Total Recall: Shifting our Perceptions


The recall.

Otherwise known as "come", or "here", or one of many other variations of the cue.

Here's the typical scenario: It's a sunny spring day, and Fido has just been let out to play after being cooped up in the house all day while Mom and Dad were at work. Fido is having a great time burning off some pent-up energy, chasing squirrels, sniffing around, and catching up on the Daily Doggy News. Just then, the neighbors let their pup out, who runs to the fence to greet Fido. How exciting! Fido hasn't seen his buddy since yesterday! Just as Fido begins to catch up with the neighbor dog, Dad opens the door and yells, "Fido! Come!"

Ugh. That word. "Come."

As far as Fido is concerned, "come" means play time is over. It means Dad is coming out to drag me in (and maybe not so nicely). It likely means that the family is leaving, and it's time to get in the crate (or at the very least, time to go lie down).

So, what does Fido do? Chances are, he ignores the word. It doesn't mean anything good, so why would he want to pay attention? It's the doggy equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and saying, "La, la, la. I can't heeeaaaar you!"

Dad now makes a choice - either he gives up and comes back to try again later, or he puts on his shoes and goes outside to drag Fido back inside. The former effectively teaching Fido that the word "come" doesn't really mean anything at all (Fido: Hmmmm... every so often, Dad likes to stick his head out the door and bark once or twice, then goes back inside. How weird)! The latter teaching Fido that "come" is the early warning for impending doom (the doggy version of an air raid siren). And yet, Dad wonders why Fido doesn't just come inside when he's called.

See the dilemma?

When we look at the scenario from a dog's point of view, it becomes very apparent that 9 times out of 10, we humans are actually either teaching the dog to ignore us, or teaching the dog that "come" means something bad is about to happen! If I were a dog, I would probably cringe every time I heard that word.

So, what kind of memories are you creating for your dog when you recall him or her? Does come mean something good, or something bad? And how many times have you repeated this scenario? If Fido only gets a little treat one or two times out of every 10 recalls, in his mind, the odds are NEVER in his favor.

Let's talk about ways to start changing our dog's perception of recalls in the next post, Total Recall, Part 2: Making Memories.

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