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Real Life Recalls

Yesterday, I sat in my office poking at a few things on my desk, when I heard the distinct sounds of Lilly trying to sass the mules next door. While the mules actually handle her barking and bossing quite well, I’d rather she not get kicked. So, I went to the front door and said in a mostly normal tone of voice — “Lilly, COME.” And, she did. I’m not saying it was perfect, but here is what made it better than your average recall.

I was out of sight. She could not see me. I could not see her.

She was a good half-acre away from the house, so we had distance as a challenge.

She gave up what she was doing and came inside.

I did not holler. I did not repeat the cue, but I did offer other encouragement.

It wasn’t the fastest recall in the world. It took a good 60 seconds for her to make it up to the house.


I first read about the recall as a many part response in Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. Her point, as I remember it, is that getting a dog to COME actually requires several things to happen, including stopping whatever the dog is currently doing, turning toward you, and then coming to you.

While I won’t put any trophies on the shelf or even dare compare this little real-life success to the kinds of off-leash, high-distraction recalls KB has on her Labs, I offer this as an example of how little work around the house (in addition to regular formal training scenarios) pays off.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

KB - August 27, 2009

That’s a good point about recalls being really a multi-part task. I’d never thought about it that way.

I’m interested in your opinion on K’s current fear phase caused by a thyroid imbalance. I’ve decided to simply avoid all the things that are scaring her. In the past, I’ve tried to counter-condition in these phases with no success whatsoever. I’ve also unsuccessfully tried the ‘ask her to do something she’s good at in the places where she’s scared’ approach (e.g. nose touch my hand). So, my thinking is that she might actually escape her fears sooner after her thyroid levels return to normal if I don’t give her the opportunity to ‘practice’ being scared. What do you think?

Sam - August 27, 2009

The “stop what they’re doing” part is where Marge gets stuck. Calling her when she’s sniffing something is futile.

Fortunately, her recall is very good at agility, where there are other dogs, people, and who knows what else.

I need to finish off Control Unleashed.. only got about halfway through and then just never found the time to pick it up again.

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