April 29, 2014 by Julia
I have a confession to make. And given all the time I spend training, it’s going to seem more than a little ironic.
Delta does not have a reliable recall.
You’d never know it if you saw her doing a formal recall. I set her up, leave her, turn, call and she comes like a flash. People get a real kick out of how she rockets across a ring towards me. But, with all that time spent on “formal” Obedience, I basically forgot to teach her a real life recall. Oops.
In my defense, I don’t really let my dogs off leash much unless they are indoors or fenced in. Her indoor recall was in great shape – I could even call her off the cat. So I didn’t “know” I had a problem right away. When I wrote Calculated Frisk, she was still young enough that she’d loop around the yard briefly and came back. She hadn’t developed the maturity and confidence to go off on her own.
Once I started getting further into our IPO obedience training, the issue became painfully obvious. You see, IPO is essentially an outdoor sport. My IPO club practices indoors when snow, darkness, or dangerous weather requires it. But we train outside in the rain, wind, and any other “miserable but safe” weather we might encounter. Our early training had me either holding the leash or luring her closely, so she didn’t really have a chance to wander. As we progressed, the distance started to grow and I knew that I could not trust her at a distance.
In most instances, the distraction I was up against wasn’t something simple like another dog, a bird, a person. What seems to distract her most in the running itself. She’s a powerful little pocket rocket and our current 20’x40′ fenced space is too small to let her really open up and fly. The very few times I took her to a dog park, you could see the unbridled joy on her face when she was able to move at full speed. She wasn’t all that interested in playing with the other dogs but she loved to run. The few times she got “free” (leash dragging), she didn’t head toward any particular place or thing, she just RAN.
That was my training challenge. I had to be more interesting than an adrenaline rush.
Unfortunately this message sunk in right about the time the weather started to turn. I got in a couple weeks of long line training. Then we started to get snow. And more snow. Our last measurable accumulation was in mid-April. It was a long damned winter.
Now that the weather has started to warm up (sort of), I’ve started her long line training again in earnest. When we’re alone, I walk her around our field and let her get engrossed in smells or sights, then call her. At club practice, someone holds her so she’s worked up when she comes to me. She’s getting much better, but we still have a ways to go before I actually “unleashed the beast.”