Total Recall by Pippa Mattinson- Exercise 2 Whistle means dinner or Wow

Discussion in 'Dog Training: Principle and Practice' started by Laith, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. Laith

    Laith Registered Users

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    Hi everyone, just wondering if anyone is following the Total Recall Book program and can give me some advice. My dog is an 11 month old Caucasian/German Shepherd mix. Very playful and full of energy. I’m trying to follow the book to the letter and have really only just started, coming to the end of “Whistle equals Wow”. I’m about to start the section, “Whistle means dinner or Wow”. Here is my concern. Bear doesn’t really like his dinner. He’s on dry large breed puppy food. He is fed twice a day, morning and evening. He loves treats and gets very enthusiastic about them but when it is dinner time, he just sits there and watches me put it out. He doesn’t eat the food unless I leave the room. He will eat it but unlike a treat, he doesn’t seem too impressed. I’m not worried about it as he does eventually eat it all, but I’ve never experienced this before as all the other dogs I’ve had get really excited about dinner. This isn’t a new thing because he’s full from Wow treats, he was like this before I started the program. I guess he just doesn’t like it but it is good for him.

    This brings me to my concern. The section “Whistle means dinner or Wow”, I am assuming, assumes the dog will be really excited about dinner just like the Wow treats. Bear obviously isn’t. Could I ask someone with a similar experience, or even just an opinion, whether I should just continue for a little bit longer with Whistle equals Wow and then go straight to Exercise Four, Moving treats, or shall I persevere with Whistle means dinner.

    Appreciate any advice

    Laith

    PS, apologies if this has already addressed in another thread, I couldn’t find it.
     
  2. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Hi @Laith

    I typed food motivation in the site's search function. Lots of discussion of the food motivation issue.

    Please read through. I think you will discover that some of the food motivation problem you are experiencing can be traced back to the way you have been managing food with your specific dog.
     
  3. Laith

    Laith Registered Users

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    Thanks Michael, I'll do that.
     
  4. Laith

    Laith Registered Users

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    Just on another note, I noticed that if I picked up his dinner as if I was taking it away, then he would come over to eat it. This seems to have worked. I can't train during his breakfast because I'm not there so I slightly adapted the routine. 2 sachets of cat food, 1 dinner and his Kong stuffed with chicken. Seems to be working. We're on to "Moving dinners" now using the same routine.
     
  5. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Hi @Laith
    I don't recommend such a tactic of moving/or mixing in exotic food. You are still nuturing fussy eating habits. Put the food down for a short period. If he does not eat it, then remove it. He gets to eat it at the next alloted time.
     
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  6. Laith

    Laith Registered Users

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    Hi Michael, I appreciate your comments but I'm a little confused. The recall program I'm following specifically says to move dinners and also to use premium treats. Maybe I wasn't clear. Bear does eat his supper and I'm assuming his breakfast. As I said, I don't give him his breakfast. I think if I just took it off him just because he doesn't show massive enthusiasm, he would get pretty upset. If he didn't eat it at all, I see your point completely. The other issue is, I live in the Middle East at the moment. As it's summer, temperatures of 45 c with humidity at about 70%, he is not getting as much exercise as he does when it's cooler. Even the sea feels like a hot bath so I have to be careful. I'm wondering if this might also contribute to his lack of appetite.
     
  7. Jo Laurens

    Jo Laurens Registered Users

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    Heat can reduce appetite, but presumably he is able to be cool for most of the day due to shade/air con etc?

    The recall program you're following assumes a dog which a decent level of motivation for regular food. Your dog lacks that. Therefore you can't progress until you have fixed it. If you do, you will be building on shaky foundations. Because you will end up pandering to the dog to provide ever-tasty treats when you get to later training, and a dog which refuses regular nutritionally balanced meals in the hope of filling up on training treats - and so on...

    I would suggest halving the amount of food he gets for breakfast for several days, as per: http://www.sue-eh.ca/page24/page39/

    And with his dinner when you are home, instead of putting it down in a bowl, train the dog with it. Not recalls, but other behaviours like sit, down, heel, stay etc etc. Dogs will value what they have to work for, more than what they get for free. (Same for people too.) If he isn't interested in working for his food and walks off, just put what is left away until the next meal time. If you run out of things to train, look up Kikopup on YouTube and give some of her exercises a go.

    If you are home for both his meals (like at the weekend), then do the training with both meals. If he works for the food, he can have the full regular allowance of it. But if he's not motivated to work for it, he doesn't get it....
     
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  8. Laith

    Laith Registered Users

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    Hi Jo, thank you so much for the advice. I have taken Michael's advice on board as well and will be putting the whistle away for a while to work on his food motivation. As I said, I need a really strong recall, not just because of his size, the culture here is very different concerning dogs to what it is in the UK. Although most people are fine, some are petrified of dogs, even toy breeds. To that end, I don't want to ruin it from the beginning. I already had an incident with Bear with a jogger when he was about 4 months old. I had Bear off the lead on the beach and hadn't seen the jogger. Bear spotted him and ran over to say hello. The jogger did the worst thing possible and ran for it. Bear naturally thought this was great fun. Unfortunately not so the jogger who didn't stand a chance of outrunning him. Luckily, after profuse apologies from me trying to explain that he was just a puppy and was only playing, he was okay about it. It could have been a lot worse if he wasn't so understanding.

    Could I ask just one other thing. If I feel he is sufficiently motivated by his regular dinner after I try the techniques you mention, when I restart the recall program, should I go back to the very beginning or continue with Moving Dinners.

    Once again, thank you both for the advice. I really do appreciate it.

    Regards

    Laith
     
  9. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I would return to an earlier phase in your training, in order to have success and refresh the dog's memory, before starting on the performance criterion in which you had experienced a problem. But there are no guarantees. Young dogs tend to forget routines relatively quickly. Older dogs tend to have better retention. So after trying the dog for say 10 repetitions at the last step in which you had success and experiencing failure, you may have to return to an even earlier stage in the training. Flexibility on your part is a key part of dog training.
    Good luck. I'm afraid I had to laugh when I read about the beach incident. I tell my basic obedience students to walk or run away from their dog when they have accidentally dropped the lead on the ground and their dog has gone walkabout. They protest and tell me they must run after the dog to get it back. New dog owners and individuals who have never owned a dog just don't understand the emotions of dogs. I don't mean to belittle your problem. I now fully understand why recall is so important to you. Thanks for sharing your story.
     
  10. Laith

    Laith Registered Users

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    It was funny at the time. I have to admit I was trying desperately to be serious when I ran over to him but it wasn't easy. I actually have an even funnier story that Bear got me into which I can tell you if you like. The problem here is socialising dogs. Opportunities are thin on the ground. Luckily, Bear doesn't have a mean streak in him on any level. He does get anxious in situations where he feels a bit insecure which can result in scary behaviour like barking but he will calm down. There was a dog trainer here who runs socialisation classes but she won't touch him because of his size. Apparently he will scare the other dogs and owners.

    I've had quite a few dogs in the past but they have all been of the standard family dog style, in other words, "loosely" trained. I just feel I need to instill a bit more discipline in Bear because of the potential consequences if something goes wrong. It's quite funny that my 12 year old Saluki/Shepherd mix, with hip dysplasia and arthritis, who is half the size of Bear, is absolutely the boss.

    Anyway, thank you once again Michael. I may come back to you for more advice in the future if that's okay.

    Regards

    Laith
     
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  11. pippa@labforumHQ

    pippa@labforumHQ Administrator

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    Hi Laith, I understand why you are concerned about recall with a pup that is going to be a big and powerful dog. But as Jo and Michael have said, your dog needs to be motivated to eat in order to train with food. So that is the priority. It also sounds as though your dog is getting too much in the way of alternatives to his puppy food and is not sufficiently hungry for his regular food. It's important to find a balance. So as well as cutting back on meals a little, I'd cut out the treats altogether until you've got the dog 'back in the game'. :) Let us know how you get on!
     
  12. Laith

    Laith Registered Users

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    Hi Pippa,

    Thanks for the reply and information. I really appreciate it. Before the training program, Bear didn’t have many treats. I used small treats to teach basics like sit, down, etc. I would also give both dogs a raw beef rib every other day or so but that was about it. Obviously he’s been getting a lot more WOW treats such as hunks of roast chicken and sachets of cat food since I started the program.

    Dinner time works like this. At 6 o clock, both the dogs let us know it is time for dinner in the usual way. My wife feeds Loki at one end of the house and I feed Bear in another room. We do this because if we feed them together, Loki will finish his quickly and then bully Bear away from his, despite the fact he’s old and half the size. We can’t have this as Bear misses out on dinner but also Loki, because he has arthritis and hip dysplasia, needs to be on a calorie controlled diet. When I go to feed Bear, he runs with me, all excited, into the room and jumps on the bed. He watches me prepare the dinner. As I come back into the room to give it to him, he stays on the bed just watching me. I put it on the floor and he still just watches me. As I walk out of the room, he jumps off the bed and eats his dinner. It’s almost as if he’s been trained to do it but he hasn’t. He then runs over to Loki’s bowl to see if there is anything left and Loki does the same to him.

    I have noticed something though. Because I had started the Recall training and was following the instructions in the book, I had reached the moving dinners section. I’ve now put the program on hold in case there is a food motivation issue. What I noticed was that if I put the food down, he would just watch me from the bed. If I picked it up and then started backing out of the room, he would leap off the bed and run to me. I would blow the whistle as he came to me and then when I put it down again, he would eat it all. Could I ask what your opinion is of that behaviour.

    I am now reducing the amount he eats during the day, as you suggest and I’m also trying Jo’s suggestion of making him work for his dinner by using the kibble for a bit of training first. I will also do what Michael suggested and simply take it away if he doesn’t seem to be interested at all but I haven’t done that yet as he is eating it.

    I am a little confused as to what behaviour I am to expect from him. Loki is typical of all the dogs I’ve had. He can’t wait for you to put his bowl down and then wolfs it down as quick as he can. Bear has never been a greedy dog, even as a two month old puppy. He has never snatched at food that’s offered to him by hand. Quite the contrary, he will sniff it with what seems suspicion, even if it’s a juicy beef rib. He will then gently take it in his mouth and walk off to eat it. Don’t get me wrong, he will eat it all with relish once he starts. I will try the food motivation techniques but I fear he may never be as motivated about his dinner as say Loki is.

    Anyway, sorry about the long post but I thought I would try to describe his behaviour in detail. I really appreciate all the advice I’m being given and will put it into practice.

    On another note Pippa, I love the book. I’m sure that once I get this food motivation sorted, I’ll be able to train his recall to the point I will not have to worry at all about him being off the lead in public. I will let you know how it all goes.

    Regards

    Laith

    PS Thank you Jo for the YouTube advice, Kikopup. It’s actually quite motivating as it shows the level a dog can be trained to.
     

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