Day 5: Recallers!

Sorry guys, I need to interrupt our regular programming with a little bit of advertising for Susan Garrett’s Recallers program, which is about to open in the next few days. I totally understand if you say you don’t need it because your dog’s recall is good enough or if you say it’s too expensive (because, let’s face it, it’s not that cheap). But at least sign up to see her free videos which she will most likely take down once the registration closes. At least that’s what she’s done in the previous years. You’ll need to enter your name and email address, but the information is worth it. (Note: I get absolutely nothing from Susan or anyone else for advertising Recallers, I just think it’s a great course.)

There is lots of fluff in those free videos, but Susan is one of world’s greatest dog trainers and in between the fluff and marketing you will find golden nuggets – completely free of charge. In particular I encourage you to watch the 2nd video (It’s Your Choice game) and play it, even if just for fun, with your furry friends. It’s amazing to see their little brains figure out how to get the cookies.

Although Recallers is comprised of more than 30 “games”, It’s Your Choice is at the heart of most of them. We are basically setting up a million situations in which dog can either choose us (and get an awesome reward) or choose environment (and end up not being able to enjoy it anyway). We set up situations so that the dog cannot possibly self-reward if he chooses incorrectly. Imagine it like this: with every game we’re strengthening the brain pathway that leads to dog choosing us over environment and after a while the dominant pathway (which chooses environment over us) starts to atrophy. We end up with a dog who now has a much easier time choosing us over environment, because the “good” pathway is now stronger than the “bad” one.

Even though I love Recallers and it’s quite possible that it saved Ruby’s life when he started chasing a cat in the city center, I will be the first to admit that it’s not suitable for all people. To get the most out of it you need to know how to motivate your dog or your dog must be one of those who goes crazy for food or toys. Lots of owners don’t even know their dog is crazy about food or toys simply because they haven’t tried hard enough and for those Recallers will work brilliantly. But if you have tried everything and your dog is still meh, then it won’t work so well. You can still sign up and you will get value from it, but I advise you to pay close attention to your dogs emotions. It’s easy to become too focused on ‘self-control’ aspect of exercises. But it’s über important to see excitement even when we’re playing games of control. Fail to get excitement and Recallers won’t work.

Last but not least, if you plan to do Recallers, start working on Crate Games today. I am not a Crate Games addict and I should really remember to play them more often than once per year, but when you’re teaching the dog about real-life choices between work and distractions it doesn’t get much better than using CG (well there is one other trick I like to employ, but Crate Games are more fail-proof). When Java was a few months old and went absolutely bonkers when Ruby was chasing a ball and NO TREATS could get her to pay attention to me I used Crate Games to get her to offer waiting with crate door open and feeding her those same treats that she wouldn’t take before. I can’t believe I didn’t get my camera out to video that session. The difference in her behavior was spectacular. She has been doing Crate Games from 10 weeks old so she was used to making good choices in that context. That’s how I was able to throw her #1 distraction at her and she still did her job. With time this translated into making good choices outside of the crate. It’s all about strengthening the right pathways.

Borrow the DVD from a friend, or go over to Susan’s store and get a discounted DVD by entering 5MINUTESCRATE. The Crate Games are described in the course so you don’t HAVE to buy a DVD, but trust me you want to start working on those right away. Get an overnight delivery – do what you must. This really should be listed as a prerequisite before you enroll for Recallers as it can take a while to build sufficient value for Crate Games before they will be useful for training with distractions, which is where their real power to atrophy the environment-choosing brain pathways lies.

I will admit I don’t appreciate Susan’s marketing strategy. I also don’t appreciate not being told that Crate Games will be used before I enrolled in the course. But the information is excellent and Susan gives detailed explanation, troubleshooting and reasoning on which her decisions were based. Call me silly, but I’m willing to overlook questionable marketing tactics to get to the good stuff.

Did I get a perfect dog after Recallers? Are you kidding me??? I love Ruby to bits, but he is still a pretty naughty boy 🙂 If I don’t regularly set up situations to keep reinforcing good choices, the environment pathway can become too strong, but when we do train he will recall from anything, at any time. He will never be an easy dog, but now I know how to make my life easier IF I am willing to pay the price of thinking and training.

Just go and watch those free videos, OK? 🙂

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10 thoughts on “Day 5: Recallers!

  1. MaryHope Schoenfeld

    Thanks, Andreja — you’ve given me the motivation to watch the free videos. I often don’t, because they’re usually so padded with unnecessary verbiage & the sales pitch. But i’ll watch these ones 🙂

    • Oh I should mention you can skip the first one… but the 2nd is great and I loved the 3rd one.

  2. Silke Capo

    I don’t mind all the marketing things because in every free video there are always some gold nuggets as Andreja said. And recallers really is a good course. I also did it with my dog, but never finished because he got injured while I worked on recallers. Think I should finish it now 🙂 The tuggers forum is really helpful to get a dog to play.

    • I think her marketing videos are getting more and more training-oriented with every course she opens – I love it! And courses themselves are really well put together. Lots of video, lots of different exercises to do and she really teaches each component of the final behavior thoroughly.

  3. Pingback: Teaching A Brilliant Recall | Ruby The Whippet

  4. Thank you. I’ve been looking into crate games and recallers (though this year’s is closed) for a while. I enjoyed your posts about it.. and the dvd discount code finally got me off my tush to order crate games though we’ve been playing it for a week with what I already knew 🙂

  5. spongebob

    I really want to try it, but I think that the price is absolutely crazy. 500 $ for 40 videos is way to much for me.

  6. Interesting summary 🙂 I just did the critical core exercises as a guest and decided to not sign up for the course. Mostly due to personal circumstances but also because of that huge cloud of hot air that came with the videos. Isn’t “It’s Yer Choice” simply the good old “reward wanted behavior, ignore unwanted behavior” training method? I didn’t feel like paying that much cash and risk receiving a bunch of equally shallow exercises, especially with two dogs that aren’t exactly excited about work, toys or games.

    • Sure, you could call it that. But if you’re just ignoring the behavior and the dog is still getting some value out of it then you’re not training much… Let’s just say that ignoring behavior is not a big part of Recallers 🙂

      If you’ve done a fair bit of self-control exercises with your dog then you have probably done some version of those exercises before. As I mentioned, I already did most of them with Ruby before Recallers. The devil is in the details, though. Changing the little details can improve the effect of the game by 50% or more. Details like the way you reward, when you reward and especially how you handle failure.

      For example, I played the 1-2-3 game long before Recallers. The dog is supposed to sit while you go away, crouch and say One, Two, Three… OK! Ruby had some trouble discriminating between when he should takeoff (on OK) and when he should remain sitting (any other word). I did everything right, but his understanding was only so-so. In Recallers I noticed that Susan’s attitude when the dog broke the stay was completely different than mine. I was neutral, possibly with a look of disappointment on my face. Susan was upbeat, acting as if she just played a hillarious prank on that dog. When I changed my attitude, Ruby’s understanding improved!

      Why? Because the dog will only learn as well as you can motivate him. And when I was being dull Ruby thought this was a stupid game. His motivation to figure out what were the rules of the game wasn’t high enough. When I started laughing at his failures (but no treat or toy, of course 🙂 ) he started enjoying the game more. Then he really started to learn.

      You are of course correct in thinking that you must first be able to motivate the dog though food and/or toys before Recallers can be useful.

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