I wish I'd known back then

Waaaaaaaaay back when I was 13 I started training; I used conventionl choke collar methods because that was what there was. And basically that meant that if your dog didn't do what you wanted; you yanked on their neck until they did it. The come exercise or recall as it is known in the obedience ring was one of the worst displays of human stupidity and unfortunately you can count me in there as well. But the whole process of yanking on dogs was more a "you're an animal and you'll do as I say" compared to the more popular way of thinking now "how can I get you to do a behavior using communication?"

The good old days does not pertain to training; these days now are much better than the days gone by and thank goodness some of us are learning. There has been a slipping of positive training with the big celebrity trainer but hopefully that will not last. We must get better; going back should not be an option. Training and behavior is a never ending education; you can never know it all because all dogs are different. And if you are like me; the more you learn the more you want to learn.

So let's dissect the whole recall of the past and present. The old way was to put your dog in a sit; tell them to stay and then leave them. You would walk to the end of a very long leash and turn around to face them; so far so good. Now came the stupid part; call their name and tell them to come. If they don't come really fast reel them in like a fish and abruptly sit them infront of you. This just makes me shudder because of many different issues. First in my training; I never call a dog out of a stay, makes for a very unreliable stay. Just imagine the anticipation feeling the dog must have when they are in a stay; never knowing if they are going to have to come or stay like they were told, bad.

Second; when you start to get mad because your dog is not coming and the reeling begins, their brain is telling them to stay away from the danger. You could not make yourself more unappealing to your dog. Dogs do not approach things that they know are dangerous; they are smarter than that. But we pull them in and yell at them expecting them to come happily running to us. I don't know how many times I saw dogs jamming on their brakes for their own safety as they owners pulled them in.

That compared to the come exercise of today are worlds apart; at least in my training. We do everything to make ourselves seem inviting; "come to me; it is the best place in the world." We will use treats; lavish praise, games and anything else that might be great in the dogs eyes as a reward for coming. You must get into your dogs head that coming is a very positive behavior with consistent rewarding. And most importantly you must work hard to create a bond; one that offers trust, respect, kindness and above all a desire to be with you.

I do not believe in some of the trainers today who only use rewards with no feedback of any sort. I believe that once a dog understands what "come or here" means and they opt not to; then there should be some sort of consequence for not coming. And this is because we do not live in a perfect world; there may be times when you need your dog to come to you very quickly; like if you are off leash in a leash zone and the ticket guy is coming ;) Your dog needs to understand that "come" is not an multiple choice decision. My consequence involves going to the dogs location and clapping and speaking firmly to get them moving; once moving my voice changes to positive and happy. There is no forcing a dog in but it is enough to let them know if they don't come I'm coming after them.

A dogs mind is simple yet complicated; once you get in it is truly fascinating.

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