other way around, to limit freedom initially and gradually grant it. Everything is much harder when the dog has already got used to freelancing.
One last thing about recall is that out in the fields we are competing with exciting stuff, so we need to make ourselves motivational, and the reward, whether it’s food or play, needs to be worth coming for. Just as my angry parents didn’t stop me going awol in the evening, being grumpy with a dog that returns late won’t help at all. Little did my parents realise that extra pocket money for coming home on time would probably have worked a lot better with me!
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty and Millie, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).