Sal Learns to Recall on Command and Stop Stealing Food Off the Counters

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 3, 2014

SalSal is a three-year-old female Shepherd mix who pulls on the leash, steals things and doesn’t recall very well.

Unlike most of my clients, Sal’s owners had incorporated a few basic rules that she obeyed. I could tell she had a great nature and personality so I jumped right into an exercise to help with the recall issue.

We started out inside where the conditions are easiest. I like to incorporate a hand signal for each command for the times when the dog can’t hear verbal directions. For the sit, I like to use a open hand, palm-up signal. When the dog looks up at a hand in this position, its easy to move the hand over the dog’s head and towards its butt. This movement usually causes the dog to sit down in order to better follow the motion.

I used this technique a few times so that Sal understood what I wanted. While she already knew the sit, I generally expect a dog to sit at the conclusion of most movement commands. Once she started to sit as soon as she saw the open palm, I gave her owner a few high value treats and we moved to opposite sides of the room.

We took turns calling Sal using only the word “come.” Most of my clients use a variation of the word. While this works if you speak English, the variations of the word can be confusing if you dont. So using “come-here,” “here girl,” “over-here” and other words makes training the dog harder than necessary.

At first we had to gently encourage Sal to recall, but after a few reps, she started to bound over quickly so we increased the distance between us. Once Sal mastered the exercise at a distance, we moved into the back yard.

As luck would have it Sal’s back yard neighbors’ kids had a bouncy house set up and a dozen or so kids were running around, yelling and making for an excellent distraction. I handed out more treats and we formed a circle about 15 feet in diameter.

We took turns calling Sal and because she responded so well, we increased the distance to about 20 yards. This made it a bit more of a challenge as some of the members of the family were younger and didn’t speak too loudly. But as we practiced, Sal responded well.

I suggested her owners practice this exercise daily for the next week to cement in the response to the recall command.

To address the counter surfing I suggested that her owner take a large plastic bowl and drill a small hole in it. Take a piece of 20 inch string and tie it to it, then tie the other end to a bagel. After putting the bowl and bagel on the edge of the kitchen counter, I told her to fill the bowl with empty soda cans and some loose change in the cans along with some silverware.

When the dog pulls the bagel down, the string will pull down the bowl and the loud noise should startle her. When that happens, I told Sal’s owner to walk in and say nothing to the dog. Just pick everything up and replace the cans and silverware in the bowl. Then put it all back on the edge of the counter and leave the room again.

It will probably take a few times, but if done right, it should cure the desire to counter surf pretty quickly. If anyone reading this wants to try the technique, here is a link to one of my former clients putting it into action

Make sure you only do this when your home and make sure you pick everything up right after the dog pulls it down.

To address the pulling on the leash, I fitted Sal up with a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash. As usual, it stopped the pulling immediately.

By the end of the session Sal was calmer, in fact we probably wore her out as she was laying contently on the floor. Because her owners had already laid a great foundation of trust and leadership, it shouldn’t take long for these new commands and behaviors to become permanent.

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