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Road Safety: The Dropped Recall.

Over forty years ago, the City of York Road safety training school taught this exercise, as it was believed that if you could drop your dog at a distance then this would be a excellent road safety training exercise.

The basic idea is that if your dog is roaming about or coming back to you and you see a problem, like a car driving between you and your dog, if you can stop your it in the down, you can wait for the problem to pass and then recall your dog. In addition, if there are other dogs running about, then again if you can drop your dog, then go over, and clip your lead on, this does give you so much control.

Sometimes I have used this in Working trials as an exercise so that as a dog returns from a three hundred metre send away and redirection, halfway back I tell the handler to stop their dog making it go into the sit, stand and down positions, before finally recalling it.

Other uses have been when redirecting my dog. If it is not concentrating on my commands, but those of its own, using the DOWN it stops him until he re-concentrates on me, then I can recommence the redirection commands again.

The problem with this exercise is people have been watching too much one man and his dog. Watching Boarder Collies working sheep at a distance is fantastic to watch, but this breed is inheriting a tradition of working dog traits that make this breed excellent at both working and competitions.

This does not mean you cannot teach this exercise, but for beginners with their lack of motor skills and a need to control their human anxiety it does make it very difficult. So though this looks like a good exercise for a dog, teaching it without understanding how it views the training, can ruin any chances of success.

The one problem with any beginnerís class is that for most of the time the exercises taught are nearly all close proximity training. Even the recall or retrieve is normally only a short distance from the handler. Whilst the York Road Safety training school taught this exercise for beginners, again it was in a church hall and only a short distance from the handler. Whilst it was successful within the hall, outside at a real distance, success was rare.

Many handlers have asked if I would teach this in my beginnerís classes. As I already teach handling working at a distance, incorporating this is relatively easy. What needs understanding is this exercise needs sectionalising. It then requires handlers to practice these sections at home every day, if they wish to succeed.

If you look at the exercise from a dogís point of view, you can see the handler is the problem, not the dog. So if you would like to try to teach your dog this exercise, think how you would try to train it and compare this with how we actually teach it. Understanding the difference, you can then appreciate why the dog often gets the blame.

The assumed method is, providing you can tell your dog to go down, you command your dog to WAIT and then leave it. You then call your dog. At about half way, you tell it DOWN, in what is often a shouted command as if the dog had done something wrong. The dog does not stop. It even shows submissive signals like lowering its head or crawling on its tummy as it tries to get back to you. The handler then shouts more aggressively commands of DOWN. The handler then must rush forward to push it into the position, whilst shouting at it to wait. The handler then returns to their original spot only to complete a normal recall, which only confuses the dog.

For the dog, it does not know what it did wrong. Then when being shouted at, the best place to be is by the handlerís side showing submission and asking for forgiveness. Continuing with this method makes the dropped recall one the dog will hate. To carry on this way to achieve a stop at a real distance will be a complete failure. The owner will then just think they have a dog that will not work at a distance and give up.

A dog must enjoy what it is doing; otherwise, it will not wish to do it again. This exercise needs to find a way that will encourage the dog to drop like a stone when requested to; but how.

The first thing is to be able to make your dog go quickly into a sit, stand, or down when you tell it too, by offering treats or a toy. This will start with the dog being near you but you can, if you lean forward and reach out your arm, get your dog to stop at least a metre away from you by offering a treat in your fingers. To make the distance a bit further you can put a treat on a long stick. If used during the recall then again, this will teach the dog to stop and then go into sit etc, but further away from you.

One other method is to surround your dog with chairs. You then tell your dog from a much further distance to go into the sit stand or down and reward your dog by walking forward to praise it. You can also throw treats into the confined area that your dog will catch. Handlers can practice these methods at home regularly.

The correct method is to use either the distance recall or a recall following a send away. As it is returning, the handler says STOP and then throws a toy over the head of the dog. The dog learns that the handler will throw the toy or a treat and so will gladly stop, knowing that it has to go back to collect its reward.

After a little training, just saying STOP, the dog willingly stays and waits for its toy or food treat. The handler can now tease the dog, as it will not come forward because it knows the treat goes back over its head.

Once the handler has achieved the STOP, they can utilise the tease a little further. As the dog waits, the handler gives the command SIT before it gets its reward. Once the sit position is working then the handler can follow this with the down or stand or any combination that you wish.

The handler must teach all the elements of this exercise so that the dog loves to perform them for a toy or treats. With sectionalising, any weak points, handlers can teach them separately until they are correct. All that is then required is frequent practise until the dog works just like those on television.

This exercise is good, looks good, and does you good as it could probably save your dogs life. Teaching it you have to utilise fun and reward, otherwise it will remain something that you think only Boarder Collies can perform, which is not the case.

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