Sunday, September 11, 2011

Your Dog is Not A Fish: Using a longline to teach recalls

We recommend practicing in lots of environments to get very fluent and reliable behaviors.  It's especially important to practice in the environment where you most need the behavior.

For safety reasons, we can't just let your dog off leash in the front yard to work on recalls. And  we don't want to give the dog opportunities to make errors or practice other behaviors (chasing squirrels).

The magic of a longline!  We use longlines for puppies, small and medium sized dogs, and only big dogs under certain circumstances.  We talk about using a harness and safely handling the line (no ropeburn for dogs or humans).  

For big dogs, we tend to only use the longline in already fenced areas, giving us the chance to just let go if we think holding on could cause damage to the dog or person.

What we never -ever- ever -ever- do is reel in the dog like a fish.   I always follow that sentence with, "well...if you saw a tornado coming or a car...then yes, do what you have to."   If you have a lesser emergency, like needing to go to work, do not reel in your dog.  Pick up the line and walk to your dog. You can gather in the line as you go. It's not the dog coming to you, you are going to your dog.  Then you can hold the line at a normal leash length and walk him to the house.

Reeling in dogs teaches them to come when reeled in. It's not a bad skill, but it's 100% different than coming-when-I-call.   Reeling in as a response to an incorrect response does -not- teach the dog he "has" to come when called.  It teaches him he has to come when reeled in.

The real danger is that people then think the dog knows to come when called...and the dog learns to come when called (or else be reeled in).   When the line comes off.... the dog knows it's come when called or go chase squirrels. There is no risk of fish-reeling in.   And then the people get very sad that,"HE KNOWS when the line is on!"

Just like dogs that learn to not jump on the counter if a human is in the room....this is a much harder problem to fix.  We have to go back to small fenced areas, completely off leash.  Dragging a longline in safe fenced areas.  Training the recall in small fenced areas.  Working on all the recall parts separately.  It's really much easier to just not reel the dog in the first place.

1 comment:

Catalina said...

Gah! Wish I had known this sooner! It makes sense though!