The power of animal touch

This lovely lady is in her late 70's, living at home with a son caring for her. She has moderate dementia and though she can't recall this new additions' name, gender or why he's there, she clearly enjoys his company!

The dog enjoys it too.


When They Smile

Jazz is all smiles, just like her snuggler, William.


Recall (aka; Come when called)

Teaching your dog to “come” (aka: recall) takes an enormous amount of time, work, consistency and lack of opportunity for failure. Don't expect your dog to learn any command overnight, most especially commands where the dog is working remotely. These take time and a gradual, progressive transition from on-lead to off-lead work. I personally don't expect a dog to come reliably (off lead) for 1 to 2 years. What does that mean for you? Don't give your dog opportunities for failure, keep him on a lead the first 6 months to a year gradually graduating to a long line or retractable lead* and only after working well in these controlled circumstances can you progress to being off-lead recalls.

Just like heeling, your home hallway makes an excellent elementary recall training area as there's nowhere else to go but come to you. Lavish praise & treats or toys are essential, whichever is more exciting for your dog. To begin, your dog is on lead (or confined to the hall), and you walk or jog backwards (away from your dog) after calling, “Binky, come!” Your dog should trot towards you. Don't make the mistake of seeing how far your dog will follow, that's not fair. Six feet is plenty. Stop and immediately reward your dog with lavish praise (don't forget the demented Barbie voice to convey your excitement) and a treat or toy (play a bit with him if using a toy). Repeat.

Eventually you can add a “sit” to the recall before releasing and rewarding your dog. This adds a bit of formality and mannerliness. Change up your practice by not adding the sit every time. Dogs get bored if you're too predictable. On occasion, I will turn and run away when the dog is halfway to me from where I left him. Then, upon reaching me, we play vigorously for a moment.

“Cookies in the Kitchen” is a good “middle school” location for practicing the recall with a family member. A person is on either end of the room. One holds the dogs' collar and tosses the toy to the other person who catches it and calls, “Binky, come!” as the dog is released. The dog should come running and play time with the toy should result. Repeat. If linoleum (or any hard slick surface) is an issue for your dog, use a carpeted room (large dogs could really hurt themselves if they slip or fall).

At this phase you will be introducing a sit at the beginning of the recall. You'll be returning to the elementary phase of training as this sit is basically a “stay” as your dog will need to learn to stay put as you walk away. Your dog should be proficient at the sit to begin this phase. Command, “sit”. Quietly reward with a treat (excitement is reserved for the end of an exercise). Calmly command, “stay” or “wait” (“wait” is used when staying is followed by forward movement towards the handler rather than stay, where the hander returns to the dog) Step out and in front of your dog, facing him. Eventually back up one or two steps. Wait a moment, then command “come” and trot backwards and proceed as before. You will gradually increase your backwards steps (1-2 steps per week if practicing daily) before calling the dog, and eventually you'll begin turning and walking away a few steps. Your goal is to eventually command, “stay” turn away from the dog and walk 10 feet or more before turning to face the dog and calling him to you.

Once your dog is coming to you reliably (in the house), move your exercises outside (on-lead); then gradually to more distracting locations (on-lead). If at any time your dog fails to perform, return to a more successful environment and/or way of doing the exercise.

When it comes to reinforcing a command, pay attention to your dogs' learning curve. If your dog begins to show signs of “forgetting” or confusion as you progress, backtrack and return to the basics.

Why have a reliable recall? It may well save your dogs' life or save him from a hazardous situation. Not to mention that it's just plain nice to have a dog come when you tell him to. Such a reliable recall saved one of my dogs from becoming skunked! The dog chose to come rather than continue after the skunk, who was ready and aiming for him. Needless to say the dog was heavily praised and rewarded! Abandoning his basic prey drive was simply remarkable (and rather unexpected!).

What if your dog runs off rather than come to you? If you chase him down and catch him without him coming to you on his own free will, you're allowed to punsh. Growl and be angry with justification. I typically grab an ear and lead him back like a disobedient child (this should be uncomfortable....not torture!). I hold the ear just enough to be in control and cause discomfort. I growl the whole way back to where ever I'm taking the dog. If , on the other hand, your dog decides that coming to you as your chasing him (and probably feeling pretty angry!) is a good idea, you've got to reward him for it. Believe me, I know how difficult this is! Praise is not an option....if he came to you of his own free will after an escape, you gotta be happy about it.