Life List Item #98: Perfect My Dog’s Recall – Check??

There is no such thing as perfect. This I know as well as anyone. As much as I strive for it in everything I do, I’ll never really attain the goal. Still, when it comes to my dog’s recall while off-leash, I’d like to get as close as humanly possible to the p-word.

Last night, on our walk, I think Shiva and I reached the precipice.

We were walking along the old power line trail too late in the evening. I say too late because the sky had grown dark and I try to avoid meandering through the forest when I can’t see very well. I figure not getting attacked by a coyote is a good way to live. Yesterday I must have felt like living on the edge. Or maybe I’m an idiot and just didn’t realize how early the sun goes down these days.

We’ll go with the former. It makes me sound badass.

So we were walking and Shiva was doing her whole sniff-run-sniff-run-sniff thing. It was all very normal. At least, it was normal until I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked over, all I could see were three tufts of white springing into the trees. Before I could even take in what that meant, there went my dog, bouncing into the bushes right after them.

Deer, was my first thought, almost in relief. Surprisingly, my second thought was perfectly rational as well. Given that Shiva was about to become the next cover girl for the Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network anyway.

Remember to sound happy, I reminded myself.

“Shiva!” I called in an uncharacteristically upbeat, Minnie Mouse voice. “Puppers! C’m’ere you silly girl!”

Less than two seconds later, Shiva’s head popped out of the darkness and her body followed, speeding towards me with tail wagging. I was too shocked to fully take in what had just happened. This is my excuse for not immediately putting her back on the leash. Instead I gave her a handful of treats with a side of praise and then watched her run off again in the direction of the deer.

Well that was dumb. Oops.

Yet I still managed to keep my head together. I am just as amazed as you are.

This time I pulled all the stops. I ran down the path the opposite way, skipping and whooping and taunting.

“C’mon Shivers! Let’s go this way! Woo hoo!”

I can’t lie and say a niggle of worry didn’t appear in the back of my mind. In the few seconds before Shiva emerged once more, it did occur to me that she might not come back this time. That things could be not very good at all and it would be all my fault. Luckily, I was saved from further self-flagellation when Shiva came running toward me once more, just as eager as before.

This time I was smart and grabbed her collar as I offered her the treats with my other hand. I continued the treat party while clipping on the leash, eventually giving her every last bit of kibble in my pocket, cursing myself for not bringing something of higher value.

And then we continued on our walk, as if nothing had happened. As if I hadn’t just done the impossible and successfully recalled Shiva from deer, an animal she has only previously seen from far away. An animal that is often the bane of existence for off-leash dogs everywhere. Apparently not Shiva. She has got to be the only dog in the world who finds bird seed and mud more attractive than wild animals.

Not that I am complaining.

I am really proud of her for making the right choice not once, but twice! There are posts on this very blog from two years ago filled with whining about how her recall sucked and was never going to get better. I’ve proved myself wrong and it’s a great feeling. Furthermore, I don’t want to harp on it too much but I am proud of me too. Not once did I panic last night. I kept my cool, remembered not to scream at Shiva like some sort of freaky banshee, and she rewarded me with a beautiful response. Positive reinforcement at its best.

Maybe we do make a good team after all.

15 thoughts on “Life List Item #98: Perfect My Dog’s Recall – Check??

  1. Whoooo! Practice makes nearly perfect…lets hope she doesn’t have a dog instinct moment anytime soon. Had a similar thing happen on our hike this weekend. I was checking settings or something on a shot I took, heard a deer running and figured Luna was the line chasing so I called her… By the time I looked up she was already at my side and it was Wyatt who needed to be called off for once. Can you tell we run into critters to practice on a lot?? Sometimes I even let them chase for a bit as it is one of the few ways Luna will really get tired.. I think it helps her too as she gets to do it a bit so it’s not such a novelty. Or I am just crazy. Anyhow it’s nice when training works and you are surprised by yourself and your dog. Keep up the good work

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  2. I keep getting caught heading home in the dark lately too. Good job on the recall, I think it must be the hardest thing to teach!

    My dog, Kaya has really great recall but Norman is more of a tell me twice and I’ll think about it kind of dog. On our hike this evening, Kaya got mixed up and headed down the trail going the wrong way. I called her several times and was surprised it took her so long to come. Then a couple and their dog caught up to us and told me she was running back and forth and up and down the hill every time I called because she was trying ot figure out where my voice was coming from:)

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    • Heard about a great idea for this one… Sometimes it works better to call behind you so that it does not bounce the wrong direction? May be worth a shot, whistle commands may be another idea but I would blow them behind you too if they are far off.

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  3. I’m still smiling after reading this – hooray for both of you!! I still remember the time Cali skidded to a stop when my hubby called her as she was running off with a pack of dogs, we were so proud πŸ™‚ I know exactly how you feel !

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  4. Oh Kristen that is so cool and so funny. I loved the last part when you said you weren’t screaming like a banshee! Man do I know that screw up!! And please take all the credit, you deserve it πŸ™‚ Give that Shiva a great big hug. A deer!?!? I’d have never seen my dogs again. That is truly awesome!!

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  5. Impressive! That’s so great and such a testament to how far you both have come!

    So tell me, how did you start teaching her recall? I have to admit that I am really petrified at the thought of having Blueberry off leash. Of course it would be pretty reckless for me to do so at this point since I haven’t done consistent training with her on it. But do you start in your own yard first and then graduate to somewhere else? Everywhere I go here seems to have a sign indicating that it is the law to have your dog leashed so I do wonder if it is even worth the effort.

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  6. That is awesome!! Way to go Shiva!

    And really, letting her go chase a second time was probably a good choice. At least int he Premack sense. You showed her that her fun doesn’t end just cause you call her..that sometimes she gets to go back to the fun stuff!

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  7. Good for both of you! I’ve been there, done that and with other wild animals too. The scariest was with a mama bear and two cubs when in PA with Cairo, my first ACD. She was awesome at recall and dropped in a sit immediately. I don’t think I ever hooked a leash on so fast in my life! As for the pack, they’ve been good so far and the one time Bill almost got a raccoon, it was because someone wasn’t paying attention to why he was suddenly so interested in wading through a swamp! Callie will attempt to chase deer but has been called off many times. The one time she didn’t listen was when told to leave a (dead) porcupine in the wilderness. Yup, she rolled on it. For about two seconds total. Ouch!

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