Notes: Day 76 – Bad Dog Agility Academy

Notes: Day 76

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  • Jennifer says:

    Sarah- I struggle with this with my border collie. She is very independent and despite LOTS of recall training will blow me off when she feels like it. I am using a long line so she can’t ignore, but I really want to get the leash off altogether and be able to enjoy things like off leash hiking. Suggestions?

    • Sarah Baker says:

      What is her reward for recalls? How is it that you normally reward her for recalls? What typically happens after a recall? Are there times she does enthusiastically come? How many times a day is she recalled? Please give me a little detail on the recall training you have already done. Thanks!

      • Jennifer says:


        Rewards- either multiple pieces of high value food or a game of tug. She seems to enjoy both and I vary it.

        After recall- I typically let her return to whatever she was doing. I am very cognizant of not allowing recall to equal the end of fun/outdoor time.

        There are definitely times she comes immediately with no hesitation. Head snap in my direction and full out run to me.

        I try not to call her when I think she won’t come or if I have nothing to reward her. I probably recall her around 5-8x a day.

        Success rate- I would say of the 5-8, she will come 50-60% or the time and blow off the rest. When she blows off, I go get her.

        Challenges- recalling indoors is good. Recalling from food is good. Recalling outdoors is ok UNLESS she is digging or really locked into smelling something. Recalling away from people is good (she loves people). Recalling away from dogs is poor (she is very very social).

        Prior training- we have done a lot of restrained recalls starting at 3 months old (I run away with tug toy). I have added distractions inside (food on ground, toys, my two other dogs). Outside in my yard or at parks I use a long line and let her explore, pay heavily for recalling or for voluntary check ins and when she ignores a recall, I use the long line to reel her in.

        I am hoping things will improve with maturity but I don’t want to take a passive approach. So if you have any suggestions, I would be most grateful.

        • Sarah Baker says:

          Wow! It sounds like you are doing a great job! Some dogs are definitely more challenging than others. Skeptic was a huge challenge at first with recalls. I do have a few suggestions.

          First, I would try raising the number of recalls throughout the day. Over and over, randomly throughout the day, you are going to recall her, jackpot her, then release her about her business. Get some of her favorite food and toys and hide them around the house/yard/your body and surprise her with them. We did soooooo many recalls every day with Skeptic to pattern him to run to us for food when he hears his name. It became a reaction, instead of a cue to think about responding to.

          Second, try and be better at only calling when you think she will come. If I had any question if Skeptic would come or not then I would not call. I would go closer then recall, go closer then lure, wait for a better time to recall, go get him, reel him in, do something (like feed the other dogs) that would make him come, etc. Only when his training was going really well did I begin to expand when I called him and tested him more. There was a period of time that he had to go back on leash even in the house before it got better again.

          Third, continue to make sure that recalls are not “punished” by fun ending or things happening to her she does not like. When you need her to come for those things see if you can do something else like go get her, or distract her with a scatter feed instead of calling her. I will talk about dog play where you asked about it.

          Please let me know if that helps!

          • Jennifer says:


            Good suggestions. I am increasing the amount of times I call her in the house and I am using new foods each time to keep it exciting or a game of tug. When I think she may struggle (for instance, digging in the yard is often a situation she will ignore me), I will go very close her her with food in one hand and the other hand I slip under her collar as I say her name and bring her in to me with food right in front of her nose.

            I am keeping her mostly on leash outside because the recall is unreliable. I am so hopeful we will one day be able to hike off leash and enjoy more freedom, but I believe the dog must earn that by showing they can come when called EVERY TIME.

          • Sarah Baker says:

            You have it right! I would still have off leash time, but when there is no rush to recall and it is safe.

          • Collene says:

            I have a suggestion from my previous dog. This is for once you are pretty close to having it trained, but just want to proof it more. And you will get there!

            When I went hiking with my dog offleash, sometimes he would get a little further down the path than I liked. I would take that opportunity to step just off the trail out of view behind a tree.

            Even though he would get too far ahead, my boy was pretty good about looking back for me. When he didn’t see me on the trail, he would come back to look for me. I could tell this caused him a tiny bit of panic the moment he couldn’t see me so I felt a little guilty, but I thought it was a good reminder “punishment” for not staying close enough. On the other hand, he really enjoyed hide and seek in general, so he still thought it was a great game. I found I didn’t have to “remind” this way more than once or twice on a hike to get better behavior.

            He also got to laugh at me more than once as the trail sometimes appeared to go straight ahead, but really switchbacked. You see your dog disappear ahead and think you’re going to do the hide behind a tree game. You sit behind a tree and wait. No dog. Hmmmmm, what’s up?!?!?! OHHHHHH! Puppy dog looking down at you from the trail above and laughing as you tried to hide from him.

          • Sarah Baker says:

            We have played that game as well.

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