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Problems with recall. Commands being totally blanked.

Hello all :-).

I've had Harley for four years (since a pup) now and although we had some recall issues with him as a puppy, they were overcome and he was brilliant. Until around six weeks ago that is....

The issue I am having is unless we are on our own (no other dogs or humans in sight) he is totally blanking my recall commands. Not only is it annoying for me when he refuses to come back but also, he will run up to other dogs and owners and be a real pest. Despite being socialised as a puppy and throughout his life as an adult, he seems to be unable to read other dogs body language and will get right in their face until some are snapping and growling at him purely because he is insistent that he wants to be 'friends'.

I have tried recall in the garden and rewarding with high-value treats the second he comes back (dog chocolate drops which he adores) and I've also done it in our park. He will come back straight away and sit and wait unless there is another dog or human around. At that point he may as well be deaf and I may as well not be there.

He is an entire (I'm wondering if this could be the problem considering the time of year?!) dog. Four years old.

There has been no change in handling, rules, surroundings or any disturbances to his routine so I am genuinely at a loss as to what to do next. 

When he runs off, people think he is a badly trained dog and I am a lazy owner and that couldn't be further from the truth. In every other respect, he is fab and really a good boy who I can take anywhere (including on the bus and through town to the dog groomers and back again. He was perfectly behaved and didn't put a foot wrong!). It's just this recent habit of 'I'm deaf, I can't hear you!' with recall that is causing issues, to such an extent I am now reluctant to let him off the lead which is obviously a bad thing as he needs to stretch his legs and run.

He is taken out daily for at least an hour so it isn't lack of exercise either :?. I don't know if the fault lays with me, him or whether it is 50/50. I am genuinely at a loss as to what to do but it can't go on as I don't want this becoming a lifelong habit. He needs to come back when I call him not only for the sake of good manners but also safety issues. 

Thanks in advance for any help or advice :-).

Loving Setter owner who is at the brink of tearing her hair out! ;-).

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I have the same issue with my older dog so you're not alone!  He's 7 now and hasn't grown out of it.  Recently, he ambushed a reclining couple (much to my embarrassment), something he used to do as a puppy.  

We walk our dogs on long-lines and if there is anything up ahead that looks as if it might cause a problem, we can reel them in if they don't respond to commands.

I can empathise with you as I have experienced a sudenly deaf setter before! Luckily Arthur is pretty good at coming back but likes to say  hello to everyone. He reads other dogs very well and any sign of aggression from another dog and he runs back to me or somebody else whom he shelters behind,it surprises some people! However if a dog is in season there isn't a hope in hell of getting him back and not for the rest of the day either!

I hope you can sort your problem and would have only advised what you are already doing with treats.

Reading Lesley's reply ,I remember Fred diving into some bushes with woofs of joy and I was greeted with the sight of a naked couple rising quickly from their 'love nest'!!! I never saw them again!

Oh don't they like to keep you on your toes!!

I've no new ideas I'm afraid, except go back to square one and introduce a 'new' recall command. A long trailing training line can be a good tool which acts as a halfway measure. See if you can find a copy of Pippa Mattinson's book 'Total Recall' which gives good step by step programmes...just don't try missing a step:) She emphasise the importance of the generalising tasks, in particular, and its very thought provoking.

Hope you have success.

N.B. none of mine have had 100% perfect recall, but luckily no lasting damage done other than to my pride!

Ah, but that intelligent and cheeky 'trying' character is why we love them isn't it :-D Clearly, the lot of us are gluttons for punishment! 

I don't over-use the recall command, I only use it when I need him back and have kept him sharp on it by calling him back, making a big fuss of him and sending him off for a run again so it isn't even a case of him associating 'here' with 'hometime'.

The book sounds very helpful, thanks :-) I shall have a look at Amazon. I'm really not sure if it is the time of year or whether he has reached that age where it is 'I know best and I know better than you mum' :/ :-D.

Howard and Lesley, I'm about to shoot off now for evening walks but I shall properly read both your replies later. Thank you :-).

Recall issues have a number of causes, but with regards to Finnigan you have said it yourself here:

....... "not that interested in humans"  You have to look at how the dog views you and whether or not it is taking you for granted. If he is taking you for granted all the training books in the world are going to get you nowhere.

Under these circumstances the advice below works, combined with daily recall training, without distractions and then building up into distractions, as does stopping the dog following you everywhere in the house, which can be a real stress issue for many dogs.  You cannot take the advice in isolation, it's a combination of  both elements: his view of you combined with persistent and consistent training.  Although the article is titled "dominance" on the link,  this is not what the article is saying at all. Quite the reverse actually.


I believe Finnigan introduced himself to Chunk Rottweiler Short (his facebook name) up in the woods one weekend?  If it wasn't Finnigan then there is another Red up there who likes to visit other dogs lol.  Will love to meet up for walkies again, Will text you to arrange something. Health up and down at the moment, and Tallulah is still doing quite well, although like me - she has her days.

I wonder if Barkley will still want to beat Finnigan up.  He has a Tamaskan 'friend' and always pins him  to the floor when they first get together, and then they are quite happy to race around together after that.

It seems to be somewhat of a Setter trait! I have a copy of Pippa Mattison's book on order from Amazon so wish me luck :-). Thanks for the recommendation -).

Howard, I have just read your story about the naked couple. I couldn't stop giggling :-D

I understand your frustration. Though mine are pups still it's like they mind one day and not the next. I have purchased a 100ft length of parachute cord and tied a small loop in one end to make a pull through collar, the other is tied around my waist, length can be adjusted and the excess cord will store in a small pocket. Let the training and review begin, again. Some days they have the attention span of a gnat!

Julia I was just reading through....

how is the b doing now?

Was just wondering if he is a bit bored? You could spice life up a bit if it still isnt working out with recall. Wont bore you now but if you are still strugglinh - holler!

I think it was just the time of year with him ;-) Not long after I posted this, he was back to his usual level of obedience which I must say, was a relief because it really did look like I'd never bothered to train him! 

I do vary his walks and routes and we go to new places once in a while too so I try to keep his mental stimulus up. Thankfully, no problem now. They are sent to try us though ;-) :-D.

Thanks again :-).

Hello and sorry for late reply to this discussion but ive only just joined the site ).

   My setter boy Bailey has very good recall he's only 17 months old so hes doing pretty well. But just lately he has started to 'ambush' people and other dogs by running up behind them and making a fuss!. He always comes back and sits by my side waiting for his treat after he's said 'hello' tho!!. I find he is still learning to read other dogs body language and to know they are not all as loopy or playfull as him. Puppies/younger dogs cope with him fine but older or more mature dogs do get fed up,snap at him and they cant get away quick enough!. I've gone back to basics and put him back on an extending lead to practice his recall-only letting him off if the coast is clear or i know the dogs are ok with him. But i do get frustrared because i want to let him run. I've found a vibrating collar helps a great deal but he ignores that too sometimes with his enthusiasm to run and play!. I hope this helps. You are not alone!. Regards Tina




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