Here are photos of four of the six dogs who graduated from the most recent Come Fido! class, just before Easter.

We’ve chuckled at what a mouthful it was to try to keep track of the names of these dogs…try saying this in rapid succession: Kiska, Tess, Jazz, Ezzy, Sass, Jess!
And how is it possible that three dogs; Jazz, Jess and Tess end up in the same group 🙂 It’s like a tongue twister from a children’s book.

We’ve worked on everything Recall-related. My own favourite part has been to see the dog’s play skills – namely retrieve and tug – develop and build. 
A high percentage of dog owners that I have in classes report that “my dog only retrieves so so – and likely won;t bring the toy back even if he will chase it first”. There is a really simple two-toy trick that I absolutely love to get these dogs thinking otherwise and actually doing a full retrieve. For the majority of dogs, it works really, really well and is quite fast, too. 

And why is retrieve or tug important in a Recall class, you ask?
Well, there are many different ways to approach recall training. The old school methods (sadly still in use) are very heavy-handed and heavily rely on physical punishment and trying to show the dog what is “wrong” and that the dog must obey, or else. People who turn to the use of electric shock collars often feel very justified doing so (he must obey) and say things like “it’s for the dog’s own good. It’s shock collar or the dog can’t ever be let off leash. I HAVE TO KNOW that when I call, my dog comes.” etc…justifications go on.

To me, the most important question in choosing what route to take with any training is to consider what kind of relationship it is you want to have with your dog. That little piece “MUST obey, or else” just really does not sit well with me. What God-given right do we have to say something like that? Amazingly enough, I find many people have never even reflected over this?! We’re still, in many ways living in the dark ages, overshadowed by this mentality of “dogs must, or else”…but have not really even considered what that means or why we would have the right to say that?!

Where play fits in nicely is in a program where we do care about the relationship between human and dog and start to look for ‘why should the dog care about where you are to begin with?’ and this is where play can be a phenomenal tool. When YOU play with your dog, you are developing a relationship and saying to your dog that you can facilitate his pleasure and desire to play – you thus start to become a fun and reinforcing person to be around! The whole training process becomes less about “Why should the dog HAVE to come to you when you call?” and more about the realization that you’ve invested so much joy and fun into playing together with your dog – that, when eventually you do need to call him to you: “Why WOULDN’T the dog want to come to you when you call?” It’s a completely different starting point and different mind-set.
One that I think pays off in dividends. 
Every time you play with your dog, as long as the play is honest, sincere and fun for both of you – you are investing in your relationship and putting “money in the bank”.. that when you need to call him – the investment will pay off; he’ll happily come bounding to you! 
Teaching an older dog to play tug or retrieve with a human can be a journey…for some it will be a fast track to success, for others it will require more time. I’ve written about this topic before if you’re interested to search through archives for ideas on How To – but bottom line is: the time invested in teaching good and solid play skills is worth it! If your dog will play with you any time, anywhere – you have a powerful reward, but also; more than likely – you have a happy partner who has learned just how much fun it is to hang out close to you! 

The dog is not living in fear of when and what punishment will happen next – but instead the sparkle in his eyes will tell you his mind is on the “game”: Another game is just around the corner…any moment now…any moment now…

and THAT you can do a lot with as the trainer/ handler!

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