Look Like You’re Leaving

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Now why is my husband standing there like he is about ready to walk off? Well, this is a key human behavior I teach in my classes, to help dogs learn successful recalls. The latter is one of the single most important behaviors for a dog to have in their repertoire, and could literally mean the difference between life and death someday.

Appropriate human body language
Look Like You`re Leaving

Human body language plays more in successful behaviors than one would think. As I say in class when we practice recalls, “look like you`re leaving.” Above, my husband Argil aptly demonstrates this with our puppy mill rescue lab Doobie. Notice Argils` stance as though he is preparing t walk away. Puppies have a natural tendency to follow, so why not take advantage of this when teaching a recall.

Look Like You`re Leaving
Look Like You`re Leaving

Above, Doobie trots happily along after Argil. Running away a few steps tends to produce an even more enthusiastic follow, getting your clever canine off to a great start with consistently coming when called.

Not the best way to stand when caling your dogs.
Visual Threat to Timid Dogs

Our own body language can also contribute to not so successful recalls. Argils` forward bent over and hands on hips posture can be a visual threat to timid dogs, and indeed make them want to go the OTHER way. In fact, Doobie, with his puppy mill past, is very sensitive to human body language and appears to be giving careful consideration to the matter at hand. I have seen dogs in class, when faced with this stance, refuse to budge. When the “picture” is changed, there are usually quickly improved results.

A Successful Recall
Success! Doobie Responds By Coming When Called

Above, Doobie has arrived successfully at destination Argil and is thus reinforced with a tasty treat. Do keep these other factors in mind when working on recalls:

  • Train in a low distraction area.
  • Begin with short distances and do repetitions. It is the latter that, paired with reinforcement, that really conditions behavior.
  • Set your pup up to succeed, always working on leash. Get a longer training line when you are ready for distance.
  • Have realistic expectations of what your pup is capable of according to age and training level.
  • Use a happy tone of voice: stern does not equal happy enthusiastic behavior.
  • Have a lovely high value treat ready to deliver the second pup arrives, along with verbal praise and perhaps even a game. Have a party!
  • **Never** be angry towards a dog who is arriving, even if they have been out running over hill and dale. Dogs do not like coming back to angry people. Would you?
  • And, look like you`re leaving. Take that natural inclination of puppies and dogs to chase and follow.

Until next Friday, Leslie Fisher PMCT CPDT-KA, Dog Behavior Counselor and the labbies

“your pet positively trained” Cecil County MD

2 thoughts on “Look Like You’re Leaving”

  1. This was exactly what we were taught in obedience classes and Chester’s recall is pretty good (unless his nose tells him he needs to go elsewhere). I sometimes wonder about the “praise party” I gave him when he was little. I would go into great dramatic bouts of praise when he happily came bounding to me. Of course, the bigger he got, the scarier it got when he came at me full-force. Sometimes he still will go into attack mode if he is across the yard when I come home. At least he doesn’t jump ON me anymore with enthusiasm. Maybe I should have just stuck with a simple “Good boy” and a good stinky treat when he recalled. ;0-)

  2. Chesters Mom your boy is very enthusiastic for sure! It might be time to beging teaching a “front” behavior, which entails a sit when dog returns to you. Being with Chester sitting in front of you, show him a treat and step back a few steps, getting him to follow, then lure him into a sit in front of you, hand together on treat, into your body then up. When he gets good at this begin calling it front, then being applying to gradually longer distances. Beats getting run over! Good luck.


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