Doggy Dash - Racing Recalls
Pairs of dogs race against each other and the winning dogs go through to the next round. Each dogs is held at the Start Line by a steward who releases the dog as soon as the judge says, “Ready, steady go!” The first dog to sit across the Finish Line wins and goes through to the Second Round. Dogs are disqualified if they leave their racing lane. Winning dogs from the Second Round go through to the Quarter Finals. Eventually, two dogs compete in the Final to determine who is the fastest dog of the competition.
Slow recalls and no recalls are quite common with many pet dogs. Unless numerous short training interludes have been thoroughly integrated into the dog’s off-leash investigation and play (by frequent come here/go play, come here/go play sequences), for many dogs, “Come Here” usually signals the end of an otherwise very enjoyable off-leash romp. And of course, it doesn’t improve matters that the contorted-faced owner is screaming, “COME HERE YOU MISERABLE CUR!!!”
On the other hand, prompt and fast recalls are seldom a problem for dogs that compete in the Doggy Dash. The handlers become extremely lively and animated and so not surprisingly, the dogs come flying at warp speed. The dog now has good reason to come when called to his happy owner and will be more than praised when he gets there. In fact, in the Doggy Dash most dogs come so fast that a reliable recall is pretty much a given. Winning this game is all about teaching your dog to sit quickly. So many times I have seen the first dog to cross the Finish Line come second, because he shot through the owner’s legs, circled, barked and jumped up.
Increase the speed of your dog’s sit by practicing multiple, short come-sits and differentially reinforcing only the quicker sits. Take one step back and then instruct and signal your dog to Come and Sit. Repeat this sequence 20 times with ten pieces of kibble and three pieces of cheese or liver in your hand. Give no feedback to your dog if you have to repeat the verbal command or hand signal. Similarly, give no feedback for slow Sits. Only praise your dog and offer a single piece of kibble for the faster Sits. And for the fastest Sits… celebrate as if your dog has won the Olympics, praise, hug, jump up and down and offer one or two pieces of cheese or liver.
When competing, your timing is crucial. Stand on the Finish Line when calling your dog and hold your signal hand out in front as a point of focus for the dog. As your dog crosses the halfway point, back up across the Finish Line (be careful not to fall over when running backwards) and shout and signal Sit just as your dog is two dog-lengths from the Finish Line. A seasoned competitor will dash towards you and slide across the Finish Line in a Sit-Stay.
Additionally, it is vital that your dog understands the whole point of the game — to come as quickly as possible and to be the first dog to sit across the Finish Line. It is essential that your dog understands the concept of Fast vs. Slow and it is advisable to instill a desire to win in your dog!
Even though you are going to jump up and down and scream like a banshee to get your dog to come as quickly as possible, we want to teach the dog to understand that this is a race and that urgency is essential. Whereas it makes sense to teach a slow dog to move faster, very few owners appreciate that a very fast dog can also be taught to move even faster. Training fast dogs to move faster can be quite difficult, unless you first teach your fast dog to move slowly, then the change in pace between slow and fast is quite dramatic and much more obvious to the dog and therefore, easier to put on cue.
You may train your dog while walking him on-leash. Walk in a straight line and periodically adjust your speed through three gears — very slow, normal and very fast. Your dog will soon begin to adjust his pace accordingly. Now we are going to put the dog’s change of pace on cue.
When you are walking very slowly, 1. Say, “Rover, Quickly” or “Rover, Hustle” (you may chose to use whichever verbal command you prefer… instruct your dog in French or Italian if you wish), 2. Abruptly change pace from very slow to very fast, and as soon as… 3. Your dog changes pace accordingly, 4. Praise and reward your dog. And then, when you are walking very quickly, 1. Say, “Rover, Slowly” or “Rover, Steady,” 2. Abruptly change pace from very fast to very slow and as soon as… 3. Your dog changes pace accordingly, 4. Praise and reward your dog. Repeat this training sequence a dozen or so times, and you will find your dog will speed up when you say “Rover, Quickly” and slow down when you say “Rover, Slowly.”
Now call your dog and when your dog is running towards you at Warp Factor Nine, say “Quickly! Quickly!! Quickly!!!” and you will discover that he has an extra, ultra-hyper-mega turbo drive.
Now, it’s time to teach your dog to have an overwhelming desire to win, so that he will offer that little bit extra when in competition. Practice with another handler and dog plus two dog holders. Race both dogs against each other and reward them differentially, according to who comes first and who comes second. Praise the second place dog and let him sniff a liver treat but not eat it. Celebrate with the winning dog and give him three liver treats. By staggering the starts it is easy to set it up that each dog wins 50% of the time. Periodically race and time the dogs over the standard 49-yard distance and you will see their times improve from week to week.