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Emergency recall training???

May 3rd, 2007, 11:59 AM
I was hoping someone could help me out with this.

Yesterday I took Helix outside to pee and because I had a bunch of other stuff in my hands, the leash slipped out of my hands (it's happened twice before as well). Our backyard isn't fully fenced and he made a break for the back corner along the garage where he can get out of the alley as soon as he realized there was no leash to stop him. Of course, I initially chased him yelling "Helix COME!" and of course he looked back at me with a big happy smile and kept on going! What a fun game mom! I was afraid to stop chasing- what if he kept going? I would never catch up then! But I stopped just past the back of the garage and he stopped almost immediately (about 20 feet from me) to smell the grass in the alley. I quietly snuck up to him and grabbed the leash just as he was about to start the chase game again. Thank dog I was able to get him! We live close to a major street and he could have been injured or worse had he gone that far.

So from this learning experience we want to learn an emergency recall word and/or sound. Obviously he has very poor recall using "come" - he will respond about 60% of the time, but it really depends on if there is something "better" than us to be distracted by (he is part husky after all). I admit we are inconsistent in the house, and let him get away with not coming to us immediately and using it in situations where we don't have a yummy treat ready (he's not the type of dog that really gets the "praise" thing) and I don't want to rely on "come" in an emergency situation. I want him to come back IMMEDIATELY, not when he feels like it so we need to teach him a command that is ONLY used in emergencies so he's (hopefully) more responsive.

I have read other posts about words used or dog whistles. Do you think I could use both? Here's what I was thinking. We would start out in the house of course, and with him beside me and paying attention to me, I would say "Helix BACK", blow the dog whistle, make him sit and then grab his collar. He would then get a super yummy treat reserved only for emergency recall training (we bought some turkey & duck Wellbites- they are largish squares- for this purpose). We would repeat this over and over so he would associate "back" and the whistle with the treat. Then with him across the room, I would pull out the treats (this will likely get his attention) and go through the routine- he will probably run to me because he wants the treat BOL! But we would always set him up for success. After a week of this, we would hopefully try to move on to calling him from another room or upstairs- same routine. Then into the backyard with his 20 foot retractable leash, then to a nice grassy area with more distractions, then the dog park, etc. Until he is reliable on leash with the command. We would then move to off leash training in a "borrowed" fenced backyard or a tennis court. Finally off leash training in the country, maybe my parents farm. It will take time and persistence, but I think we can do it.

So my only issue is, do you think the whistle AND the word "back" is too much? I want the emergency recall to be flexible. For example, if we don't happen to have a whistle (we would make every effort to have them available though- by each door, on our key chains) then we could default to only the word "back". Or should we use a different word (any suggestions???). In a situation where we do have the whistle and it is extremely noisy or he is far away from us, the whistle would be preferable.

Sorry for the long post, and I would appreciate any advice anyone could give us!

May 3rd, 2007, 12:28 PM
physically chasing the dog and yelling "come!" is futile. it only serves to confuse the dog, and reinforce the bad behavior. now helix may think "come" = mom's gonna chase me around the yard.

Instead I would use a word to STOP the dog where he is. My dog knows the word WAIT! wait means stop and await further instruction. and the next command may very well be "DOWN!" & then "STAY". This is also when hand signals help - to down my dog I raise my arm straight over my head. He can see this from a distance, so I don't need to yell - and obeys it. hand goes up - dog goes DOWN.

that would be my suggetion, train the dog to STOP & stay so you can calmly walk to him and grab hold.

May 3rd, 2007, 01:10 PM
I am happy this was a cheap lesson for you.

Your plan could work well. I am not as thrilled with the whistle only because it makes you rely on having it with you. As you said - what if you don't have a whistle with you? I would just use the word 'back' or 'come' it is short and clear to say.

You can use treats to really entice him, but we get calls everyday from people who have used treats too much and their dog will not do a thing unless he sees the treat first. So you might have to carry treats everywhere.

It really shouldn't have to be an 'emergency' recall - how about just getting good at 'come' and be done with it? You have said that you have been slack in reinforcing the 'come', so really all you should have to do is be more consistent over all and the 'come' will be good 'emergency' or not.

Coming to you is about respecting your word - it is not a game. Come is the most important instruction there is as it can save his life. It can take minutes to teach but longer (not months) to practice and reinforce.
Every time you ask him to come and he doesn't he is challenging you. Are you going to make me come? So, because he is in the habit of making it a game and blowing you off - he goes back on the leash until he shows us he can be trusted. The leash is your tool to empower your words.

Here is our version of the come.
Come = come straight to you, sit in front of you and look you in the eyes waiting for the next direction.

You start with the dog in the house on a 6 foot leash. You call him to 'come' in a super happy tone (the party is over here - attitude), if he ignores you say 'no' in a firm, sharp tone, give a leash correction (*A leash correction is not a harsh JERK - it is a slight tug on the collar, like a tap on the shoulder - enough to get his attention) and when he looks at you get happy again and invite him in. You might have to correct his bad choice a few times before he decides to cooperate. He should happily come to you as you vacuum him in with your happy and loving tone.

If he veers from any of this - you continue facing him and back away with a sharp (not loud) "NO" and a slight leash correction. He should look at you and then you get super happy and ask for the 'come' again in a very happy tone. The idea is that you pressure him for making the wrong choice (not coming or veering off) and reward him for any effort in the right direction. Even if his eyes leave you (if his eyes are not on you neither is his brain), then you correct him, but the very second he is looking at you again you have to get happy. You are telling him that the best place to be is with you and any other choice will be pressured. You might even interrupt yourself as you change from correction to reward and correction and reward again. You have to be able to respond as quickly as he changes his mind. When he is sitting in front of you and looking in your eyes then you can release him with lots of enthusiasm.

ALL of this is done on the leash to empower your word - but as soon as he is sensitive enough to respond to just your word then you are starting to get off leash - which can happen in minutes not days.

Each step in the teaching of any cooperative action must be done in successful sequences. From a good 'come', move onto the 'come' with increasing distractions - introduce a toy, then food, then dogs, kids, squirrels. Put him into a sit-stay and toss the toy a few feet away, release him and let him go towards it and then call him back. Using the pressure and release methods to advise him on his decisions. As you are successful, put him on a longer leash and throw the toy further away. Help him to understand that the toy is part of the fun, but that his playing "keep away" will stop the fun and cause you to pressure his poor choices. Now move outside with this game, and begin again with shorter distances working towards longer distances as he earns them.

The mistake people make is they get frustrated, angry or scared and think and angry tone will tell the dog you mean business and he will come. But in fact most dogs are thinking 'wow, she sounds mad I don't think I want to come to her right now, I 'll get in trouble" Worst case scenario is that the dog does finally come and the person rages on him for having ignored him earlier. That dog may never come to that person again because the person just punished the dog for coming.

It would also be great to teach him 'stop'. This is a great way to get him to stop in his tracks and give you a chance to get control again. It stops his forward momentum while you are figuring out what to do next.

We also teach 'close' so when a dog is heading away from you - you can just say 'close' and he moves back towards you a few feet. This is handy for times when you don't need him heeling and yet you don't want him to be running a mile ahead of you. It is like a boundary that he can stay within but not go any further away from you. That way he can get his jollies by exploring and not feel so restricted by having to be beside you all of the time.

There are somethings to think about in the mean time. Instead of chasing a dog (I know it is hard not to), when he was looking at you - you could have either squatted down and acted very happy to entice him to you. OR you could have started running in the opposite direction. He was just having fun and exploring, so if you were having more fun heading away from him he would likely run to you to join in.

May 3rd, 2007, 01:53 PM

We are DEFINITELY working on come now and our sit/stays. I should mention Helix is a 6 month old Alaskan Klee Kai (which is part husky and part other northern breeds like schipperke and american eskimo). So they are traditionally not good off leash because of their high prey drive. I think our biggest obstacle is really going to be making us more exciting than whatever he is doing (like running or chasing a squirrel or cat etc). I know we need to be more consistent, and this is a wake-up call for us. The previous time he ran out (before we taught him to wait at the door if we were going out without him) he did respond to "come", but that was a couple of months ago and we haven't been reinforcing much. I think it'll be a while before we can train without treats- but I definitely want to get to that point. Any other tips would be appreciated!

May 3rd, 2007, 05:09 PM
This is also a part of his age. At 4 months he instinctively knew that he had to stick close to you to stay safe, and now he is realizing his independence and willing to challenge you. So with maturity and good training he should be fine. Try not to make too many excuses for his breed - yes, Huskys are different from Goldens and they are different from Poms, but all dogs understand rules, boundaries and good leadership.

May 3rd, 2007, 07:14 PM
Tenderfoot had some great advice. I just wanted to add that my trainer had us select a "password" for emergency come that we taught. That was primarily because we tend to use "come" all the time in the house or wherever or someone else uses the word but doesn't enforce it. I used the word "hustle" for my password. To teach it we always used the super-fab treat and also made it super fun by running backwards and acting goofy. I think it is a valuable tool and it has been useful a few times.