Recall Mystery

Posted by wheelingtony
Dec 15, 2007
Hi, I am new to the forum and have read a lot of the posts bbut I have one major problem which I will lay out in note form:
1) I am in a wheelchair so I cannot have an unruly dog.
2) Keesa is our 12 month old Golden Retriever who has accepted training as fun and is generally well behaved.
3) I walk her on a short lead in the street, in shops, pubs - you name it - and she is fine.
4) To burn off energy, I take her to a park where there are two large lakes. She has always been drawn to water and I guess it is in the breed. To avoid a daily drenching I kept her on a long "lunge" lead so she could have more freedom without being out of my control. I thought that once she had mastered the "come" command, I could dispense with the lead.
4) She has not really mastered the come command but she is 80% reliable ON THE LEAD and she gets high praise and treats every time. As often as possible, I let her run free again as soon as she has demonstrated that she is under control. However, if I let her off the lead she is 100% unreliable! She runs round in circles and then takes off in whatever direction she finds most interesting - other dogs, children, water etc.
5) Her training treats are no match for the allure of FREEDOM. She knows I'm calling her (excited "fun" voice, of course) and will often run gleefully towards me only swerving at the last minute to avoid my outstretched arms , and running off in the opposite direction.
6) I don't want to get angry with her for obvious reasons. I have tried hiding from her and she is curious but no anxious enough to want to find me.
7) She is a pretty dog and because of her fiendly nature, she is very used to strangers responding well to her. I am sure she would happily go off with anyone and have tested this theory with a friend who she did not know! No problem.
Keesa has learnt a lot of useful "tricks" and loves routine. She is well behaved around other people, dogs, and does not react to sudden noises or strange things (except owls - don't ask! - all other birds, cats, rabbits, etc, are fine) I won't list what she can do but others have said she is doing well for her age and I can genuinely take her anywhere with confidence.

So what am I doing wrong with the recall? It really is my only issue and it's driving me nuts! I will test any ideas and let the forum know the outcome.

Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 16, 2007
Hi wheelingtony.

I am glad that you and Keesa have been sharing a lot of daily experiences. She must be a very good dog. I am pretty familiar with Golden Retriever breed and she sounds like well behaving for her age (12 month is still a puppy!).

Now, your biggest problem, not coming right away when called, sounds very familiar to me. My dogs used to do that at the off-leash park, where there are more interesting things such as smells, other dogs, running around, etc. than to come back to me. What you are doing without realizing is reinforcing Keesa's unfavorable behavior, ignoring your "Come" command.

This is how it's working (for Keesa). She knows she has to come when called but there are a bunch of things that interest her in the park. She enjoys herself by exploring, greeting other people and dogs, etc. before she comes back to you. She gets treats and "Good Girl" (although you don't really mean this) when she come to you anyway, right away or after a while. Where is an incentive for her to come right away? She gets same consequence either way.

I know this is a dilemma! I still have to try not to get mad when they finally came!

Then, I changed my method. I now use "Come" command in the park only when I really want my dogs to come right away. Other times, I only use "Over here". This way, even if they don't come right away, it does not weaken the "Come" command. It is more casual way to have them come to me.

Inside the house you can do a bunch of "Over here" practices by rewarding her with an ordinary treat. Practice "Come" only once in a while but with a very special treat such as freeze-dried liver, etc.

I hope this will help. Good luck with Keesa.
Posted by wheelingtony
Dec 18, 2007
Thanks for the feed-back. Keesa only gets treats for recall if it's within 10 - 15 seconds and an obvious response to the call (She will turn her head and bound towards me). If I have to tug on the lead to remind her or call more than 3 times, she doesn't get a reward. Stopping for sniffs on the way doesn't count either!

But as you say, she is still a puppy and distractions are hard for her to cope with. I am going to try a "high octane" treat for the recall on the lead but am I expecting too much to get to 100% ?

Funnily enough, I already have a non-urgent recall command "What's this". She reacts quite well and will come to find out what I have in my hand (She hopes it is a treat) but this is a bit of a cop-out so I'll take your advice.