Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Coming When Called at the Dog Run

Here's a fun exercise for teaching your dog to come when called at the dog run.
Coming When Called at the Dog Run
It's fun to run as hard as you can!
 
Whenever you take your dog to the dog run, always bring along some treats and the squeaker from a squeaky toy. Always pay close attention to your dog. When he’s not interacting with other dogs, or not sniffing around, and seems to need something to do, give a loud whistle, or clap your hands, or squeak the squeaker. (If I’m in a big dog run I’ll use an actual ref’s whistle.) 

When he looks at you, show him that you’ve got a treat. BUT DON’T CALL HIM TO YOU YET! Wait until he starts running toward you. Then, while he’s already in the process of running, say “Muttsy, come!” in an excited voice. Then reward him with the treat and a lot of praise. (It wouldn’t be a bad idea to jump up and act happy and get him to chase you around a little too.) 

This will probably excite not only your dog but several other dogs in the vicinity, so let things settle down a little, and the dogs will start playing again. Wait until there’s another lull in the action, and repeat. Do this every time you go to the dog run, and within a few weeks, you’ll have a dog who loves running back to you whenever you call!

Another cool trick is to play a modified version of “hide-n-seek”: When your dog isn’t paying attention to you, move. Go stand or sit somewhere else. Then, when he looks back to where you were standing or sitting, and can’t see you, he’ll suddenly have a strong desire to find you. When he does, wave a treat and run away. He’ll come flying toward you as fast as he can. As he does, say, “Muttsy, come!” in an excited voice, then reward him with the treat and a little bit of chase. (Most dog runs frown on people getting dogs to chase them around like this, so you have to keep it to minimum.)

After a few days of doing these exercises, your dog will automatically start looking for you more often when there’s a lull in the action. He’ll even start coming back to check in with you from time to time. It’s vitally important during this stage, that every time he comes back to you on his own, without any direction from you, that you praise him and give him a tasty treat.

One other important bit of advice, if your dog is in the habit of running away when it’s time to leave the run and go home, never stand there with the leash in your hand and call him! Have the leash hidden, and put it on your dog while he’s distracted by eating a treat out of your hand. Another good tip: after you leash him up, take him for a brisk walk, a game of chase and tug, while running or jogging around or near the dog run. Then take him back inside and let him loose again.

If your dog has as much fun playing with you as he does with the other dogs, you may find that when you get back inside the dog run he’ll actually hang around you for a while before he finally runs off and throws himself into the tumble of dogs waiting for him. If you do these exercises often enough, and make your dog’s experience of leaving the run with you as fun for him as being inside with the other dogs, he won’t associate the leash with the feeling that “the fun is over.” And the really cool thing is, after just a few weeks of playing with him, you can simply show him the leash and he’ll come running over to you to be leashed up. You won't need to keep doing this every day, either. Nor will you have to keep giving him treats every time he comes (you should gradually wean him off the treats altogether any- way; they're just a tool for those initial stages of learning).

Have fun at the dog run!


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17 comments:

Lee Charles Kelley, said...

Here's part of an e-mail from Summer's Mommy, which describes a more advanced kind of recall game:

"I want to ask you a bit about squirrels. I went back and reread some of Kevin's book, and read the part about teaching the puppy that something was off limits, or a "danger zone". I tried a small thing with S this morning when ALL the squirrels were out in full force, and she decided it was up to her to stalk them. (Thanks to our previous on leash work with squirrel interaction, she THANKFULLY does a slow stalk for a prolonged period of time, so there's time for me to either distract her, or for the dastardly squirrel to escape.)

"She was off leash this morning, and she was focused intensely on one, and slowly stalking it by moving forward in slow motion. (Quite a funny sight actually, to see a quivering dog lift her each subsequent foot up with the speed of a qigong martial artist...) So I tried chucking my keys at her feet without her seeing me do it - it made her leap back and shocked her. But I saw her IMMEDIATELY turn and bounce back to me and I praised her thoroughly and tried to get her interested in a ball.

"The ball was a failure, but I think she gets energized when she leaps into Heel, which I've actually got her to do independently by asking her excitedly, "DO YOU WANNA WORK???" (which is what I ask her before we start any extended training session).

"So anyway, although she was momentarily shocked by the keys falling at her feet, she immediately regained her balance by HEELING to me ONLY. Should I have tried to get her interested in the ball? I didn't want to push her because I feel like her drive for the ball has always been a delicate thing, and I never want to force her to play fetch if she wasn't up for it.

"What do you think?

"And right after two chucks of the keys, she turned back to stalk, and I let her for a little bit to let her blow off steam, but after about 10 seconds, I said Summer, COME, and I'll be damned if my girl didn't turn on a dime and literally bounced back to me like it was the most fun thing on earth... Should I feel bad about the keys shocking her? She doesn't seem worse for wear from it."

Lee Charles Kelley, said...

You're right about fetch. Don't push it if it's not something she enjoys. The payoff for reacting to the keys (by running to you) should be whatever is most satisfying to her group mood.

If you remember in Kevin's book, he talks a lot about redirecting the dog from an individual prey mood to a group mood. So the heeling is actually an ideal way to do that. Playing tug is another good option.

As for feeling bad about the keys momentarily shocking her, don't. It was just part of her morning adventure! On the other hand, if it had caused her to shut down or stay fearful, then yes: you should feel bad because when that happens it means you either timed it wrong, or you didn't have a good enough handle on how much of a shock she could take at that moment.

I would love to see Summer again! I find it hard to believe that she's the same unfocused, "untrainable" dog I first met! Nice work.

LCK

Lee Charles Kelley, said...

Oh, one other thing: don't use your actual keys if you can help it! There's nothing worse than being in the flush of a great training moment, coming home all happy and proud of your accomplishments, and finding out that you have to go all the way back to the park to find your keys!

Always have a fake set with you if you want to do this exercise!

LCK

Summerinbrooklyn said...

AhhAHAH, that was good for a giggle! I actually LOST a set of keys one time when I tried the key chucking thing before (it didn't work - this was abt a mth ago - I was too far back, and the keys fell about 5 ft short of S and she didn't even notice!)

It would be great to see you! Summer and I are in Prospect Park every weekend morning and evening, and in Fort Greene Park every weekday morning, and at nighttime after dark. I try to give her as much offleash time as possible because I feel like she enjoys the challenges of being offleash.

She still doesn't have as much focus as I would like, but I think she's just a naturally sensitive dog, and I don't push her. What's so strange is that I've noticed whenever we train for a longer period, if we're REALLY working, not just practicing for 5 - 10 mins offleash, SHE DOESN'T GO PEE... I think she's naturally offloading her energy INTO training. The moment we take a break or training stops, she'll sniff around and let rip!

She's soooo much better than before, not the bestest dog on leash yet, but I CAN sustain a good heel with her for about half a long city block, just having her look at me, trotting along, and me praising her thoroughly. She's learning slowly at her own pace, but what she knows how to do, her focus when she's doing it is quite wonderful to see... I'm extremely proud of her!!

Lee Charles Kelley, said...

Me too.

I have a semi-current client that lives not too far from Ft. Greene Park, in Clinton Hill. Their dog's name is Beeble. She's an Australian cattle dog (which means she's really a Basque sheepdog).
She's a lovely, playful girl. I think she and Summer might hit it off...

LCK

Summerinbrooklyn said...

Hey let us know when you're working with Beeble. I'm in FGP every weekday morning and night, and in PP every weekend morning and evening. Off leashing of course!!

Sarah said...

Fabulous post! I'll bookmark this one to send to clients. :)

Lee Charles Kelley, said...

Great feedback, thanks!
And I love the photo of your dogs having "group sticks" ... It brings back memories of when Freddie was young and he had a viszla pal named Otis. They used to do wide, long, lazy circles around some of the lawns in Central Park, each one holding on to their own end of the stick. It was soooo much fun to watch (as I'm sure you know).

LCK

jade said...

thanks for all the info LCK i will have to give all this a try : )

steph said...

Those were really fun! I really appreciate them. Check this one out. I found this different kind of fun, http://www.petcentric.com/crittercarols/?DCMP=RAC-PETC-DogTm-Carol08&HQS=Blog.

ModernGear TV said...

Hi! I have a quick question about this - at our dog park here, dog treats are prohibited. My first time at the park, I was unaware of this but I soon found out why! Several dogs ended up stalking and chasing me to get at my sweatshirt pocket where the treats were! Our little guy (8 mos) will NOT come at the dog park, will not come when called. He doesn't even know we're there.

I decided to bring water of our own and a little trough thing for him to drink out of, and can generally get him to drink a few times during an outing and then eventually hook up the leash when I am ready to go, when he is drinking. But I feel like he has learned that this is my tactic because he now won't come for water.

If I can't bring treats, I am not sure what to do. Besides this and the whining in the crate now, at age 8 mos all of a sudden, we're very pleased with our progress with him.

Lee Charles Kelley, said...

It's not unusual for there to be a "No Food" rule at a dog run, for the very reason you mention. I have to deal with it myself sometimes.

Here's what I do: I cheat. If I absolutely HAVE to use something aromatic and delicious like chicken or cheese (meaning I'm working with a persnickety dog), I'll have the treats double wrapped in zipper-lock bags. If I can get by on less fragrant treats, there's usually not a problem. (Several of my clients' dogs like veggies.) Even stale biscuits are less enticing to most canine beggars than the real juicy stuff.

At any rate, I'm not sure I spelled this out completely in the description of the exercise, but the treats aren't the main part of the process. They're a tool to "correct" for a lack of social attraction between you and the dog. To put it succinctly, the dog is more attracted to other dogs than he is to you, esp. at the dog run. That's why you initially wait till there's a lull in the action before whistling or making the kissing sound. That lull means the dog needs something to do, something or someone to plug his energy into. You use that opening to casually get him to plug his energy into you. You mustn't make a big deal out of it with a dog like yours. It has to be as nonchalant as possible.

The other parts of the exercise is just as important, if not more so.

Here are the passages I mean:

"One other important bit of advice, if your dog is in the habit of running away when it’s time to leave the run, never stand there with the leash in your hand and call him! Have the leash hidden, and put it on your dog while he’s distracted by eating a treat out of your hand. Another good tip: after you leash him up, take him for a brisk walk, a game of chase and tug, while running or jogging around or near the dog run. Then take him back inside and let him loose again.

"If your dog has as much fun playing with YOU as he does with the other dogs, you may find that when you get back inside the dog run he’ll actually hang around you for a while before he finally runs off and throws himself into the tumble of dogs waiting for him.

"If you do these exercises often enough, and make your dog’s experience of leaving the run with you as fun for him as being inside with the other dogs, he won’t associate the leash with the feeling that 'the fun is over.' And the really cool thing is, after just a few weeks of playing with him, you can simply show him the leash and he’ll come running over to you to be leashed up."

So it's very important that you mix things up: leash your dog, leave the run, then run around with him nearby, getting him to chase you. Maybe play a little tug with him. Then -- presto! -- you do an energetic heel back to the run and let him loose again.

Another thing that helps is playing fetch. It's hard to find a dog who's crazy about playing fetch who's not interested in coming when called. I know, some dog runs don't allow toys, but that doesn't mean you can't hide one in your pocket and flash it at the dog at an opportune moment: Flash - tease - flash - tease - flash - tease - "Sit! - leash. Then do a quick heel around the dog run, with the toy as a lure. Stop. Tell him "Sit!" Unleash him and let him go play with the other dogs. It'll take him a minute to do that because by this time his level of social attraction for you will be pretty strong.

The other part of the exercise is paying "Hide-and-Seek." Doing that will also increase his social attraction to you.

And speaking of increasing his social attraction, if he won't play tug or fetch, and likes to run away when he thinks it's time to go, you may want to try doing the "pushing exercise," listed under "Training Tips" as "Swimming Upstream." If you follow the instructions carefully, you should be able to increase your dog's social attraction a great deal just by hand feeding him all his meals outdoors for a few weeks.

Finally, this is an "on the fly" kind of exercise. It's meant to be something the casual dog owner can apply fairly easily and get pretty good results. It might be necessary to actually teach your dog to come when called in a more formal manner, meaning you start with teaching him the 7 Levels of Stay. (Sorry there's no blog entry on them yet!) When a dog is taught to hold the stay, and the owner gives him increasingly difficult distractions to deal with, and the stay always ends with "Okay, Muttsy, COME!" -- that's what I mean by teaching the recall in a more formal manner.

There's also a level or two beyond THAT, which you can find in the entry, "Conflict Training, 101."

Another thing that I really should have mentioned -- at least in terms of people reading this blog who are unfamiliar with my training philosophy -- is that you also have to get stop anything you're doing that increases his social resistance. This includes scolding, punishment, leash corrections, etc. Those things tend to work well in some cases, at least in the context in which they're called for. But when the dog is suddenly FREE... all those bits of social resistance you've built into your relationship with your dog add up to less social attraction than you'd like to have at a key moment.

I hope this helps,

LCK

Anonymous said...

Lee, I have to ask why you suggest to use a treat as a lure instead of a reward?

Lee Charles Kelley, said...

Technically, since I believe behavioral science is a fatally flawed model of learning, I don't use treats as a lure or as a reward. I use them as a means of reducing the dog's feelings of social resistance. So the treats act more like a social "glue," which increases the dog's drive to connect to its owner. (With that in mind they actually do end up reinforcing feelings of social attraction).

See: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-puppy-my-self/200911/mice-and-mutts-iii-the-negative-effects-positive-reinforcement

and: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-puppy-my-self/201006/why-dogs-pull-the-leash-canine-cathexis-chemistry-the-joy-sex

From the second article above:

"Positive reinforcements are not actual, physical objects any more than my hypothetical drive to connect is. They're more akin to a function of statistics, measured solely in terms of a behavior's response strength. We can only know if a tangible object, such as a toy or liver treat, might or might not have provided the mechanism for reinforcement by interpreting the resultant behavior after the fact, through a +R lens. Since it's also possible to interpret any behavior through the opposite lens[7], behavioral science loses credibility in this regard.

"Then, once you add the necessity for determining what kind of reinforcement schedule was at play (and there are far too many to list here[8]), it simply boggles the mind how anyone can say they know with any certainty, other than as a pure leap of faith, that any behavior of any kind has been reinforced, or what the mechanism of reinforcement actually was."[9]

(Pertinent footnotes from the above-mentioned article):

7) "Some stimulus changes associated with an increase in behavior are difficult to classify as [positive versus negative reinforcement], and the use of either description may be nothing more than an arbitrary and incomplete abbreviation for the ‘pre-change' and ‘post-change' stimulus conditions as well as for what transpires in between. For example, is a change in temperature more accurately characterized as the presentation of cold (heat) or the removal of heat (cold)?" ("Negative Reinforcement in Applied Behavior Analysis: an Emerging Technology," Brian A. Iwata, University of Florida, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Winter, 1987.)

8) Here are just a few reinforcement schedules used by behavioral scientists: fixed ratio, continuous ratio, fixed interval, variable interval, variable ratio, differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior, differential reinforcement of other behavior, differential reinforcement of low response rate, differential reinforcement of high rate, etc. And these are all considered "simple" schedules!

[9] With all that said, I would actually agree that when a dog pulls, his behavior is being reinforced, but that the reinforcement comes from the pleasure the dog feels when he's cathecting his pent-up energy onto objects of attraction. This explanation is actually much simpler, far less abstract, and doesn't rely on statistics or arcane mental manipulanda. Plus the solution is much simpler too: provide the dog with a stronger feeling of pleasure (i.e., a stronger cathexis) by playing with him, on his level, and the pulling behavior will begin to diminish in strength, and may eventually stop on its own. Meanwhile it's hard for a dog to form a cathexis with clicker, or with someone who's dominating him."

Lee Charles Kelley, said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I will admit I am very new to the theories of natural dog training. So a few more questions -
"I use them as a means of reducing the dog's feelings of social resistance" how does that compare to showing the treat as a way to increase your value to the dog?
IE. You + food = higher value than you standing without showing the food.
Also, (sorry if I'm coming across as argumentative)you quote:
"it simply boggles the mind how anyone can say they know with any certainty, other than as a pure leap of faith, that any behavior of any kind has been reinforced, or what the mechanism of reinforcement actually was." but then argue that you do know what the reinforcemnt was further below:
"but that the reinforcement comes from the pleasure the dog feels when he's cathecting his pent-up energy onto objects of attraction"

Are you saying that it's not the reward (toy/food) that's reinforcing, but the energy that is released by eating the food or playing with the toy that is reinforcing?

I really appreciate your blog because it is a facinating approach.

Lee Charles Kelley, said...

(LCK): I use [treats] as a means of reducing the dog's feelings of social resistance.

ANON: How does that compare to showing the treat as a way to increase your value to the dog?

Dogs don't place "values" on things. This is one of the problems with behavioral science: it can't be explained without resorting to higher level cognitive functions.

In order for a dog to make comparisons (i.e., one thing is more "valuable" than another), he would have to be able to think symbolically, that is through the use of written, spoken, or signed language. (Helen Keller wrote that before she learned sign language she was unable to compare one mental state to another, that in fact, as far as she knew, she had no mental states.)

So when a +R trainer says, "Up the value of your treats," she's expecting the dog to engage in a humanlike thought process that's beyond his abilities.

However, when you think of canine behavior as revolving around levels of attraction and resistance, you don't need to invest dogs with mental capacities they don't have.

From the human standpoint, yes; by offering treats I would have more "value" to the dog's survival needs, but only if the dog is hungry enough.

These distinctions may seem silly or unimportant, but by trying as much as possible to see the dog's experiences from his perspective we're much closer to understanding why treats don't always work, and why they have no effect in the face of major distractions, like squirrels, pigeons, or skateboarders. None of these things (squirrels, etc.) have any value to a dog's survival, and yet they often hold a much stronger grip than things that do.

(LCK):"it simply boggles the mind how anyone can say they know with any certainty ... what the mechanism of reinforcement actually was."

ANON: But then [you] argue that you do know what the reinforcement was: (LCK): "The reinforcement comes from the pleasure the dog feels when he's cathecting his pent-up energy onto objects of attraction"

ANON: Are you saying that it's not the reward (toy/food) that's reinforcing, but the energy that is released by eating the food or playing with the toy that is?

Well, you've taken a chunk out of a larger piece of prose, so the framework for my statement is missing. But yes, the successful reduction of internal tension or stress is what causes behaviors to be reinforced. Anytime we feel a desire, it creates a feeling of incompleteness; we can't feel fully complete until that desire is satisfied or sublimated.

So if your dog chases squirrels and you can't distract him with a treat, then the treat has zero value as a reinforcer because in this case his desire is to chase something, not eat it. But if you start playing games with him, where you get him to chase you, and he gets to bite a toy when he catches you, you become a prey object. And it's usually only then that you begin to exert a stronger level of attraction than the squirrels (etc.) do.

Make sense?

For more on my philosophy, go here: http://leecharleskelleysblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/my-training-philosophy.html

I hope this helps!

LCK