Recall Rhetoric

There’s a bunch of talk flying around at the moment about recall, and how according to some highly regarded agility type people, that the quality of it is indicative of your relationship with your dog. When I first read this last week, it ticked me off. It ticked quite a few people off it seems, but we are dismissed as the “whiny” crowd that can’t take criticism. Meh, maybe.

I have thought about it more over the last week, and while I see the “point”—if your dog thinks you are the most amazing object in its universe then how could anything else ever possibly compete with that?—I have gotten over it. I could make excuses for how I have difficult “rescue” dogs, or how I just need to train more, or some other reason to justify “why” Forest’s recall isn’t great. I got a boatload of excuses if anyone wants to sit down with a stiff cocktail and hear me out. But, there’s no point.

On a scale of 1 to 10, his recall probably about a 6. Horrid according to many agility people’s standards. Meaning I am doing something vastly wrong to my poor dog. And yet…

We had class the other night. We had a full house, 5 dogs I think. I was lamenting internally as I watched everyone else that I had the wildest, least foundation-ed-est of the lot as we did our first two drills. Well we actually did fine on the dog walk drill, neither here nor there, but on the sending drill we needed work. But he worked through it just fine and as Laurie said, he didn’t get stressed by the failures/restarts, he worked right through it. That was actually a biggie for us. Anyways, I was watching one dog/handler combo in particular. It is a guy and his Sheltie who obviously have done their homework and groundwork far better than I. He had “fronts” and “closer”s and the whole bit to perfectly get his Sheltie set up. I was envious, while also fully aware that I dont work on that stuff. Ever.

We went on to the final drill, a pretty straightforward small course, with lots of jumps on angles and tunnels times three. It didnt look that hard to me, so I didnt really sweat the walkthrough. I watched the other 2 big dogs before us run it, with handlers way more experienced than I. They struggled a bit, had to do plenty of restarts and redos. Our turn. Nailed it. Perfect. First time and done. And FAST. So proud of him. The rest after us—Sheltie too—struggled as well.

So, no perfect fronts in our household, but when it counts, we just might nail it. I’ll give up a little obedience for a little wildness and quick-on-his-feet thinking any day. Or maybe just dumb luck. Whatever, I’ll take it.

Another win this AM, a small one, but a win. We were at dog beach where Forest is now relegated to dragging his long line. We had plenty of treats with us today, and hungry dogs, which probably helped. However, I’ve had that set up before, and its a crapshoot as to whether it will work in my favor. At the start of our walk we passed a girl with a Bully mix. I was not really worried about the dog, but she looked nervous and was holding him/her(?) on a leash somewhat tightly, so we steered clear and kept going. On the way back we were getting close to cross paths with them again. I saw them about 50 yards away where Forest was in between us and them. He spotted them and started zeroing in without moving towards him, doing his pointy tail hard stare. This always precedes an unsolicited launch into another dogs face for some fun time aggro barking. Joy. I called him once, maybe twice, even three times. My heart started to sink, but I could tell his gears were grinding. Girl pulls up her pittie closer to her waiting to see what happens. Forest stares hard at them, and turns and bolts back in our direction. Yay buddy. Good decision. Big party on our end for that one.

So, I dunno. Maybe I am a sucky dog trainer. Maybe I have lots of dumb luck. But I also have a very aloof, fiercely independent little shit of a dog who I seem to be slowly getting through to. He comes to me to cuddle and play and love on me now. He didnt use to do that, he still very selectively does it with Pete (poor Pete), but I’ve got him now. He may not know it yet but I got him. Perfect recall be damned.

Oh, and Find of the Week: I swooped in on a Clean Run sale notice on the Yahoo list and nabbed a Pac n Play Puppy Tunnel–one available on sale, $45! All mine! Look out local parks, there is a hot pink tunnel and a skinny brown dog on the loose!

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