A Dog's Eye View: Locate, lock and launch for results

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Laura Tyler

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.

Last week, we looked at a scenario in which a dog’s focus turned from walking with his human to becoming obsessed with a running rabbit. Because we live surrounded by magnificent hiking trails, we’ve all had moments when our once tuned-in dog becomes one that doesn’t hear or respond to any of our commands or calls. Is there something we can do to be more proactive in these situations?  

You bet.

One way to increase the odds of success with the outdoor recall is to think of your timing using these three concepts:  

1) Locate. Did your dog just sniff the air or ground or notice the movement of what he thinks might be a bunny? Did you see it first? OK then, there’s still a pretty good chance of creating enough distraction and then redirecting your dog to you.

2) Lock. Yep, he sees it. He’s frozen in the split-second instant it takes him to follow his instincts. Now he’s giving you that one millisecond opportunity to really up the ante. You still can turn him and make this work if you generate the appropriate distraction and use your training skills.

3) Launch. Too late. You lose. He’s off and running and your recall completely is lost on him. As a matter of fact, if you call him now, it’s quite possible you’ve just lowered the value of your recall training. So, what now?  

Just suck it up, quietly put him back on leash, take a deep breath and reprimand yourself for poor timing. Absolutely nothing you can say will make him remorseful. He’s still “high” from the chase. The worst thing you can do is to punish him when he returns. Besides, it’s entirely your fault. If you weren’t so distracted, confident, unaware, uninvolved, etc., you would have, could have, might have and should have seen it coming.  

Every time you let your dog off leash, you roll the dice. You can’t always see it coming, but being vigilant and alert to the environment keeps us all much safer. This little life lesson can be applied to any situation. Learn to read your environment. See the big picture and plan for the unexpected. Don’t leave your off-leash walks in the hands of fate.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.

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