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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We very rarely bring Bobby to our local dog park and when we do we wait until almost closing time, when it’s empty and let him run, play ball and practice recalls. I’m not a huge fan of dog parks. They are great if all goes well but not so great if things don’t go well. There is a super big one that we tried a year and a half ago which wasn’t a good fit at all because at that time he had terrible recall and he was annoying other dogs. It has lots of acreage so thought we would try it but he wasn’t ready.

Forward to the present, a much more mature poodle boy who is energetic and loving to run, but definitely plays well with other dogs and is no longer annoying as he reads signals so much better. He’s always looking for someone to run with but is fairly polite about it.

I have worked so hard over the months to improve his recall. He’s great at home, great in the yard, great in the classroom setting and great in an empty dog park. Today we thought we would give the big dog park a try in the hopes that he had improved since it had been so long. Sadly, and I’m almost in tears as I’m writing this, his recall in this setting was absolutely non existent. We wanted to go for a nice walk in the field part of the park and have him run, but all he wanted to do was play, run with the other dogs and greet everyone dog and human. He was great at that! He is quite the socialite! He played wonderfully and was polite as he greeted humans. But coming to us....we didn’t even exist. It was so bad we couldn’t even get his attention so the usual signals were a total fail. I had a whistle as I have trained him to come to us with that as well but didn’t bring it out as I didn’t think it was a good idea in that setting. If it was an emergency I wouldn’t hesitate. There were quite a few dogs and people. We thought is would be empty since it was Thanksgiving... NOT! Anyway, we were there and thought we would give the park a try.

It was scary for both my husband and I as we both agreed he would go home with anyone. He thinks everyone is his friend. He’s much too friendly to other people. Totally sweet, endearing and polite.... frightenly so. He made people smile. I really wish he was more aloof as so many people talk about with Spoos. Every once in awhile someone will spook him but 99% of the time, he thinks all people and dogs are his friends, especially off leash.

The park we visited today is a lovely and huge park where he could run to his heart‘s content. There is absolutely no place for us to just let him run other than the dog parks and our fenced back yard, which is pretty small. We don’t have friends or relatives with land and while we have tons of parks they all require the dogs to be leashed, which I do agree with. We live in a large metro area so there are a lot of dog parks and people parks but it would be the same issue no matter where we went. The people park across our street has people with their dogs off leash all of the time but they are supposed to be leashed and it sometimes presents problems for us if we are not careful how we navigate during our walks but I envy them so much. These dogs that are so focused on their owners that they see nothing else. Bobby, ever since he was a pup is SOOOO interested in everything and everyone around him. I have worked, worked, and worked on his ability to focus on me/us and he does but compared to say, an adoring Golden or a Border Collie, Bobby is like, sure Mom, but just for a bit, there’s so much else I have to see! I’ve always appreciated how he observes the world but it often makes it harder to train, at least for us.

We have worked on his recall very hard, and as I said, in low distraction settings he’s great! Even in the Obedience classes, with dogs in the room his recall is really good. He’s good about looking at us on leash, in different settings such as when we are walking at Home Depot. He has never been punished after coming when called and I always make it fun and he gets treats and so I don’t think his recall is wrecked in anyway. He just loves other dogs and people so,so much, which is why training him to walk well took a long time for us. He is always highly interested in dogs and people so while he walks well, I always have to be aware and on top of things. He intensely likes to watch the world, always has. When we are at the small dog park we play recall games, hide and seek games and then I let him go back so that he doesn’t think he has to go every time we call him. Ideally, it would be good to practice when he is playing with dogs in other settings but we just don’t have that. While I sure wish he did, he doesn’t have doggy friends to play with except at the dog day care or the park. He’s played with my son’s dog periodically and he will come when called when they are together.

I could really use some encouragement and some ideas. I’m sad and feel like we have failed him. Are some dogs just better with this than others? We used to take our Great Dane, Moose to this big park and while we did some work with recall, nothing to the extent of work we have done with Bobby. He would always check in and we just didn’t have these sorts of problems in the recall department. Bobby is SO, SO good at so many things but recall, at least in high distraction settings, is truly a problem which I seriously saw today. After all the work we have done, I honestly thought this park experience would have been so much better. He had fun, for sure, played well and came home a happy and tired dog, but the lack of recall was alarming so I am very sad. We will not be going there for a long time.
Thanks for letting me share.
 

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What are you using to reinforce it? I had to switch to something crazy high value to get a high return rate.
 

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I have found this really hard too. Unfortunately, Annie is now where near as food motivated as other dogs I have had, she is very FUN motivated instead.
I do a few things. On, I only try recall maybe 2-3 times in a park session, and mostly not while Annie is particularly engaged. I have been slowly growing the distraction level. I add movement (walk away and call) and kinda dangle for her to chase the treat when she comes to make it more exciting. Then let her go pretty much immediately.
I also have done a lot of work in the park with no other dogs, and a recall meaning I will throw the ball. I highly recommend dog park trips at weird times of day and during miserable icky weather
 

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Have you tried using a long, light line in one of the 'people parks'? As a bridge between no dogs/on leash and the big park with tons of fun dogs to meet. Then you would still be following the leash laws, Bobby might have a sense of more freedom, and you can reel him in if necessary.
 

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And , I also agree with FWoP. Raffi too is way more 'fun' oriented than food. If I needed a super high value reward, it would probably be swinging around his ball-on-a-string.
To use it at a dog park would need some caution I imagine. You would probably want to teach the 'recall to ball' and then release in a quiet area first, so that you could use it with less attention from other dogs. Don't want to cause a fight over the ball.
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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When you were able to "break through" and get his attention, did Bobby come running?

Because Peggy will come when she hears us. But sometimes getting her to hear us is a challenge.
 

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Recall with a highly distractible dog is a challenge to train. You're on the right track with hide and seek games, come/go play type games. But, you chose the wrong place today, that's all. Recall is a relationship mirror. You value your dog, obviously. The question is, does your dog value you? Are you more valuable to your dog than anything else in the world? If the answer is no, let's fix that, and recall will come naturally.

The first step is stop the competition. How much time does your dog spend in free play with other dogs? Too much free play with other dogs dilutes the magical relationship between you and your dog. Your dog is torn in two directions. Form a magical bond with a human, or play with other dogs? Forming magical bonds with humans is like learning to play the piano. It takes time and effort. Free play is like listening to someone else play the piano. That takes no effort. The more time your dog spends racing around with other dogs, the less magical your relationship will be. Less value for your relationship, less value in coming when called.

When I'm teaching dog class, I can tell which dogs spend too much time at the dog park and not enough time with people. These are the dogs who cannot pay attention in class because they don't understand the value of human/dog companionship. They want to play with every dog they see. They were taught that fun happens away from their people on the other side of the park. The dogs you see off leash at the park, who only have eyes for their people, were taught to value their person over anything else.

Reduce the amount of time the dog spends in free play with other dogs and increase the amount of fun you have together. Flirt pole chase games, ball chasing games, heck, YOU chasing games build the magical bond. Hide and seek is fun, and a good way to reinforce both stay and recall. Dog stays in the kitchen. You hide somewhere in the house. Call your dog, throw a party when the dog comes. Outside, play hide and seek behind trees and praise your dog for finding you. Then hide behind a different tree. Act extremely surprised the dog found you. Promise to hide better next time.

Poodles are a unique breed. They are full to the brim with joy and frolic. Use that to your advantage. I am Noelle's favorite playmate. I am the goddess of fun. Because I am the goddess of fun, when Noelle is 250 feet away from me, and I call, "Noelle, come!" she tries to outrun her own legs to get to me. She's not seeking a treat. She's seeking me and reflecting our relationship. The best part of her life is at my side. You can have that kind of recall, too. Increase the value for being with you, decrease the value for being without you, and breathtaking recalls will follow.
 

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I feel for you. You’ve trained so hard and you see this as a failure. But I really don’t. You have to take into account the dog’s temperament, and that’s really hard to change. Same as a dog who is really focused on toys or food. Your dog was a people and dog lover from the beginning, and you probably even chose him for that.

I‘m not in your shoes, but if it was my dog, I would just accept that my dog is just really happy around other dogs and people and tends to forget everything else. If going to the park is too much of a hassle, avoid it. If you can stand it, go even more often so it becomes less of a novelty and hopefully your dog will be less excited when you go. I suppose the dog park is fenced in, so there is no risk of losing your dog.

Having a friendly dog must be a challenge, but to me it’s more desirable than many, many other dog traits which can make a dog owner’s life miserable. I don’t know if it’s any consolation, probably not. I hope you can find something that works for you and your dog.

Your boy sounds like a very well behaved dog and I think you’ve done a great job with him.
 

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If I could press the like button 100 times on Click's post I would do so.

My newest private client has a dog poodleX who won't even recall to her in their own yard and with roast beef in the offing. He likes her but he isn't in love with her because she thinks the best thing is for him to be free to be a dog. He needs to learn to think she is more precious than the air he breathes.
 

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On the topic of recall, I enjoyed this post. Teaching my dog not to take me for granted as a free, guaranteed, and unlimited resource has been a bit of a work in progress. But I remember to think about myself as a resource, recall and a few other things improve. I often pet other dogs and reward other dogs who get to me first at the dog park before I acknowledge Annie if she dawdles (I do know the other dogs and the owners so know it's. Ok for me to give them treats). It's a work in progress, but I am trying to get her to work for my attention instead of me working for hers.

 

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I'd love to get the trainers' input on how much teaching self-control generally spills over into a better recall. One of the (many) mistakes I made with Mia when she was young was that I didn't start playing impulse control games like Look at That until she was maybe 1 or 1.5 years old. Shortly after I started playing those games, I watched a well known trainer adopt a new puppy and she immediately started training LAT everywhere they went. For me it was a bit of a lightbulb moment that you really need to teach self-control and non-reactivity from the start, and I've wondered if it would help with a recall in a highly distracting environment.
 

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I suspect it would. I did a bit of LAT with my new client last week since one of the problems she wants to fix is barkingat passersby, especially if they are walking a dog. I saw that the client dog checked out and started staring at a neighbor with a dog. I did keep him from barking but it is going to take a lot of work to get him to look and not get fixated on the passing dog. The client was happy he didn't bark, but that was a tiny little bit of success.
 
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If you don't want him approaching every human, train him how to do it. Using actors (people he knows), and a leash, let him get six feet of the person, then pull him toward you, then tell him "friend" and let him go say hello. Friend offers treat to lure him into a sit. Repeat over and over. Once you have him acting properly, work in the recall then get him to follow you for a minute. Next time, let him say hello.

This is what I use and it teaches the dog to wait for your signal before going to a person. Once he gets there, he sits like a gentleman
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
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Thank you all so much for your replies. I thoughtfully read through each one and read and watched the things suggested. I was encouraged and challenged. At this point in his life, it is really only a problem in super high distraction settings like yesterday but I fully know that a great recall can be a life saver so for that reason especially, I know it is critical.

In other settings it’s all pretty good so it’s definitely not hopeless. He really is very, very bonded to us in almost all settings. He is in tune to us, and has good focus in most situations. His eye contact is amazing! He rarely goes to the park and he goes to doggie daycare maybe to to 3 days a month except for boarding which is rare. I was just surprised and sad yesterday. I think it was just the wrong setting yesterday for recall practice. It was just too big of a leap for him. I will probably do a lot more work at the small local dog park for awhile yet, during off hours and bad weather times and I think I will also look into a long line and practice at a people park.

I was really watching him during our walk today and during the loose leash walking he looked back at me quite regularly. I think yesterday at the park he really just wasn’t hearing me, sort of like it would be at a fair or concert for us. I also don’t bring toys or smelly treats to the dog park so I didn’t have that to offer. I did have a few of his favorite biscuits hidden in my pocket but I know treats and toys can create problems with others dogs so I’m ultra careful. I do feel with more training and maturity things will get better but at the same time, because he is such a friendly and easily distracted and observant dog it may be something we just have to work extra hard on as this is his personality, which I can shape somewhat but he is who he is so it just may always be a thing. Heck, Bobby even loves the vet!!! 🤣 I love his personality, I just want a solid recall. 😉

With all of that being said, we will work harder at me\us being the source of all things good and wonderful and that I\we will become the best and most fun things on this planet...introducing the flirt pole I made today. Oh, my goodness, Bobby absolutely adored it!!! I should have made one of these things a long time ago!!! When he was a puppy I would drag things around for him but then that just went by the wayside. This flirt pole is magical!!! Bobby has a high prey drive and seriously loves to run and chase and this, as I said, was magical. I set the rules just like tug. I made him sit, he had to wait, and then I gave him the word “chase” and then, game on! HE ran and chased and pounced...totally an excellent Bobby toy! When I had him sitting and waiting I wiggled it and moved it all over and Bobby patiently waited until I said the magic word. He ran and chased but listened to everything I asked of him. He played the game perfectly! He really does have excellent impulse control in most situations. I‘ve tried and tried to get him to play tug. He learned the rules but tug really wasn’t his thing but because he knew the tug rules the flirt pole rules were easy peasy for him. This flirt pole I can see, will be a game changer!!! I am going to learn about everything we can do with it! It only cost me 15 dollars and it would have been cheaper had I not decorated it.
All this to say is that one of the main things I have taken out of this is that I need to be more fun and more interesting. I’m up to the challenge. 😊

Thanks again everyone!
 

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A flirt pole is about the only toy Javelin plays with and he adores it beyond many other things.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
A flirt pole is about the only toy Javelin plays with and he adores it beyond many other things.
How often do you use the flirt pole with Javelin? I have been reading about flirt poles and have read to not use it too often because it keeps the adrenaline ramped up. Your thoughts? Would it matter as much with just short play sessions on a regular basis or longer ones but less often? I‘m pretty sure this is going to be Bobby’s favorite “beyond many other things.“ Too bad I can’t take it to the dog park! LOL!
 

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Once a week or so and for about 10-15 minutes.
 
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