Recall in the snow
We're really working hard on improving Sparky's recall, with the help of a workshop we've taken at Company of Animals. They've given us some great tips for improving recall. It turns out I was on the right track, but I just needed to do more of what I was already doing: better treats, more exciting recalls, and generally making myself even more of a beloved (and benevolent) human. If I am the source of all good things, he'll want to be sure to be near me, despite the lure of squirrels. (Here's a video by Company of Animals on "canine currency" that explains how to improve rewards.)
Although I thought I was offering high-value treats to Sparky whenever I whistled for him to come, it turns out there are even better treats than roast turkey.
Now, being vegan, I'm not exactly thrilled at putting any kind of meat in my hands, and I drew the line at sardines. Except that's the thing that Sparky loves most. His recall has improved even more since we rewarded him with a sardine each time he raced up to us.
Fortunately there is such a thing as rubber gloves.
The video above was taken at the Camp, a local Iron Age hillfort where we frequently walk Sparky. It's surrounded by trees and brush, and beyond that, fenced gardens. So it's a safe place to work on recall skills.
Sunday is our last session of the workshop. The last time we went, Sparky was fascinated by the llamas that came up to the fence. They proved to be the perfect distraction, which we needed to get Sparky's recall to the next level, where he would return to us despite a high level distraction. (In the wild, sheep, horses, and of course squirrels are real-life distractions he'll have to learn to ignore when we call him.)
As we discovered, when it was turkey vs llamas, the llamas won. But when sardines entered the picture, we suddenly had a dog totally focused on us.
A very smelly victory, but still, a victory.