recalls (or: how do I get Lumen to not chase kangaroos and rabbits?)

Not quite a roo...

Not quite a roo…

Yesterday, I finally found out what happens if Lumen actually sees a kangaroo or rabbit. So far she’d only found smells of fresh trails but I don’t think she’d actually had her sights on an animal…

Until, 100 meters ahead, a wallaby hopped across out path and into the bush. Well, Lu was off like a rocket, up the hill and into the bush. Luckily I think it had enough of a head-start that maybe she gave up on it quickly… I think it would be wishful thinking to assume that she’d gone ‘far enough’ and heeded my recall.

I know, I shouldn’t call her if she’s going to ignore me, but at the same time I don’t want her just blindly sprinting into the bush until such time as she deems fit to return.

So I’m a little anxious about all this, because although she does come back- she always does, and she doesn’t take that long… she does ignore me for a while there. And I know, it’s probably too much to ask of a 9 month old pup to ignore the sight of a roo hopping away up ahead, but how on earth do you train for that? It’s not like it happens regularly enough and I honestly don’t like the idea of keeping her on lead ‘just incase’…

Just keep practising recalls, all the time? Maybe, and especially recalls off games of chase with other dogs, and with Mallei? And also particularly off interesting smells of fresh animal trails- I think I need to amp up the reward for this one: heaps of food, and maybe a throw of a ball before releasing her to go back to the smells. I can’t even really use Premack because either a) it happens so infrequently that she’ll actually see an animal- it’s not like we have squirrels everywhere, or b) she’s already off like a shot before I can get her attention. That being said, if she does go, then come back, I always tell her “ok!” after the reward for coming, and head in the direction she was chasing- like an invitation to keep going.

I think I need to amp up my rewards some, for those really tricky recalls. But again I’m a bit stuck, like when she chased the roo, that was bad, but she came back, after a while, which was good- I don’t know if I should have a party with her when she comes back because she DID come back, or am I rewarding her for coming back in her own time??? How on earth did I train Mal so that even when Lu takes off after a roo, he doesn’t? Or, if he does, I can call him and he’ll turn around there an then and come back?? He doesn’t have the super-high prey drive that she does, so I’m sure that helps… And he’s had 9 years of experience, but even so…

Any advice, tips or tricks, dog people?


5 thoughts on “recalls (or: how do I get Lumen to not chase kangaroos and rabbits?)

  1. If the dog would not turn back immediately after chasing an animal I would still praise and reward, but would take it as a sign that I need to avoid this situation until I can train a better response – I think they get an idea that it’s OK to respond slowly if they got rewarded like that. With a whippet if they don’t respond real fast while running away they could be soon out of hearing range!
    Both of my dogs have strong prey drives so I prefer if they stay within 30m or so on walks and I intend to call, I call immediately – it helps if they’re not too far yet. I trained Java not to run after birds and even though she’s not 100% reliable it is transferring nicely to other wildlife. As far as recall training goes Recallers course was a life saver:

    • Em says:

      Well I don’t know how soon she turned back exactly, as she disappeared into the bush- she wasn’t gone all that long, so she turned back at some point- I suppose the concern I always have with roos is that at least rabbits can go in holes, and squirrels can go up trees, but kangaroos are large and loud and can’t hide, so theoretically she could keep going after it for ages…
      I think I might just practise practise practise, making the rewards for coming even better, and also giving her lots of opportunities to ‘go back’ to the fun. I went to the park today and we did that with lots of dogs, birds, smells, etc.
      When Lu saw the roo yesterday she was right next to me, and I did call immediately, but she was off so fast and completely ignored anything I had to say I’m guessing until she couldn’t find the roo. I did look at recallers but didn’t sign up this time… if she does it again I think I might- she’s so different than Mal, I’ve never, ever had a problem with his recalls, off any kind of animal, anything.
      What do you think was the most valuable exercise you got from Recallers? I’ve seen a few different ones on people’s videos.

      • Yeah, well, we have deer. LOTS of them.
        I think it’s the combination of building the value for you and then testing the value – essentially making the dog fail in a controlled environment so he learns what will not get him the reward. An example of this is sending the dog to a bowl of treats, then recalling him past it (the bowl is actually empty this time, but the dog doesn’t know that in advance). And of course many, many recalls in different environments with bigger and bigger distractions. I also like the head whip game from Control Unleashed: helper pretends he’s going to feed the dog, you recall, when the dog comes you send him back to the helper for reward. In original it’s a Premack setup, though I like to play it so that I feed the dog as well (and I use higher rewards than helper). I think that for every dog the game that brings the most value will be different, though.

      • Em says:

        Ooooo! Two great ideas! Thanks so much! I hadn’t read that part of the head whip game- maybe it wasn’t in the puppy version, or my head wasn’t working right.. But that sounds great!! Also like the bowl with treats… I was also thinking of trying with a thrown toy to call her off and then when she does, play with her heaps with an even better toy. Then mix it up by letting her go get it sometimes, and sometimes calling her off. This will be VERY difficult for her because she has to ‘finish the job’ when it comes to fetch. 😉 But if she does it I’ll feel much less worried when she jumps into a creek after a stick then can’t find it and swims in circles desperately looking for it. Sigh.
        I’ll definitely be trying your games, though, too! 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s