I’ve heard it before, but it came up again last week. An assistant instructor at a class saying “I have an instant recall on my dog. I can work it off-lead right next to a busy freeway.”
Are you sure? I mean, really sure? Is it really possible during the life of any dog to proof it off every single thing that it might ever someday find irresistible? Remember, we expect search dogs to be at least a little bit independent of us. Oh, and by-the-way, the penalty for being wrong is the death of your beloved partner.
Have you proofed it off of cats?
A baseball mascot in a hat.
A creepy clown with tooting horn?
The wafting smell of popping corn.
And beyond irresistible, what about terrifying? A car backfire, a ladder falling, or a firefighter blowing the air horn on their rig. Your dog can bolt while your head is turned looking for the source of the noise.
The question is not whether you think you have an instant recall, but why you’d take the risk. What’s wrong with working your dog on a long-line in an area with hazards?
Despite the instructor’s criticism, I chose to work Ruger on a long-line in a city park adjacent to the city’s main street. He nailed the exercise. He also completely ignored the guy mowing the lawn, the family with the Pekinese, and the two town deer that wandered by. He did so because we can predict those distractions, and we’ve specifically worked on them. Still, on a busy city street there’s the unknown. You can never know every sight, sound or smell that your dog could find irresistable. You don’t know what you don’t know.
The instructor also said “putting my dog on a line would shut him down.” Really?
In a knot-tying class I was once told “if you can’t tie the knot with your gloves on, then you can’t tie the knot.”
If you can’t work your dog on a long-line, then you can’t work your dog.
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