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My real name is Mercy
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Discussion Starter #1
I've ruined Max! Well, okay, not exactly ruined, but I've somehow managed to damage his "recall" hearing. I'm hoping that some of you trainers & more experienced owners can help me get him back on track.

In the early days, he would come when called almost reliably (learned in puppy class and responded quite well). These days, at 10 months, he seems to have selective hearing and will only "come" when called a) IF he feels like it b) IF I have a treat or toy in my hand and c) IF he's in a playful mood. (My repeated insistence that he respond has zero effect and in fact, has probably made him immune to it.) The rest of the time, he'll ignore the command. He is only ever off-leash in our own (fenced) yard and occasionally the dog park. He has very little opportunity to explore off leash and I think that sometimes he's just so distracted or interested by what he's doing, he blows me off! :confused:

Tippykayak has been kind enough to offer me some suggestions, (thank you again!), and I'm hoping that other people might also benefit by the responses I get here.

I'm wondering if & how you all managed to teach a truly reliable recall. Max learns most things pretty easily, but this one is a struggle.

Thank you!
-Trids
 

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Welcome to the world of a teenage boy!!!
You haven't damaged anything. He's just figured out that there are some things in his world that are HUGELY interesting, for now.
Be patient and continue to be more interesting than anything else around you. One thing I've found helps a lot is to randomly call him to come, give him a treat, and then send him right back to what he found so interesting in the first place. That way he doesn't associate the recall with "fun's over".
He'll get better as he matures. It's a trying age!
 

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Winchestersonfieldville
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I don't have any advice, but wanted to thank Hotel4dogs for that great advice about sending the dog back to what the fun was!
 

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I'm reposting part of a PM I sent Trids so I don't have to rewrite my advice:

First of all, until the recall is 99% reliable, I never call the dog when I'm not sure if he'll come. If I make a mistake and say "come" and I get ignored, I definitely don't say it again. You want to build a strong association between "come" and the desired behavior, so you don't want the dog to hear the word and not give the behavior, since that breaks down the association.

The key is to set the dog up for success each time and to reward the behavior. If the dog has selective hearing, which so may adolescent Goldens do, don't try to pit your command against an exciting distraction. A deeply ingrained habit can beat a distraction, but a word from a human just doesn't cut it.

So, start him off in a controlled situation, like inside the house. If he's food motivated, work with treats. If he's toy motivated, that works too. Either way, hide the motivator until after you get the behavior you want. That is, since he knows the command, don't wave the toy or the treat at him to get him to come. Instead, ask for the come when you know he'll probably obey, and then surprise him with a little party when he completes the action. You want him to work for you, not the toy or the treat. The reward comes after in order to make the behavior feel fun and good. It shouldn't be the motivator itself.

If you feel you've already broken down the association between "come" and coming, get a whistle. A loud, high noise can be really exciting to dogs and is good at breaking through their attention. You can add the word "come" back later once the behavior is reliable (i.e., once the whistle works, you blow the whistle and then say "come" as he's coming. After about a thousand of those, "come" should work as well as the whistle. Once you have a behavior down, you can change the way you communicate the command pretty easily.)

Other little things that help get the behavior more reliable: get his attention and then run away. If he has a little prey drive, you'll become very interesting if you turn and run a few steps. You can also stamp your feet and shuffle back a few steps as he's coming towards you. Lots of dogs dig that and it makes recall more fun. Stepping back also encourages them to come all the way to you, rather than stopping a few feet away. Always touch the collar as you give the reward, so they learn that letting you grab the collar is part of the game. Also, if you touch the collar every time, you can grab it that one in a hundred times you really need to without building an association between recall and the end of a fun time.

Lots of dogs will also come if you turn around and pretend to dig at the ground like you've found something super-cool.

If you go on off-leash walks with him, you can play hide and seek. If he runs out on the trail ahead, hide behind a rock or tree with a treat ready and make silly high pitched noises. When he finds you, throw a little party. You can actually play this in the house or backyard too. It helps him key into you and pairs fun and excitement with your commands.

Remember, if you ever find yourself yelling a dog's name over and over, or if you say a command and don't get compliance, you need to go back a step and change tactics. Also remember that rewards are about reinforcing a behavior you want, not about bribing to get the behavior in the first place.

One more thing: don't use recall to end fun times, or if you need to, practice it about ten times without ending fun for every one time you use it to end fun. If you need to use "come" to call your dog back into the house after play time, make sure you call him, put a hand on his collar, reward him, and release him about ten times during play time before you call him, actually take his collar, and go in the house. You want the association with the end of fun to be as weak as possible and the association with a party to be strong.
 

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My real name is Mercy
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Discussion Starter #5
Aaaah, adolescence, THAT'S the problem! hahaha

Thanks for the tips, although I have a hard time accepting that he finds anything more interesting than me! I've been "his" since I brought him home! Oh well, work to do! I'll take your advice and become more interesting to him somehow, and I will remember to send him back to play so he doesn't get that "fun's over" association.

Thanks again! You guys are the best.
-Trids

Welcome to the world of a teenage boy!!!
You haven't damaged anything. He's just figured out that there are some things in his world that are HUGELY interesting, for now.
Be patient and continue to be more interesting than anything else around you. One thing I've found helps a lot is to randomly call him to come, give him a treat, and then send him right back to what he found so interesting in the first place. That way he doesn't associate the recall with "fun's over".
He'll get better as he matures. It's a trying age!
 

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My real name is Mercy
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455 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks again, Brian! I appreciate you reposting your tips here. I'm sure I'm not the only one having these problems and you've got some great ideas here.
-Trids

I'm reposting part of a PM I sent Trids so I don't have to rewrite my advice:

First of all, until the recall is 99% reliable, I never call the dog when I'm not sure if he'll come. If I make a mistake and say "come" and I get ignored, I definitely don't say it again. You want to build a strong association between "come" and the desired behavior, so you don't want the dog to hear the word and not give the behavior, since that breaks down the association.

The key is to set the dog up for success each time and to reward the behavior. If the dog has selective hearing, which so may adolescent Goldens do, don't try to pit your command against an exciting distraction. A deeply ingrained habit can beat a distraction, but a word from a human just doesn't cut it.

So, start him off in a controlled situation, like inside the house. If he's food motivated, work with treats. If he's toy motivated, that works too. Either way, hide the motivator until after you get the behavior you want. That is, since he knows the command, don't wave the toy or the treat at him to get him to come. Instead, ask for the come when you know he'll probably obey, and then surprise him with a little party when he completes the action. You want him to work for you, not the toy or the treat. The reward comes after in order to make the behavior feel fun and good. It shouldn't be the motivator itself.

If you feel you've already broken down the association between "come" and coming, get a whistle. A loud, high noise can be really exciting to dogs and is good at breaking through their attention. You can add the word "come" back later once the behavior is reliable (i.e., once the whistle works, you blow the whistle and then say "come" as he's coming. After about a thousand of those, "come" should work as well as the whistle. Once you have a behavior down, you can change the way you communicate the command pretty easily.)

Other little things that help get the behavior more reliable: get his attention and then run away. If he has a little prey drive, you'll become very interesting if you turn and run a few steps. You can also stamp your feet and shuffle back a few steps as he's coming towards you. Lots of dogs dig that and it makes recall more fun. Stepping back also encourages them to come all the way to you, rather than stopping a few feet away. Always touch the collar as you give the reward, so they learn that letting you grab the collar is part of the game. Also, if you touch the collar every time, you can grab it that one in a hundred times you really need to without building an association between recall and the end of a fun time.

Lots of dogs will also come if you turn around and pretend to dig at the ground like you've found something super-cool.

If you go on off-leash walks with him, you can play hide and seek. If he runs out on the trail ahead, hide behind a rock or tree with a treat ready and make silly high pitched noises. When he finds you, throw a little party. You can actually play this in the house or backyard too. It helps him key into you and pairs fun and excitement with your commands.

Remember, if you ever find yourself yelling a dog's name over and over, or if you say a command and don't get compliance, you need to go back a step and change tactics. Also remember that rewards are about reinforcing a behavior you want, not about bribing to get the behavior in the first place.

One more thing: don't use recall to end fun times, or if you need to, practice it about ten times without ending fun for every one time you use it to end fun. If you need to use "come" to call your dog back into the house after play time, make sure you call him, put a hand on his collar, reward him, and release him about ten times during play time before you call him, actually take his collar, and go in the house. You want the association with the end of fun to be as weak as possible and the association with a party to be strong.
 

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Tracer, Rumor & Cady
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Brian's tips are great...

One of the mistakes I made early on was not reinforcing long enough...
When they do recall...reinforce for 20-30 seconds...

It is not enough to pop them a cookie or pat their head and call it good...

Time what 30 seconds feels like....its a long time....:)

sometimes I offer cookie after cookie after cookie and tell them how wonderful they are...
sometimes I drop down and give a good belly rub..
sometimes a good tuggy session...
sometimes just a sillywooohooo happy dance and encourage them to act silly...
 

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We took a class with Brady specifically for teaching reliable recall. A lot of what we were taught is exactly what Tippykayak has said here. One point they repeated in every class was DON'T call your dog if you're not absolutely sure they're going to come to you, otherwise it undermines the command. And if you do give the command and are ignored, you do whatever it takes to get your dog to comply (without repeating the command). Brian gave a lot of examples of what you can do to attract their attention (I especially like the one about pretending to dig a hole!)...our class recommended one other: Pretend to fall to the ground. Most dogs will find that interesting enough to come over to you to see what's up.
 

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One of the mistakes I made early on was not reinforcing long enough...
When they do recall...reinforce for 20-30 seconds...

It is not enough to pop them a cookie or pat their head and call it good...

Time what 30 seconds feels like....its a long time....:)
Yes! Our instructor called this "fine dining." Regular dining is you give one treat and that's it. Fine dining is when you take a high value treat like a piece of cheese or hotdog, and give it to them in tiny little pieces over a period of 20-30 seconds.
Another tip we learned in the class is to always get your dog to make eye contact with you before you call them. If they've got there nose buried in the grass, they're more likely to ignore you. But if you get their attention first by calling their name, making a sound or whatever, then call them, they're more likely to come. They also taught us a foundation exercise that help to build upon the recall: check ins. Whenever your dog walks up to you ON THEIR OWN throughout the day, say "good check in" and reward with a treat (or a toy or attention). This reinforces the association that when they come to you they get something they like.
 

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My real name is Mercy
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Discussion Starter #10
OBVIOUSLY another thing I'm doing wrong. I thought one treat & a "good boy" was enough. See, I'm learning, now if I can just transfer knowledge to him!

Brian's tips are great...

One of the mistakes I made early on was not reinforcing long enough...
When they do recall...reinforce for 20-30 seconds...

It is not enough to pop them a cookie or pat their head and call it good...

Time what 30 seconds feels like....its a long time....:)

sometimes I offer cookie after cookie after cookie and tell them how wonderful they are...
sometimes I drop down and give a good belly rub..
sometimes a good tuggy session...
sometimes just a sillywooohooo happy dance and encourage them to act silly...
 

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Today when we were out in the field, Max (is it something with the name, maybe?) decided that whatever was on the other side of the creek was far more interesting than me. I called him a bunch of times and he didn't even look up. I wish I had read this thread earlier! Max is two but he still has selective hearing when we're outside, so I'm going to start putting a lot of this advice to use, thank you!
 

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Humankind. Be both.
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Yes! Our instructor called this "fine dining." Regular dining is you give one treat and that's it. Fine dining is when you take a high value treat like a piece of cheese or hotdog, and give it to them in tiny little pieces over a period of 20-30 seconds.
Another tip we learned in the class is to always get your dog to make eye contact with you before you call them. If they've got there nose buried in the grass, they're more likely to ignore you. But if you get their attention first by calling their name, making a sound or whatever, then call them, they're more likely to come. They also taught us a foundation exercise that help to build upon the recall: check ins. Whenever your dog walks up to you ON THEIR OWN throughout the day, say "good check in" and reward with a treat (or a toy or attention). This reinforces the association that when they come to you they get something they like.
Wow... I thought for sure you were one of my students! I give practically the SAME SPEECH for recall! I talk about the difference between fast food and fine dining. Fast food is the one cookie/good boy/pat on the head. It's us eating a meal from a paper sack. Fine dining is a bunch of cookies broken into little pieces and given out one at a time with praise, petting, belly rubs and lots of goodness that lasts 20+ seconds. It's the 5 star dining with a handsome waiter!
 

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I love this forum. I had never heard the suggestion of feeding them one treat after another. I have used jackpots of a few high value treats at once, I've used lots of praise and belly rubs, but have never tried feeding Rookie one treat after another as you described. I'm always so happy when I learn something new that will help with training.
 

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A few more things. . . If you feel like COME is a word Max already sees as negative or optional, you can change to a new word and then carefully build the recall with it: "Front" is good if you'd eventually like him to come and sit in front of you when called, but any word will work if you use it consistenly.

Sometimes, randomly run away from Max in a playful way when he is looking at you; whne he chases, give the Max COME command just before he gets to you. Then, treat and praise.

If you can get someone Max likes to help you, play a bunch of fun recall games with a hide N seek theme.

Have someone hold Max's collar while you run and hide with an amazing treat. Call him from your hiding place and give him a HUGE party/jackpot of praise and treats when he finds you. Get in the habit of hiding from him when his attention wanders, then call and again throw him a Max_Is -Awesome party. (Adding the search element gives them the idea/association that coming is fun and channels that same element that makes a rabbit hunt fun.)

Always make it nice for Max when he comes, and don't take it for granted. Even with my almost 7 year old, I make sure I say "Nice to see you, Puppy" in a happy tone. Take care they never associate coming back with being leashed; call ten times more for fun than for serious reasons. There is nothing worse than when people(not you!) call COME to their dogs and then get frustrated and either start pleading or just forget it

Post office is another excellent recall game. Just have two three, or four people take turns saying Max! COOOOOOMMMMMMEEEEEE! When he gets to each person, he sits in front of them and receives a great treat. Then, someone new calls him. It's like Monkey In The Middle with a twist.

Sometimes, Max will make a beeline for you of his own free will. He wants to be petted or you have a ball. Take advantage of when he's already en route and teach him the word association: MAX, COME- Good COME." "Excellent COME, Max. Dogs can learn backwards as well as forwards, lol.

One school of thought says never to use the actual word "come" unless you're 1000 percent sure you're going to get one, and I agree with that. If you're only 50/50% if he'll come when you call, use something else like "pup, pup, pupeeee" in an inviting tone. My golden Raleigh grew up at a summer camp where something more fun than me was always happening, and no treat was more tempting than 480 dog-loving kids and staff swimming in the lake or playing soccer. I had to make an ironclad rule for myself not to call him futiley, when it was just unlikely that he'd muster the self-discipline to come. I'd ask someone to snag his collar and go get him in a friendly way. It is too easy to untrain "come" in a puppy by saying the word and then having it not happen.

A few recall words/phrases other than "come" are useful too in keeping "come" a magic word that is always obeyed. I have about 98 % faith that my dogs will recall under any circumstance- even a deer. BUT, I use "ALL DOGS" to call my whole group at once and "Be With Your Family(random, I know) to signify staying close underfoot but not on a leash if, say, a hiker is coming the opposite way on a trail or tourist are sitting on a picnic blanket at the beach and we have to pass by. I want to keep "COME" a special word with only one meaning. Too many people use come for "in the ballpark of me". Another phrase crazy Raleigh had to learn was "ALL THE WAY" for come right to me. He liked the idea of the ballpark come, but learned it didnt fly bc he had to come all the way every time. The last word I sometimes use instead of "come" is "FRONT". That is all business(fun in a different way) and tells the dog he is working and must come to a very precise sit right in front of me where an imaginary belt buckle would be, and that other commands will follow.

Another good oldie-but -goody is to turn a little away from the dog while calling. Humans accidently put social pressure on a dog by taking a step forward to meet him, though with the best of intentions. Even staring to intently can put off a shy dog. Scootching down and opening your arms wide is great for some dogs, but intimidating to others. Your body langauge can really help or hurt the process. Now that he's a middle aged guy, I can recall Finn by dropping to one knee and opening my arms- it's cute. However, my past dog Cady would stop ten feet from that. She'd come all the way if I took a step back.

Lastly, and Tippykayak has a great post about this somewhere lost in the past threads, imo there is a time for a swift decisive moment that is more old school monks than positive training. Sometimes a "teenage" pup might stop, look at you, and ignore you. If you are sure the pup knows what you want and you can get to him, be an avenging angel for theater's sake. This takes a ton of good timing etc, but is a great learning experience if it is done wisely and well once in a lifetime. Tally and Tango never needed it, but Acadia did once stop, gaze at me, and then turn her back and trot away. I sprinted as quietly as I could, and she was shocked to find herself getting a stern NO! Who knew humans could run so fast? It's the element of surprise that works here, and creating a little belief in the pup that you actually can catch him/her if you choose to. (Ha!). Once you call out "Max, Come", you are locked in and you have to go get him. This is controversial advice, and I don't really adovcate it philosphically, but when it is just right, it is key.
 

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Lastly, and Tippykayak has a great post about this somewhere lost in the past threads, imo there is a time for a swift decisive moment that is more old school monks than positive training.
I go back and forth on this. It used to make a lot more sense to me when the proportion of corrections in my training was higher. The dog gets rewarded for compliance, but clear acts of non-compliance have to be made unpleasant or the dog doesn't learn to avoid non-compliance. Makes sense, right?

Now, I'm not so sure. When I whistle for the dogs and their heads come up and around on the course back to me, I don't think the correction is a fundamental part of that behavior. When Jax ignored me a couple of months after I got him, I said "No!" in my loud, deep, scary voice, and I was going to go grab him, and he just crouched down where he was, showing appeasing behaviors and looking like I had hit him. I hate seeing that in a dog, and I stopped where I was and changed my tactic.

I was afraid that since I had gotten Jax later than normal (17 weeks), that I'd have to be tougher to ingrain the desired behavior. I'm not so sure that's the case, though. I'm really starting to believe more and more that the habit of obedience is what is so powerful in the dog's mind, not the fear of punishment. Behavioral science confirms to us over and over that behaviors reinforced with aversives begin to lose their reliability as soon as you remove the aversive.

So, when Gus was 6 and hadn't ignored a single recall in five years of hiking in six states, was he really still responding to that time I caught him when he was three months old? Or had the positive repetition of recall practice dug a deep channel in his mind that at that particular whistled sound, you turn and run back to your family? I'm really starting to feel that it's the latter. The dog sees a deer, but that whistle means something deeper and more constant. He doesn't think "Is going back more fun than chasing deer?" He doesn't think at all. He hears the whistle and his body turns itself around because that's what happens every time and it feels good.

Dogs are, even more than humans, creatures of habit, driven by the outcomes they're used to. I think that's the core of reliability in training, more so than pressure or avoidance.

I do think it's helpful to have a scary "no!" in your back pocket for times you're confronted with a situation you haven't had a chance to practice. It's a safety thing. At the same time, I'm absolutely confident that fear and pain have no place in the regular, daily, repeated training pattern.
 

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My real name is Mercy
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Discussion Starter #18
Excellent advice, Jill! Thank you. Lots of great tips, thank you for giving me some more options for Max. I realize that each dog is different and will respond to different stimuli....for Max, me running away, scootching down with my arms open wide and using a word other than "come" all sound like a good fit. Thanks for the ideas! I can't wait to get home & try some of them.
Thanks again!
-Trids
 
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