Bella has a really good verbal recall that we have been working hard on lately, but I wanted to have a whistle recall for times when it’s windy, other noises or when she is far away and my voice can be hard to hear. I have been thinking about it for a long time, but I wanted her regular recall to be better before starting to train with a whistle. You don’t always have a whistle on you so the verbal is the most important recall we have. But one day I stumbled upon Pamela Dennison’s DVD on whistle recall and I thought it would be fun to order it and follow a training plan.
I got the DVD and we started out as told with whistle-treat, whistle-treat, whistle-treat for 2-3min a couple of times every day. At first Bella was uncertain of the sound but I made sure to only blow in the whistle when she looked at me so she could take breaks from it and feel a bit of control. She quickly got used to the sound = 2 short whistles and one long. We started out doing it inside for 2 days, then I started to do it outside. After only a couple of times outside I saw her get really eager by the sight of the whistle! I knew she was really getting a good association to it. I kept whistling only when she looked at me as I thought it would be a good way to reward contact and focus at the same time. I still worked on her verbal recall as usual on our walks and of course as I should have known, I wasn’t able to follow the training plan!! We had a walk where I was supposed to continue just whistle-treat…but I just had to test what would happen if I tried it as a recall when she was quite far ahead of me just walking. I was too curious to see if it would work and as I expected she came like a little rocket! She didn’t even hesitate. I don’t know how I knew but I expected her to get it and she did. Now in just 2 weeks her whistle recall is just as good as her verbal. I would think there is a bit of generalization going on. We worked pretty similar with her verbal recall, just that we built it up a lot more gradually. She is a smart and quick little lady and I have seen her generalize other behaviours very quickly earlier.
To build Bella’s recall I think the most important has been to know when to call her!! Sometimes there is just a tiny change in her behaviour that tells me that NOW I can call. I have to always consider her mood, what she is doing, how was the last recall and what happens after the recall and the reward. I am really careful that if I have made a recall difficult (called her away from a deer, exiting smell…), then the next recalls have to be easy. If I have called her and she is put in the car when she doesn’t want to, then the next recalls have to be easy and she can go back to what she did before I called.
I make sure that if we have something good for dinner and it’s something she can have and she loves it then we save some pieces and use it for recalls. If she is very eager and exited on a walk I make sure to do some recalls so I can get good speed. If she is lazy and tired I certainly don’t call her unless I have a good reason to. I want a recall with no hesitation and bullet speed! And that is exactly how our recalls are. If I call her away from something interesting then I make sure she can go to it if possible so that a recall can also be rewarded by the environment. For treats I use high value that she almost only gets for recalls and I often change what she gets so it’s more exiting. The reward is of course important, but I still think the most important is how we always work on timing the recall and how we balance challenging it and making it easier again. We had a huge challenge a couple of days ago. Bella set after a deer and the longline slipped out of my hands! She was in full on chase and I could call her back!! I was shocked and stunned that it worked. I still don’t really believe we did that, but it’s also not something I’m going to test again, at least not on purpose. Recall work is fun and thank god I like it because it’s for life. It’s the never-ending work of making sure it’s always the most important cue she can hear!
Here are just some of the latest pictures.
Bella and my momSuddenly we had snow againWe went to a cool new place with great views and trails. Bella had so much fun and was a little mountain goat climbing rocks and enjoying the scenery and smellsReidar had just taken a picture of Bella and then clumsy me cameNot bad to be able to get some sun on those very pale arms!