Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Coming When Called

All of us who deal with dogs in a semi-educated way know that the cardinal rules of recall do not include whacking a dog when you're trying to him/her to come. There are a lot of great ways to teach recall, but bottom line, it's about making it FUN for the dog to come to you, not awful, dreadful, and full of fear of being hit.

But I had a realization today when a small dog got out of his house and charged at Mac during our walk. This small dog always barks at Mac through his door when we walk by his house- I alternate routes, so it's maybe every other day or every third day. Today was the first time I've ever seen him. He was a pure bred Oakland Small Dog- kind of a chihuahua terrier thing, white and brown and he made a bee-line for Mac, barking and growling. Mac did his normal "I see a stray dog and I don't like him but I'm too spechul too know what to do with him" thing- he postured like a mad man while I kicked at the small dog helplessly in my flip flops (one flew off) and a bunch of bikers stood by watching (and laughing, I'm sure). A woman came out screaming at her dog to come, which of course he ignored, and when she got close, she made a VERY serious gesture like she was going to smack him with an open hand. Her hand loomed very large to me, and I'm sure even larger to the smallish dog. She wasn't close enough to hit him, but close enough the dog cowered.

This is where my "aha" moment came- Although the woman didn't hit the dog, hitting the dog worked for her- it stopped the dog from running, and she was able to pick up her dog. She didn't achieve a recall, exactly, but she achieved her goal: she caught her dog. Maybe this is why so many people think that scolding, yelling at, hitting their dog or otherwise using a negative works to get their dogs to come: owner does something negative/abusive and the dog acts in a fearful way which causes them to STOP what they're doing, i.e: run. This allows the slow human to catch up with fast dog.

I am not advocating this, just walking through something that (also being a slow human) I just realized today. Perhaps a sad truth that trainers teaching recall need to acknowledge when looking at re-training humans.

On a positive note, when the whole incident was done (3.5 seconds later) the bikers told me I had a good looking dog. I pulled together a shard of dignity, found my errant flip flop, and said "thanks."


Valerie said...

says a lot about how most parenting is conducted in this country.