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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Looking for thoughts and advice on how best to train for a solid recall. Our 7-month-old puppy seems to come when he wants and ignore us when he wants, even though he knows the command. Do I need better treats? Should we play more games (like hide-and-seek)? What do others do?

And should I treat every time? I've been going by the thinking of treat until the behaviour is solid (clicker training with a kibble that's not form his regular meals).

Thanks.
 

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High value treats, it may be food, toys or praise. Something that is special just for coming to you.

I'm trying slices of string cheese at this point to get Zoey in the house when we call. All of us in the house use the string cheese as the treat and treat all the time for now. So far it's been working.

Also do you train recall on leash? By training on a leash or longer (training) lead your dog can get a little tug to start the moving with a lot of happy "good boy!" as he's coming toward you with a final reward. Do you recall for no reason and send him on his way to play again? If you set up the recall to only come to you so you can take him inside or stop him he will associate that and not want to come. I will bring Zoey to the dog park and call her to come every so often so that she responds while being occupied and then let her continue to play, unfortunately I usually don't bring treats with me there (I did once and I had all the dogs responding to my command!) My wife kind of laughs because I use "come" for the recall whenever I just want her to come to me and I use "let's go inside" for us to go into the house when we're in the backyard.

The recall takes a lot of work and it can be frustrating. Zoey will listen about 80-90% of the time so I'm not truly successful yet. She's about 11 months old now and she seems to be getting better at responding to all of her commands so it may be an age thing as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Well, we kind of screwed everything up because we didn't really start training recall until a month or so ago (he's our first puppy!) Then Mowat started eating poop and getting more interested in other people's houses that are along the trail where we take him so we realized we had to put him on leash until we have a solid recall. We've started with the long leash which he does great on but when we try to let him off on the trail, he'll come back to us and get his treat and then go off until he finds a nice bit of poop and then he won't come at all because he knows we don't like him eating poop. The dog mind: complicated, eh!

I'll try the higher calibre treats! String cheese is a great idea.
 

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First thing to know - we all make mistakes and learn from them. Our first dog was a Beagle and we knew NOTHING! It was over 30 years ago and the first year was a nightmare. Our last dog was much easier as we learned some things from our previous dog but there was a long time period between them, we also lucked out as Maggie was a super smart and low energy dog ... but I knew nothing about different breed needs. Now with Zoey we are trying to make it that much better and the internet is a great resource!

Something that I learned in obedience class... recall the dog, have him sit, reach for (grab) his collar and then give the reward. It gets the dog used to not just coming and running away.

And poop is a highly prized treat ... Zoey loves the rabbit poop that she finds in our back yard!
 

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Recall games!

Stand him between two people, call him back and forth and treat him every time. Never call for anything unpleasant. If you've tried a word and it's failed, or you've used it to do anything he doesn't love (like a bath) find a new word. 100% positive, ALL THE TIME. Call and release multiple times, before going home so coming doesn't always mean an end to fun. make recalling the most awesome game EVER.
 

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We're working on this too, most lately with eggs as a special treat only for recall. I cut each hard boiled egg into 2 or 3 pieces. She failed a recall once - she really wanted to see the neighbor, gave up half a hotdog for the opportunity! Good sized hunks of meat work well for my dog too - turkey, roast beef, etc.

For us it's THE most important command, so only the very best treats, only used for this one thing. We've just worked in the pasture and driveway so far, with her dragging her leash. Instead of using a word I whistle a certain way. Along with random whistle recalls, when she just happens to come up to me in the pasture I give her a little piece of dog biscuit or something to help keep her attention and to reward for staying kinda close by. It's working, just as people on this forum have advised!
 

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I gave my dog homemade treats which fortunately her favorite! made it myself, and I always make her feel appreciated :) telling her "good girl" when she did something good, always do that and rub her and kiss her.
 

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First, expect that a 7 month old puppy will regress in recall training and need extra work. It's really common for them to have the attitude of "what's in it for me?" I would use a long line so he can't self-reinforce and run away. Eventually you can phase out the long line when he's reliable with it.

Second, make every recall the best thing on the planet. Get super high value treats (I'd use more than kibble, something like chicken or steak) and throw a big party every time he comes to you. Don't call him for anything unpleasant like a bath or nail trim -go get him instead.
 

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Additional suggestion:
1. Keep working on the recall
2. but also Teach "Leave it" then practice it on poop... using high value substitutes (not sure what is better :) )
3. After you have Leave it working, then say "Leave it" and then "Come!"
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks, Dog Person! I started training Mowat when he was quite young, never having done it before, and was hard on both myself and him. Finally realized that more positive and calm I was, the better he responded. He's our second dog. Our first we never really trained, which is too bad because he was pretty neurotic and would have been happier, I think, had he had more guidance. I've tried your suggestion: having him sit and holding his collar first. Thanks for that! And Mowat loves rabbit poop too!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks, everyone, for your great suggestions! Yesterday we took Mowat to this field with huge mounts of sand still covered in snow (we're in northern Manitoba) and played hide-and-go seek with him over and around them. Would call him and when he found us, rewarded with bits of cheese strings (great idea!) It was really fun!

This afternoon we took him on a long leash to the trail behind our house where he has a history of running away from us to eat poop (we've stopped chasing after him, in order to try to break that habit, and "leave it" doesn't seem to work with that, even though he's an expert with other things. Sigh).

He did an terrific job of running back and forth and coming when called. We had one piece of cheese string left and let him run on ahead, dragging his leash but he went far enough that we saw he'd found something. We called him one more time, saw him consider, and then he picked up the thing he found and started carrying it back to us - now there's progress!!! Unfortunately, half way "home" he decided to drop it and roll in it - it was a dead muskrat. But, still, he did respond (although we did not treat him and simply brought him home).

It made us laugh though!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Further questions: How long do we keep using the cheese? How do we phase it out? He also is jumping up, because he's excited about the cheese, I guess, and this morning jumped up and bit my hand. Do we not give him cheese then?

Thanks so much!
 

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Look up "Doggie Zen". He needs to learn that the fastest way to get the cheese is to not jump for it. Basically, just stand there holding the cheese, and wait for him to sit or at least put all four feet on the floor, then say "yes" and give him a treat.

And I wouldn't try to phase out the treats too quickly. You don't want to be luring with them, or showing them to the dog before he'll return, but it's only been a week or two. He needs to build up a lot of association with recall being the best thing EVER before you expect him to do it without any reward. Personally, I like to always have some treats on me, so the dog is kept guessing about whether or not he'll get the reward. I want to keep recall as strong as possible.
 

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Further questions: How long do we keep using the cheese? How do we phase it out? He also is jumping up, because he's excited about the cheese, I guess, and this morning jumped up and bit my hand. Do we not give him cheese then?

Thanks so much!
You've got to work on his impulse control. There's lots of ways to do that, and you can actually do it in different ways as appropriate to the situation. But you've GOT to DO IT. Adolescent dogs especially often need extra work on that. They've left behind their puppy attitude and are kind of 'feeling their oats' if you know what I mean. Don't let that impulse control slide during this time. You don't want him getting his rewards for jumping and nipping, do you?

As far as fading is concerned, it's kind of up to you as to how you handle fading rewards. Although there isn't a bright-line difference between rewards and lures, it really depends on what you are training for.

For a regular recall, I'm assuming you're rewarding for returning to the 'zone' you have set for that. In that case, we don't fade the rewards much at all. What would be the point? OTOH, if you're trying to bring that 'zone' in closer than it is, obviously you change your reward strategy. Once we've established that 'zone', we don't actually fade the rewards. If we get a good recall and we don't have a treat on us, that's just the way it is. But we don't actually make an issue of it and we do reward a good recall as often as we can. For a high food drive dog, nothing beats a food reward. And every tine you give one, you're conditioning your dog to take food as a reward for behaviors. In other words, you're channeling drive into motivation. Makes future training for new behaviors easier.

For a competition recall (a "front") , we have to be a bit more careful, of course. We may change the reward strategy as needed. Maybe we need to keep the finish done correctly. Or maybe we have to be careful of anticipation, so we might fade rewards to control that. But in the case of competition training, we're careful not to make it a "ring thing".

This is really something you've got to work out for yourself, what's appropriate for your dog, and the overall context.
 
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