Fetching A Really Reliable Recall!

It's Tuesday night, the beginner dog training class is in their second week of training.  Owners and dogs arrive at the field. As they walk up to the training area,  most are carrying backpacks and chukka sticks in hand.  Everyone makes their way to the large open grassy field, they immediately remove their dog’s leashes and urge their dogs to “go!” As their dogs run ahead, at what appears to be the speed of light, they quickly turn and hold an attentive eye on their owner, not their dog friends!  They know that if they keep their eyes on their owners, something really great will happen.  Suddenly tennis balls are screaming across the field, to the left, to the right, out in front, they are everywhere!  Dogs are trying their best to avoid each other in their attempt to retrieve a ball and get it back to their owner as quickly as possible.  A whistle blows in the distance and Sudo, a Brindle Boxer, picks up speed weaving in and out of the other dogs, leaping over a pug on his way back to his owner!  When Sudo arrives with the ball, Sudo’s owner cues him to drop the ball as she extends her finger towards him with a bit of salmon, the ball immediately comes to life again!  Dogs are competing against each other to get the balls back as quickly as possible.  After about 20 minutes, the dogs are winding down, tongues hanging to the ground.  The students attach their leashes and walk their dogs across the field to practice a down/stay.  As they say, when opportunity knocks, open the door.  What a great time to practice a down/stay, when the dog is physically tired and relaxed!

You may ask, “How, in just two classes, were the dog owners able to let their dogs run free without worrying that they wouldn’t take off?”  The answer is simple; the students have conditioned reinforcers for their dogs, tennis balls and whistles!  Coming back to their owner is FUN, all good things continue, they don’t end.  More times than not, dogs refuse to come to their owners because they end up being put back on a leash and drug back home or their owner is simply boring.

The recall game holds the dog’s interest, conditions super attention, gives the dog a purpose/job, provides exercise, reduces stress, forms positive associations within the environment and most importantly, everyone wins while having FUN!  So let’s play ball!