Teaching a reliable Recall

Recall is an important tool in your training arsenal. And as with most training, its the simple things that can make a difference. There are ways to reinforce and build a strong recall, and things you can do in your yard or even in your house to make that happen. I would like to provide you with some tricks to help make your dogs recall solid and reliable.

* Your dog must have a very good stay to begin this recall work, both sit and down stay on leash. Always begin work in a sterile environment, just you and your dog with no distractions. Have your dog on leash in sit/stay position. Step in front of the dog, going to the end of a 6′ lead, and simply call the dog to you. “Come Venus!” Using your hand to motion as well as a slight jiggle of the leash to incorporate both verbal and physical commands. When the dog gets to you, make sure they do NOT pass by you, get them to sit directly in front of you. This can be done from both sit and down positions, but I like to start with the sit as it is easier to work from. I also prefer to have treats to offer as incentive and you can help “guide” them into you by keeping the treat directly in front of you. Make sure they do not receive the treat until they have successfully returned AND sat down in front of you.  Sitting at the end of the recall is the completion of the command so it is crucial you implement that final step.

* Recall work can be taught at any given time throughout your day. One key piece of advice is to make sure not every time you call the dog it is associated with something unpleasant for the dog or you will create a scenario where they do not wish to comply. Example, the dog is out playing in the yard, you need to go to work. Every morning it is the same routine, you call and call but the dog keeps running from you. You offer treats, it works for a little while but they eventually grow wise to that trick as well. You created the problem without even knowing you were. To stop this particular situation from even developing, it is important you start from the very beginning so they are taught that something positive is associated with them answering your calls. Call them, give them loves, sometimes a treat when they come, then send them on their way to play again. This will keep them guessing and not predict what action they will receive. This works both in the house and in the yard. Keep in mind the end game is to make sure your dog comes to you each time you call it, and if it believes it will receive a reward when it does that makes it more likely to answer that call.

Consistency is important when it comes to any kind of training, and it is the little things that can create a big problem or help in creating a well-trained, well-behaved dog!


Rebecca Hawk
Is your energy feeding your dogs behavior?

Does the environment in which a dog is exposed to play a part in their behavior? Can they develop traits from prolonged exposure to chaos that will manifest itself in the way they act and interact with others? I am not an "expert" in dog behavior, I can only state what I have observed over my years of dog training and interacting with a broad scale of dogs in various settings.

My first example is their environment. One dog in particular, we will call him Scout, is a regular at our facility for boarding and training. He is a German Shepherd Dog who just turned one year old in May 2016. I have been working with him since he was just a couple months old with the first few training sessions being at his house, the lady of the house was the one to handle him. The household consists of husband, wife and two young boys one of which is autistic. Scout is being trained to be a service dog for the autistic son. The chaos within the household made the training sessions virtually impossible to complete, so we began the boarding/training at our facility.

Scout behaves just fine when he is with us. He of course has those puppy issues still, but he has matured and understands his parameters within our house during his visits here. The environment at our school is relaxed, calm, pretty chill. He gets to run and play, has his lessons, lives in the house free to roam and explore and maintains his discipline for the most part. Once he returns home it is a completely different story. He does well for the first couple of days, but without the consistent discipline and understanding of his role within their family he begins to feed off the chaotic energy that is ever present. He starts misbehaving, getting into things he never even thinks of getting into at our school. He does certain things that he knows is unacceptable here but there he seems to think that it's cool.

Another example is exposure to different types of dogs. When my training sessions get to a certain point I introduce the dog in training to my personal dog Venus. She is a 5 year old albino Doberman Pinscher that has a very docile, calming personality. She still romps and plays but when she is done, she is done. It never fails, whenever I introduce her to one of the dogs I am working with, they will feed off her chill energy. Of course they are curious at first, wanting to play and have fun. Eventually they will relax more and maintain the discipline and training.

In a different session I have another dog that has the exact opposite personality. She is more hyper, still just a puppy in some aspects only being about 14 months old as of June 2016. She loves to play, has high energy and is great with other dogs. We will call her June. When I introduce her to the dog in training, I receive the exact opposite reaction. The dog in training will almost always forget their training and it will be almost like starting all over again with the discipline and corrections. The energy that comes from June seems to feed the dog in training, no matter what their demeanor is.

These different distractions are great tools I use to help with the discipline of the dogs in training, slowly working them towards the energy of June, testing and elevating their level of training along the way. June is blessed to have a calm environment she resides in or it is possible she could be one of those energetic dogs that wind up in a shelter. Scout needs to be removed periodically from the chaos that he is surrounded by in order to get back to his obedient self. With his constant visitations he has shown me he has the potential to be well-behaved dog, but his lack of leadership and the consistent distractions at his home has slowed his progress and may have an impact on his prolonged behavior. This will be an ongoing study for me, seeing what impact my training and behavior modification can have on an inconsistent regimen.

Of course there are always going to be exceptions and other factors will also help in determining the behavior of any dog. But sometimes it can be something as simple as changing the mood or "feel" of the current environment to help make adjustments in the way your dog is acting.

Take care


Dog training is a process requiring time and patience .

I have noticed many people have an expectation of dog training that is so unrealistic it is unfair to the dog. Social media is flooded with people posting their dogs doing amazing things – balancing treats on their head, skate boarding, dancing with their human partner, etc etc etc.  As entertaining as this is, being a dog trainer I know the hours and hours and HOURS that went into getting the dog to that level. Granted, there are a select few that just “click” and makes the training easier, but like humans not all dogs are built the same!

Dogs are not machines. And dog training is not a quick fix to all your doggy issues. It is a process, it requires work on the owners part, dedication and commitment as well as time and patience. You don’t have to put hours a day into your dog to get them to learn the basics and behave, but you will need to set aside time each day to work on commands, especially in the beginning of any training program. Be true to what you need from your dog and what you can actually get from the dog. Dog’s are amazing and I love working with them, but they do have limitations to what tasks they can perform and what they can do.

If you are looking for them to have fun with you (“I want my dog to play fetch with me.”), then you need to find something THEY enjoy doing, not something you WANT them to do. You can’t make a dog want to fetch. My doberman has absolutely no desire to play with toys, at all. None of them. She never has. I tried introducing several different toys, absolutely no interest. Why would I want to try and stress her out by making her do something for my enjoyment that is not fun for her? This is not about training, this is you projecting your desires onto your dog. Find their funzone and let them be a dog!

Not all dogs make good protection dogs. Some dogs would lick the bad guy to death, others would cower behind the owner. There is no amount of training you can do that is going to change that. If you are not sure of your dogs qualifications, seek out the advice and help of a professional so they can better assess if your dog is fit to perform as you need/wish them to.

Even in training a dog should enjoy what they do. It is work at times, it is not always fun but it should not be too stressful or put too much pressure on the dog to where it breaks their spirit or makes them apprehensive. I was working a German Shepherd Dog on just hand signals, no verbal commands, with a very loose leash. The owner was across the way observing while practicing with their other dog. They made a comment later about how happy the Shepherd was, his tail was wagging the entire time. Other dogs I have trained or am training get so excited when I come for the classes or to pick them up, the owners are thrilled they are learning AND are happy doing it. They look forward to it (dog and owner both)! I insist on that, the dog MUST enjoy the training. Which is why they should not be forced to be something they are not.

So, at the end of the day not every dog is going to be the latest YouTube sensation, but they can be a star in your eyes!! Having a well-mannered dog is a goal nearly every dog owner can reach.

Happy Tails!


Are we there yet?

With social media and access to video editing it is easy to believe that dog training can be a snap of the fingers and your dog is just amazing. This is not the case, not typically anyways. Dog training requires consistency, dedication and some effort on the owners part to get results from your fur buddy.  So many times I will hold my first one hour class with a new client, provide them with the tasks to work on during the week and upon returning will be greeted with "my dog is not perfect!"  My response, are they getting better, do you see an improvement? If they did as they were instructed the answer should be yes. If it is, then I say that is a good thing!! Accept that victory and let's continue building this foundation. Patience and dedication is necessary to make progress, and there are steps that are required in order to get to that level. One week of learning how to walk on the left is NOT going to teach the dog off-leash heel! 

Contrary to what the internet has shown us, there is a system when it comes to dog training. I usually use the analogy of building a house. You must first have a good foundation before you can start to put up the walls. The basics are that foundation - heel on lead, sit, down, stay and come when called. Those must be taught on leash and up-close before you can advance to any distraction or distance work. Any time you introduce a variation on the commands, you must be attached and close to your dog. 

A good example of this is my group class environment. I have seasonal group classes which are open only to those dogs that are at a certain level in their obedience training. Each and every dog I have personally worked with and it has shown good advancement in the home environment. The next step in their training is distraction work and taking them out of their home. It never fails, when the dog is introduced to so many other dogs and people in a place most have never been to it acts like it has never heard a command before!! They do not want to heel properly, they are slow and not consistent with their sit, down and stay. The owners are shocked and stunned, "I can't believe my dog is acting like this!! They do so well at home!" I tell them it is normal, it is exactly as I had expected them to behave and it is necessary to get to the next level. We are putting up the walls now, so to speak. 

I tell the owners be patient and stick with the training. By the end of the class the majority of the dogs have settled in and are more consistent with the basics. Many of them I have doing an extended stay with distractions as well as a nice heel with all the other dogs by the end of the first group session. 

So, don't let social media or "reality TV" trick you into believing there is a magic wand that will get your dog perfect with little or no effort. Most dog's can be trained, but there is work that is required to make it happen.