Sunday, September 25, 2011

Introduction to Recalls

This is how I start all of my adult, leash trained greyhounds on recalls (coming when called).  I take my hound for a walk on a regular leash and I carry a very high value treat item (preferably in your pocket and not in your hand).  When my dog takes a mild interest in something and is ahead of me, I call her, and run backwards (wear appropriate shoes).  This usually encourages her to run after me.  As soon as my greyhound catches me, I feet a generous portion of my high value treat and I touch the collar with my other hand.  The reason I touch the collar is so my dog learns that part of the recall is having your collar grabbed.  A recall is not very useful if your dog cannot be caught.
For the sake of the video, I did several recalls in a short period of time. In real life, I would suggest no more than one recall every 5 - 10 minutes on your walk because otherwise your dog becomes too interested in recalls and stays at your side the entire time.

I use "come" for my recalls, but you can choose another word.  "Front" and "here" are good options.  Do not pick a word that flies out of your mouth all of the time.  Do not use a word that you have already trained your dog to ignore most of the time.  This is not a recall I use casually or around the house.  When I am being casual, I use something else. 

My dogs know that "come" is not optional, but it is also highly rewarded.  I always pay my hounds for good recalls for their entire lives. 

Obviously in the video above, the demo dog (Seven) is already trained and promptly responds to me each time.  In real life, you will likely be ignored at first and this is exactly why you have them on leash.  Gently tug and turn your dog around.  Often he will start to chase when he sees you running backwards.  Each time you practice a recall, always give your dog two seconds to respond.  I often have people in my classes that get in a bad habit of jerking their dog each time they call.  In those cases, we have no idea if the dog was going to respond or not, so give your dog a chance.

If you are generous in your rewards and your dog enjoys eating, this is a great way to teach an emergency recall for the day when your gate is left open or your dog slips his collar.  If he has been paid handsomely for past efforts, there is no reason for him not to come bounding back to you.

Don't forget to touch the collar!


gyeong said...

Great point about touching the collar to get them used to that.

What Remains Now said...

What a great post. I want to work with Freedom, Casper and Nikki on this. I almost lost Casper once when he wander out of the house when I didn't properly shut the garage door. You are absolutely right about the moving away from them. When I moved toward him, he moved away from me. Then I remembered reading that Greyhounds move towards things moving away from them (those sighthounds!). I started back to the house, calling him in a friendly voice and he came. I got lucky! I've been wanting to add "recall" to our skill set ever since then. I appreciate your method. It makes great sense and I appreciate you showing us how we can work on it while our pup's on lead.

houndstooth said...

I love how you always make these things so simple and logical when you explain them! I've trained like this before, but now with the collar touch, and I think I'm going to work on it again because we haven't practiced it in a while.

I'm also thinking hard about how we're going to train that puppy on recalls when he or she gets here in December. That dog will have to work off leash a lot, and will have to have a rock solid recall. It sounds like it should be so simple, but I think recall is the one thing you have to do really right, and we've always had adult dogs as adults. We haven't had a puppy that we've been responsible for training in a very long time!

browndogcbr said...

Hi Y'all,

My retrievers are trained to recall the same way.

What I want to ask, can retired greyhounds ever be trusted off leash outside of a fenced area?

We used to talk about adopting a retired racer. Hubby went to see some and when he got there the man was out chasing them down. Seems they'd slipped out the gate when his wife was bringing in groceries.

Hubby doesn't want a dog he can't trust off leash or has to be afraid will slip out of the house when the door is open. Thus we stuck with what we know, retrievers.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Here is a link to the post I did about greyhounds off leash:

My general philosophy is that most dogs need to be kept on leash because their owners simply do not take the time to train them. If a dog cannot be verbally stopped from approaching people and other dogs, that dog should not be off leash, period end of story. It does not matter if its a greyhound, pit bull, poodle, or a retriever. No one should be forced to trust a strange person or strange dog, but that is exactly what someone with on off leash dog is doing if they allow the dog to run up to someone. My greyhounds are off leash a lot, but that is because I can stop them from interfering with strangers and their dogs. But for me it has to do more with the dog's personality, location, and the person's training ability. Breed really has nothing to do with it. But certain breeds will tend to produce more individuals that easier to train than others. In my situation, I pick greyhounds easy to train, I'm good at it, I work hard at it, and I have some really great locations for training, practicing, and proofing.

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

Great post, Jen. I'm going to be passing it on to all our Greyhound people. I honestly don't know if I touch Beryl's collar when I recall her or not, so I'll be making a point of doing that now. I do remember when she did her CGC test grabbing her collar when she got to me as there was 20 acres of wide open park behind me and I wasn't sure if she'd keep on going, lol!

Fatima said...

Great post -i have been lurking here a lot but never comment :)) Maybe it is a silly question : but why 'grab a collar' when dog recalls...? I usually give mine a pat, or a kiss, or even an ear scratch (with a treat). What is the significance of 'colalr grab'?

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Fatima, a recall is no good if you cannot then catch your dog. So touching the collar each time ensures that your dog is not surprised or offended by it.

I pretty much always use food for recall rewards. Just depends on the dog, but I pick greyhounds that really love food so they are easy to reward and I use good food. Their responses are much sharper, faster, and reliable than 99.9% of the dogs on the planet. But I would not have nearly the results if I used ear scratches. Mine would choose freedom, squirrels, meeting other dogs, etc. over a affection. If you truly want a good recall for an emergency, your reward needs to be able to compete with the world. And a pat on the head is just not going to do that for most dogs.

Michelle said...

This is great advice! Thanks for sharing. :)

Granted Wishes Canines said...

It is such an awesome explanation and a rock-solid method. I can't thank you enough for implementing the collar grab. When I brought my first grey, Kibeth home, she would have bitten anyone who touched her collar (including me). Doing this would have saved us a lot of heartache in the beginning. She learned to trust me and as such, doesn't snap when I grab her, but with others... not so much. Working with her this way has been a life-saver. I've always been worried about, "What if a vet needs to grab her collar for something serious?" Now I know she'll be OK.

Thanks for everything as always, Jen. Seven, you were a wonderful model. :)

browndogcbr said...

Hi Y'all,

Thanks for the link. When we are ready for another dog greyhounds will definitely be reconsidered.

Y'all come by now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Declan said...

Beryl at Greyhounds CAN sit directed me here and I think my Mum will find it really useful. She hasn't had to do any training for a long long time and I think she's a bit rusty! Deccy x

Declan said...

Thanks for letting me know about the problem you had commenting. It's now been fixed.Deccy x

Jay said...

Nice! I've done something similar with my previous hounds, and I do the same just randomly around the house, too. I'll call them for a tasty scrap from my cooking efforts in the kitchen rather than going and tossing it to them.

I learned years ago to catch them briefly by the collar when they came for a recall, and then to let them go again immediately, and do another recall a few minutes later. Some people don't get that if you don't release them after a recall nine times out of ten when you're training them, you reduce the chances that they will come back reliably. Why would they, when it means the fun ends?

Susan McKeon said...

Great post, Jennifer (as always). I always teach the collar touch in my classes (going as far as telling people to put 2 fingers under the collar) before they feed the food.

I always ask the class why they think touching the collar/putting fingers through it is important and after a few moments thought, the penny drops (often helped with my 'stories' of other people in parks with dogs who turn recall into a huge game) :0)

Sea said...

Hi Jennifer. Thanks for all the great teaching articles you have on this blog! You have been one of my main go-to resources since my hubby and I adopted a greyhound :). I know this is a very old post, and I know that you state numerous times that you specifically choose food-driven greyhounds for training, but I was wondering if you had any insight to share for those of us with non-food-driven greys. Our greyhound, Asha, is the least food-oriented dog I've ever seen. I have tried all of the high value treats you suggest and a number of others, but the best response I can hope for is a low-moderate interest. She is fed a raw food diet which I imagine doesn't help, but I don't want to put her on kibble just to increase the perceived value of treats. The bottom line is, that while I can use treats as training motivation/reward for low difficulty tasks, food is never going to be more important to her than a kangaroo or bunny (she's not particularly high prey, but it's still exciting). A lot of the time a high value treat isn't even worth jumping into the car for (despite having done this hundreds of times with no problems and loving car rides, she prefers to be lifted, thank you)! She is affectionate and loves attention and pets, but again, this has limited value for her when it comes to harder activities or more exciting environments. She does like toys too, but only when the mood suits her, so they can't really be used as a reward.

Sorry for the mini novel, but I wanted to set the scene for my questions!

One, given the circumstances, do you think it would be possible to teach a good recall through sheer repetition (aka brain washing) or any other method? We have started training her using your method and she is perfect with no distractions, and still runs back to us most of the time (on leash) even seeing something exciting, but she won't take her gaze off whatever it is for more than a few seconds and won't eat the food, so it's a 'distracted' recall with no real reward and she doesn't always get close enough in this latter case to grab her collar without us reeling her in.

Secondly, over time I've discovered that while she doesn't have much motivation to please me, she does seem to be fairly motivated to avoid my 'I'm not happy with you' voice. For example one day when she was moving away from me ignoring a recall, I spoke sternly every-time she turned away from me, and positively every-time she paused or walked toward me, and she ended up coming back. Thinking of this, yesterday when I had tried everything to get her to jump in the car after her walk (she always jumps in the car without fuss BEFORE a walk), I spoke sternly to her, gave the command again, and she jumped straight in. Now I would very much prefer to use positive reinforcement training, and I really don't like faking disappointment/annoyance but I'm starting to wonder if this could be the highest 'motivator' tool that I have (obviously not to overcome anything she's scared/nervous about though). It's possible its efficacy would fade if I started using it regularly (as I've used it less than a handful of times since we've had her and I know with other things I've tried, they work a few times and then she doesn't care about them anymore). Do you have any insight on this, or any other suggestions for me?

Thanks so much!

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Nicola Corcoran said...

Our greyhound cross is not even remotely biddable by food treats - seriously nothing. He's raw fed and gets quite enough fun from food at mealtimes to even care any other time. His recall is shocking, and his prey drive strong. Any suggestions are gratefully received.....Love the blog.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Nicola, what do you mean by "shocking" recall? All in all, you need to have something the dog wants more than the world. If there isn't any reward with that kind of power that you can carry in your pocket, then it is very challenging to teach a solid recall. Then you probably have to get into using something negative such as a shock collar to force the recall.