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Total Recall, Part 4: Commitment

Last week we were looking for some recognition of the cue, "Come!" Now that we are seeing that recognition, we can begin to ask for some commitment from our pup before getting their reward. So, just as we did last week, we want the food dish to be hidden - or at least not obvious - when we come outside with our pup.

Once again, we need to be cautious about when we choose to issue the cue. As your pup is barking and fence-running with the neighbor dog probably isn't the best timing! However, once your pup stops for a moment to take a breath would be a good time. Alternatively, if Fido is out exploring, and stops what he is doing to look at you, that is a GREAT time to give the recall cue!

You may see one of a few different responses:


a.) Your pup excitedly heads in your direction

b.) Your pup perks his ears and or looks at your, but doesn't move right away

c.) Your pup ignores you and goes back to what he was doing

If you see response a.), throw a party! As soon as your pup has committed to moving in your direction, reveal the food dish, and welcome your pup with open arms!

If you see response b.), your pup is weighing his options. This is where we don't want to show all our cards just yet, but we certainly want to encourage him to make a good choice. Keep the food hidden, but kneel down with open arms, and give an enthusiastic "YES!" to encourage the attention he is giving. Once you are excited and kneeling down on his level, hopefully the history we have been building will help Fido decide to make a move on his own. As soon as you see that forward momentum, reveal the food bowl!

If you see response c.), you have a decision to make. Two options that I generally prefer to use are the "reset" or following through. Depending on your dog's personality, you may choose to use either one in this situation.

The "reset" can be good for pups who may be more skittish or lacking in confidence. To use this approach, simply turn right around and go back inside. Don't say anything to your pup, just remove yourself from the situation. Wait 3-5 minutes, and then go outside and try again.

Following through, on the other hand, can be used for dogs who are more confident, and simply means enforcing the cue. Don't say anything, just calmly and quietly go get your dog. Walk, don't run. If your dog moves, just keep following them. This may take a few minutes, as your dog may initially consider this a game (which is why it's so important to NOT run), but if you continue to be calm and neutral, your pup will figure out that you aren't playing. Once you have reached your pup, calmly take his collar, and gently lead him back to where you called him. Then (and this is important), give him the food dish. We are not reinforcing "come" at this point (since it didn't happen), but we DO want to reinforce that being caught is a good thing. Once the pup has finished eating, release him to play (and grab a handful more food for the bowl), and try again.

If you see response c.) twice in a row, then we haven't created a strong enough connection between the cue word and the food. Back up to a previous criteria (see Total Recall, Part 1 or Part 2), for at least one more week. Make sure you are seeing some cue recognition (as described in Part 2) before attempting to move on and requiring commitment.

Next, the FINAL installment of the Total Recall series - Total Recall, Part 5: Maintenance!

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