I like to practice our recall whenever we’re out in the yard playing. When I find myself and Petal on opposite sides of the yard, I use that opportunity to call her to me. She comes to me very enthusiastically, eager for whatever treat I have on me. She’s becoming a pro at it. I can call her away from distracting things she’s barking at and she’ll whip around and come straight to me.
The command “come” can be a real life safer.
In fact, it very well may have saved Petal’s life earlier this year.
Back in April we had a few temporary neighbors move in next door.
As you will see from the pictures in that post, that area of our fence is very low and Petal could even stick her head through it (note: it has since been replaced with a five foot fence that won’t allow for slender Collie heads to slip through ;)).
This was fine at first. Petal was kind to the horses and the horses weren’t bothered by her, in fact, they usually came closer to the fence whenever we went outside.
But one day the other side of the fence became too exciting to resist. There were kids, horses, and dogs on the other side of that fence and Petal became over excited. She leapt right over that measly little fence and joined in on the fun. I did not realize Petal could fly with such grace over that fence.
I froze. What do I do?! The older kids looked from my crazy dog, to me, and then went back to talking to each other as if nothing had happened. Obviously they weren’t going to be very helpful.
I was only frozen for a second before I snapped into action. First I put Lassie in the house. Then I ran over to the yard my dog was joyously racing around in with her new friends. I didn’t know how to open the gate, but I knew if I could call Petal over to it, I could show her how to crawl underneath it.
Armed with a clicker and some treats, I called for her attention first. “Petal!”
She stopped, searched for me, and then looked at me as she inched closer to me. In the short millisecond before I clicked the clicker, I could tell she was only giving me half of her attention. But as I clicked the clicker, to let her know she had done well to look for me when I called her name, she gave me her full focus.
Time for the true test.
She booked it over to me, not even glancing back at the kids, dogs, and horses she was leaving behind. I clicked the clicker and rewarded her with a handful of treats. Then we had a quick lesson on crawling on command, which we had sort of learned months ago, but never really used. It took a minute for her to understand what I was asking of her, but with some guidance she crawled under the gate. I leashed her up, went inside, and tried to settle my heart.
Once I got past the excitement of it all, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling very proud of Petal.
She had been itching to play with those dogs, horses and kids, yet she left them all behind when I called for her to come.
Now we practice our recalls every time we go out in the yard. We’ve replaced the short fence with taller fencing and the horses have long since moved, so there’s not as much excitement out there anymore, but when there is, we just go back inside.
Now I just need to remember to look for opportunities to practice her recall outside of the yard, on our long lead.