Do you ever feel frustrated that your dog seemingly ignores your recall cue and carries on chasing whatever they have seen? Have you practiced your recall at home loads of times, only for your dog to not respond to it when you are out on walks and you really need them to come back?
Understanding the Cause of Recall Failure
Often it is the case that your dog’s recall doesn’t work as well as you would like it to when you find yourself in a highly distractive environment. This could be when the dog is in mid-chase or sees a deer or rabbit for example and their recall fails.
This is likely because this behaviour and cue have not been scaffolded well enough for it to be effective in such a high level of distraction. Not because your dog is ignoring you purposely, or doesn’t understand the recall cue itself.
For a recall to be successful in highly distractive situation, it’s vital that you know how to scaffold it effectively.
The Importance of Scaffolding for Successful Recall
It’s relatively common knowledge now that we need to lay foundations for training new behaviours in non-distractive environments to begin with. So, many people will start teaching their dog their recall basics in their living room, where distractions are very minimal; however, this is often where the progression stops.
The Recall Ladder: A Metaphor for Training Progression
A good metaphor to use is to think of your dog’s recall like a ladder.
Step 1 on the ladder is practising at home in your living room. Step 2 could be choosing to move training outside into the garden when you are purposely set up for a training session. Then the top step, or Step 10 of the ladder is using your recall in an emergency situation, I.e. when your dog is mid-chase.
But here’s the #1 mistake when training a recall
However, when dog guardians use this ladder, there is one common but fatal mistake, which I see over and over again: All the steps and scenarios in the middle of this ladder haven’t been worked on and scaffolded effectively. This is often overlooked and the process is rushed through. And so the recall fails.
Set Up your Dog’s Recall for Success
In order for your recall to function in a ‘Step 10 situation,’ all of these things need to be properly worked through to create a firm scaffold for the cue and the behaviour. Without this, your recall can’t be expected to work or fully relied upon in a Step 10 scenario.
Customizing Your Recall Ladder for Your Dog’s Needs
So, you need to keep an eye out for opportunities to practice and scaffold your recall. Each ladder will look different for every individual dog. So, it’s a good idea to get a pen and piece of paper and write down what each step would look like for your own dog.
Once you have a clear idea of the types of scenarios you are looking for, you can actively seek these opportunities to practice and scaffold your recall.
The Role of Disengagement in Recall
Recall is all about disengagement; though this is not always predatory. It could be that you need your dog to disengage and return to you when they see another dog, a child on swing, a jogger, a cyclist, etc. The aim is to get your dog to choose to disengage and return back to you. When this is scaffolded and practiced effectively, a recall becomes second nature to your dog and an instant reaction for them. However, this can only be achieved when you fully scaffold this cue and behaviour.
Benefits of Effective Scaffolding
Think of the scaffold as a support system for your dog, allowing them to succeed no matter what distractions are happening around them. Without effective scaffolding, the foundations will fall apart and leave you feeling frustrated as your dog disappears into the distance instead of responding to your recall cue!
So, now you know the importance of not only laying solid foundations for your dog’s recall, but also how to scaffold it effectively, it’s time to put it into practice! Before long, you will have a super-reliable recall no matter what is going on in your dog’s environment. What are you waiting for?