Saturday, February 28, 2015

Teaching your dog to go outside nicely

I think there are some basic doggie manners that every dog can learn. These manners make the dog a joy to live with, and make the owner’s life easier. Today I’m going to be talking about training your dog to go outside nicely. For my dogs, training all the different parts of this took years. Literally, I’m not joking, it took us a couple years to get them (ahem, NINJA) to behave the way we want consistently.

So, what are these “let’s go outside” manners?
  • Come to me and sit still while I put on the harness, collar, leash, coat, boots, and anything else they need decked out in to go outside.
  • Stay right near the door and wait for me to get my stuff together to go outside.
  • Wait for me to open the door. No rushing at it, jumping, climbing on it.
  • Go through the door when I tell them to.
  • Wait on the other side of the door for me to go through, shut the door, and lock it. We start the walk when I’m ready.
You can see my dogs going outside nicely with me in this video:

Here’s an example scenario:

I walk my former foster dog every day at lunch. He’s so happy to see me, I usually give him a big hug and hook his harness in while I’m holding him. He knows we’re going walkies and is ready to go.

Once I put him down, he waits by the door for me to open it. He knows that I won’t open that door if he’s standing on it or scratching at it. (This took at least a month for him to figure out.)

Now he gets a little bit excited once we get through the door. If there’s a person or a squirrel, he’s going to be racing off as fast as his little feet can take him. So I hold onto that leash real tight and make sure I have his attention before I try to shut the door behind me. He knows to wait on the front step, he just forgets in his excitement.

If I didn’t remind him of this behavior every time, then one day I’m going to go walk him, and he’s going to race out that door and rip the leash out of my hand. He’ll be long gone before I have time to say “WAIT!” So I practice with him every day, and one day it’ll just click and he’ll get it.

All the steps to get your dogs outside nicely:

All leashed up and waiting for me to tell them what to do.
1. Get leashed up - The first step is to get them to come to you when it’s time to go out. I talked about training your dog to come in a previous post, you can see it here. They don’t have to sit, but they need to understand that they need to stay near you, especially once they’re leashed up.

2. Open the door – Make sure they’re not jumping at the door or scratching at it. This takes a lot of practice. Be patient. If they jump at the door, shut it, get their attention with a “sit” or “watch me,” and try again.

3. Getting through the door – I’m a little lenient on this one. You can train your dog to wait for you to go through the door first. I wouldn’t recommend training that on an outside door, train it going into your kitchen or something, then reiterate the skill going outside. I have trained them to “wait” for my command to go through, and that’s good enough for me.

4. Waiting on the front step – I think this is the most important and the hardest skill to train. Have a good grip on their leash and plenty of treats. Once your dog is through the door, call him back to you, preferably have him sit, and treat him. Make sure he doesn’t just get up and rush off. He needs to stay right there while you lock the door.

5. Release – They don’t get to go until you tell them. They’re on the step waiting, you give them treats, tell them to wait again, lock the door up, treat again and say “ok.” Now you’re ready to be in control of the walk.

Do you want this hot mess rushing around your house?
NO! Make them wait by the door so you can clean them up.
On the same lines, you want them to get in the house nicely. No scratching at the door to get in, no racing around you and tripping you to beat you in the door, and no racing off once they get in. This is especially helpful if they’re muddy or snowy or just sopping wet. You can keep them near the door and towel them off before they go traipsing through the house.

I’m going to tell you again, it took us years to get both our dogs to do this consistently, and they still need reminded. Sometimes Mocha really has to go and he just pulls and pulls to get at the grass. (Or snow, this time of year.)
Hooray now we're walking and
I love you and you love me
and I love to walk OMG
this is awesome!

That’s a lot of skills to learn, where do I start?

Start small with these two key points:

1.  Don’t let the dog jump or scratch at the door. Be very consistent with this, it will pay off. If he’s not listening to you, you need a better treat to start out with. How does your dried little processed brown lump compare to the great outdoors and all those squirrels to chase? Get some cheese or a hot dog and get his attention.

2. Make him wait on the front step every single time. I’m not saying he has to be in a perfect sit looking at you with adoration in his eyes. Many of my foster dogs stood at attention looking out at the yard. But they stood on that step and knew they couldn’t go till I told them. Again, if you have something very tasty this will be easier.

Finally, be patient, especially if you have a puppy or a rescue. They only know what their instincts tell them and what you tell them. Give them time and be consistent by doing the exact same thing every single time. You’ll be surprised how fast they’ll learn.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Animal Rescue - Finding your next best friend.

Dog breeder or rescue – What’s right for me?

This is the first in a series of posts to help you decide if you should get a rescue dog or a dog from a breeder. There are a lot of people passionate on both sides of this topic. Breeders and people who show dogs of pedigree will tell you to get a pure bred dog. People who work in rescue and see those sweet little faces will tell you that you can get a dog that’s just as good from a shelter or rescue.

Before I get too into this, I have two disclaimers. The first is that we bought Mocha and Ninja from a breeder when we lived in rural Missouri (I’ll talk more about that in a bit). The second is that I’ve been volunteering with animal rescues for a couple years now, and that we’ve had four foster dogs successfully adopted out in the past year.

Let’s talk about rescue.

Which rescue? Why are there so many?

There are a couple of different types of facilities where you can rescue a dog. The first is a dog warden, or the county pound. These dogs are often surrendered or found roaming the streets. They can also pull dogs from abandoned houses, although the laws about that vary from city to city. The pound holds strays for a time, generally 7-10 days, and then puts them up for adoption. Most county pounds euthanize when they run out of space. This means they have too many dogs and cats and not enough kennels. The dogs that are oldest and have been there the longest are the first to go because they’re the hardest to adopt out. Some pounds euthanize humanely, but there are still those out there that use a gas chamber. 

-Why is the gas chamber bad? Lots and lots of reasons. Can't believe it's still in use? Me neither. Here's a little article with more information: Bringing an End to Inhumane Euthanasia.
This is Sally. We fostered her last summer. She was 10+
years old and would have been one of the first in line
to be put down at a kill shelter.

Most other rescue organizations are non-profit. A non-profit has 501(c)(3) status, which means that
they are a charitable organization. Many of these rescues only have a handful of employees that are paid and rely heavily on volunteers. Two of the best known non-profit rescues are the SPCA and the Humane Society. They often rescue animals from hoarding situations and have large facilities where they can provide veterinary care and adopt out the animals. Both of these organizations are no-kill, meaning that animals won’t be put down due to overcrowding.

There are also many smaller rescue organizations. Some of them are grass-roots, starting with just a couple people pulling dogs off the streets or out of the pound and screening people who want to adopt. Many private rescue organizations do great work, pulling animals that are on the euth list at shelters or taking in litters of puppies. Some of them grow to be big rescues that make a huge impact in the community. I live right near One Of a Kind Pets in Akron. They have a beautiful big facility for cats and dogs and even a little store inside where you can buy your food and toys, knowing that part of that purchase goes toward helping those animals.

Other rescues are breed specific and/or only have dogs in foster homes. Our last foster dog was through the Shih Tzu Rescue in Cleveland. Their dogs are only in foster homes, which I think is wonderful for the dogs for several reasons. For one, they’re not all penned up and restless. Many dogs in a traditional shelter are so wound up from stress and fear when you go to meet them that you just can’t tell what type of dog they really are. Another benefit of the foster system is that you can train the dog a bit to make him more adoptable. For instance, with our last foster dog we taught him basic manners. He had to sit and give his paw before he ate, wait for permission to get on the furniture (usually), and we spent a LOT of time teaching him not to bark his face off at absolutely everything. (We’re still working on this one!)

See the pink on his nose?
If you do choose to adopt from the pound (and please I hope some of you do, there are so many great dogs at the pound), know that your dog will probably be a wound up ball of energy when you get him home. Think about it: He was taken from his family and doesn’t know why, put in a little cage with his daily exercise dependent on goodhearted volunteers, and he spent all day every day hearing other dogs bark and cry. This is a very stressful and confusing environment for any dog. Be sure to give him a few days to unwind.

Our last foster dog, Fozzie, was unbelievably wound up when he came to us. He had been in the Cleveland pound and then boarded while he had kennel cough. As much as he didn’t enjoy it, he spent about a week in the crate unless he was under very close supervision. Everything he did, he repeated multiple times in a row. I almost took him to the vet because I thought he had some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder. You can see in the picture to the right that he rubbed his nose raw on the bars of the crate that first week. It was just nervous behavior. He didn’t even eat for the first couple days. This is really common too! But with a little time and patience, he started to calm down and trust us and now he’s a fantastic dog.

Choosing your rescue dog.

So, you want to get a rescue?! Great! Where do you start?

This could be the grateful little face you see as you take your new best friend home.

Get on Petfinder. Seriously, any reputable animal rescue is on Petfinder. You can search by location, breed, age, sex, name, anything you want.

Do a search for rescues that are breed specific. Have you always had Shih Tzu’s? Love a Maltese? These organizations usually have more breeds of small dogs than they know what to do with. Our former foster Fozzie was a Shih Tzu Poodle mix. If they have room, these rescues will take in any little dog in need. There are also rescues for labs, poodles, shelties, duck tolling retrievers…

Check out the pound. If you have experience with dogs and see a breed you like at the pound, please consider giving that dog a chance. I don’t recommend getting a dog from the pound for people who have never owned a dog before unless it’s a puppy or a senior dog. They come out of there so wound up, it can be really overwhelming. They often need a lot of training and patience. Yes, they will be fantastic dogs in the right home, but that doesn’t mean they’re right for everyone.

Go to an adoption event and talk to everyone. Petsmart hosts adoption events often. You can almost bet there will be a rescue there one Saturday a month. Rescues also go to local fund raisers and dog park events.

Email or call the rescue, or stop on by if you can. Talk to them, tell them what you’re looking for. You never know what little wet nose you might fall in love with while you’re there.
Don’t forget, rescues have cats too! Way too many cats. Lots and lots of cats. One of the rescues I volunteered with last year had a waiting list to take in kittens because they just didn’t have anywhere to put them.

One final point:

NBSTR Adoption event.
Look at all those pretty dogs!

As someone who’s been to plenty of adoption events, I have to say this: If you meet a dog at an event or at the pound or wherever, and walking away from that dog absolutely breaks your heart, please go back and adopt that dog. On the other hand, if you met him and think he’s absolutely adorable and exactly the breed and age you want but something just didn’t click, then keep looking! There are so many dogs out there. Seriously, SO MANY DOGS. You can’t save them all, so pick the right one for you and give that dog the best life EVER.

Here are some of my favorite rescues:

The National Mill Dog Rescue - These are the folks I donate to each year.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Training your dog to “leave it”.

At first glance, "leave it" may not be the fanciest trick you teach your dog, but it is incredibly important. Our goal is for you to be able to say “leave it” and your dog stops what he’s doing. We’re going to start with food, but with a little practice you can get your dog to leave the window, stop barking at people or other dogs, and come away from objects that you feel are unsafe.

Before we start, your dog needs to know how to sit. Make sure if you have a puppy or other high energy dog that he’s had plenty of exercise. It’ll be super hard to do this if your dog keeps leaping at you!

All you need for this is a little pile of treats. With my dogs, I sit on the floor with them because they’re so small. Feel free to sit in a chair if you have a bigger dog, this one takes a few tries.

Keep the treat a safe distance away and at eye level.

Step 1: Have your dog sit. You’re going to need a treat in each hand. Hold one hand out at eye level several feet from your dog’s nose with a treat on your palm, like your hand is a little plate. Your dog will probably leap at it. Just close your hand over the treat, taking it away and saying something like “nope” or “oops.”

After a few tries your dog will realize he can’t get the treat by leaping at your hand. Stay patient, he’ll figure it out. But we’re looking for one more step. When you hold out the treat on your hand and he stays seated, wait until he looks away from the treat. Then, immediately say “yes, leave it” and give him a treat from your other hand. Don’t give him the treat you showed him, always give a treat from the other hand.

Practice this step two more times then take a break until later, especially if your dog is young. In other words, quit while you’re ahead. Spend 5 minutes a day once or twice a day on this step until it’s very comfortable and your dog knows what to expect.

Keys to success:
1. At this step, keep the treat at eye level a few feet in front of your dog’s nose.
2. Always treat from your other hand, not from the treat you’ve been telling him to leave.
3. Work for short periods of time – 4 or 5 successful “leave its” in a row should do.

Lower your hand to the floor. (Ninja thought this meant "down" lol)

Step 2: We’re going to do the same thing as step one, but move your hand to your dog’s chest level. If he can successfully “leave it” a couple times, then progress to having your hand on the floor. Believe it or not, every time you change the position of your hand, you need to retrain this a bit. That’s ok, our dogs just don’t think the same way we do. Spend a couple days transitioning slowly from having your hand at chest level to having it flat on the floor.

Step 3: This is the trickiest step. Some dogs are super smart and won’t have a problem, some dogs will completely forget what you’ve been working on.

Put the treat on the floor. Set yourself up for success by
keeping the treat a few feet from your dog's nose.
You can move it closer later.

Practice “leave it” once or twice with the treat on your hand on the floor. Be sure you’re a couple feet in front of your dog so you can snatch the treat away if he goes for it. Now, slowly put the treat on the floor while saying “leave it.” You want him to look away from the treat, hopefully at you but any direction will do. If he lunges for it, pick it up and say “nope.” Put him back in a sit and try again.
It may take a couple tries, but he’ll get it, I promise.

That’s it!

Those are the basics, and you should be able to train this in a week, maybe less if your dog is super smart and you work on it every day.

How does this translate into real life?

There are a lot of foods your dog shouldn’t eat. Have you ever dropped some onion you were chopping? Do you have a toddler that pushes food off the table? I’ll bet you’ve accidently knocked something over or spilled pop on the floor. These are the times that you want to be able to say “leave it” and not have to wrestle your dog away from what he shouldn’t eat.

You can also use “leave it” in other contexts. In our house, it means “please stop barking at the mailman.” Because when you say “leave it,” they know to look around at you and expect a nice treat. I also use it with Mocha when someone doesn’t want him to sniff them or if I drop my chapstick or something.

Such a good dog! 
Turn it into a cool trick:

When we only had Mocha, we did a lot of training with him. If you go back to step 3, you can move the treat closer and closer every time you train. Eventually, we had the treat on Mocha’s paw and told him to leave it and he totally did. One day, my husband lined treats all up both his paws, poor thing. He’s so devoted he just sat very very still until we gave him the treat he had earned. So when people put a treat on their dog’s nose and the dog waits until they’re told to eat the treat, that’s “leave it.”

As a therapy dog:

“Leave it” is one of the key points in a therapy dog test. Your dog has to be able to “leave it” to pass the test. For our test, they put a piece of cheese on the floor and I had to walk Mocha past it twice. He was allowed to look at it, but had to come away when I told him to “leave it.”

He also had to be able to “leave it” when offered food from a stranger. This was hard for him, he’s a very trusting dog, and she offered him more cheese. But we’d practiced and he did listen.

Why is this important? When you’re visiting a nursing home or a hospital, or any other medical facility, there are lots of things on the floor you don’t want your dog to lick up. Patients bleed and throw up and ooze on the floor. They can drop their medications too, and you really don’t want your dog to eat that. People drop random things too, like bits of paper, pen caps, or used tissues. It’s really important to be able to keep your dog away from things that may be harmful, and to keep a sharp eye on the floor when you’re visiting.

A video on “leave it”

Here’s a nice YouTube video by Victoria Stillwell for all you visual learners on how to train “leave it.” Every trainer will be a little different, but the principle is the same. I like her because she only uses positive reinforcement. You may wonder why I don’t use a fist like she did. Honestly, I don’t like to be licked that much. Also, I’ve worked with rescues that would just start gnawing on my hand, and that’s no fun at all. So I skipped that step. If you go to 4:20 in the video, that’s my step 1.

Good luck! And feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dog sweater knitting patterns

I've been knitting dog sweaters and selling them on Etsy for several years now. 10% of all those sales go to animal rescue.

Recently, I wrote up a few patterns in PDF form to sell. I've listed them on this page on my blog:

You can see them at the top of my page next to "Home."

I will always give 10% of my sales of this pattern to animal rescue. Always!

You can click the "Buy Now" button to order the PDF, and I will email it to you ASAP.

Check back often, I'm planning on making more patterns!

Here are the two sweaters I have listed so far:

Happy knitting!

The road to becoming a therapy dog

If doing visits with a therapy dog sounds like something you want to do, and you have a dog that would enjoy it, then there's no better time to get started! Unless you've been doing regular training with your dog, it's going to take some time to get there.

Mocha doesn't like to be picked up.
Here he's being held by a stranger,
begging me with his eyes to save him.
Before I tell you what Mocha and I did to become therapy dogs, I want to be clear that this is not for every person and not for every dog. Some dogs are just not interested in people. Some dogs are afraid of sudden noises. Other dogs don't want to be picked up, or hate being touched on the head or the paw. Although I believe that most dogs can be trained to be therapy dogs, there will be dogs out there for whom it's not a good idea.

Also, be sure that you're ready to make therapy visits. Here's an example straight from my life: I can't do hospice, so I can't take Mocha to hospice. I'd cry the whole time and it would make him nervous and the patients uncomfortable. I used to work for hospice (pharmacy) and I know that it just gets me down, and that's not the person they need to see. Mocha and I do best with people who are up and about, functioning semi-independently. He also loves children, and I'd like to get him into a library or school one day. But there are just some situations that we wouldn't be right for.

Basic Training:
You're going to need to take some basic obedience classes before
you really get into the therapy dog training. This could be a puppy class or beginning obedience if your dog is older. Any dog at any age will benefit from obedience class! It's never too late to learn.

Mocha and Ninja both took Star Puppy, which is a puppy obedience class that awards a certificate at the end though the AKC. This class teaches the basics, like sit, down, heel, stay, leave it and wait. You'll want another obedience class after that, maybe Puppy II or Obedience II. These classes get a little tougher. You learn to walk the dog in any direction on either side. You teach them to wait before going through a door and how to greet other people and dogs, and many other skills.

A Little More Advanced:
Mocha and I took a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) class, which prepares you to take the CGC test that's administered through AKC. Not all pet therapy programs require this! However, some training clubs do, it all depends on where you're training and which therapy program you want to get into.

In the CGC class, we practiced walking through crowds of people and dogs. We also learned how to greet other people and dogs nicely. This is key to your therapy dog training! Some people love dogs, some are afraid of them. It's very important that your dog learns to greet people with all four paws on the ground and his tongue in his mouth!

Does your dog cry when he's not with
you? Could you leave him with
someone and walk out of the room?
Mocha also had to be ok when left with another person. I had to be able to leave him for a period of time (30 seconds maybe, I don't remember) and have him behave ok. No barking, lunging or freaking out.

The End Result:
Finally after all this practice we took the TDI test. I didn't take a class specifically designed for TDI, I just went ahead and took the test, but I'm sure you can find classes or programs out there to help finish that last phase of testing for certification.

The very hardest part of this test for Mocha was walking past food without eating it. Of course, it had to be cheese. Mocha loves cheese. But I told him to leave it and he did, because he knows I might have a very super awesome treat for him sometime soon. He also had to be able to resist food offered by another person (at my command). This is really important, especially if you're visiting a medical facility. Patients often drop their medication and the last thing you want is your dog scarfing it up, thinking it's a wonderful cookie.

How long did this take? About 3 years, off and on. We did some agility training in between obedience and CGC, so that helped a lot with his behavior. But last summer I think I spent 3 months specifically working with Mocha so he could pass the test.

So that's it! Remember, not all dogs are meant to be therapy dogs. But, if you think you have the patience and time to train your dog, pick a program and just go for it!

Monday, February 16, 2015

What is a therapy dog?

A therapy dog is a dog that loves people. They go through a lot of obedience training and are often registered with a therapy dog organization.

Therapy dogs are not service dogs. They can’t detect changes in blood sugar or turn on the lights. They don’t guide the blind. They’re just very well behaved, friendly dogs that have an affinity for people.

Where do therapy dogs go?

Therapy dogs visit people in lots of places. Some therapy dogs visit patients in the hospital, rehab or nursing homes. Other therapy dogs visit children at schools or libraries. At University of Akron, there is a program for dogs to go on campus during finals week to help students cope with stress.

It’s up to the facility to decide what type of therapy dogs are welcome and what type of training or certification they need. For instance, the nursing home I take Mocha to doesn’t require any certification. They just wanted a dog that was friendly. Some hospitals, like Akron Children’s, have their own therapy dog program and train the dogs on site. This program is called Doggie Brigade. 

More on therapy dog organizations:

This is where I was most confused when training Mocha. There are lots of organizations. Mocha is registered through Therapy Dogs International (TDI). I chose them because they’re a national organization and their certification could be accepted at many different types of facilities all over the country. (We’ve moved a LOT…) I could also take a training class for TDI and take the test at the club we train at in town, the Akron All Breed.

Summa Hospitals in Akron have their own pet therapy program called WAGtime, and going through this program certifies the dogs through Pet Partners. Pet Partners doesn't just certify dogs, they accept all kinds of animals. You could also look into Paws for People

You need to check this FB page out:

My favorite Facebook page is Gizmo’s Frens, and he’s certified through Paws for Friendship, Inc.. I love that little dog. he was my main inspiration for getting Mocha certified.

Do you have a therapy dog? Where do you visit?

Come back tomorrow to learn what it takes to become a therapy dog.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I'm back!

Ok so here's what happened, and it's totally my bad. I was working one full time job and two part time jobs, plus fostering dogs, taking Mocha to nursing homes (he's a therapy dog now) and volunteering with dog training classes. I was too busy, and forgot all about the blog.

But, now I've made a career change! I quit my day job (which was really stressing me out) to be a piano teacher from home. It's awesome, the best job ever. I love all my students, I love teaching them and I love playing the piano. Here's my website for that: Barford Piano Studio

So, now I have the time to invest into Inspired By Mocha a bit more. I've added some new stuff, like bandanas that slip over the collar. And I made my first knitting pattern to sell. I think the biggest move I've made was opening my own shop independent of Etsy--> Inspired By Mocha

I'm still going to donate 10% of the sales from both the Etsy shop and my independent shop to animal rescue. In honor of Teddy (see the last post), these donations will go to the National Mill Dog Rescue--> Last year I donated $46. I'd like to more than triple that this year. This is my goal for my shop and this blog, to help those puppy mill rescues.

I've done a lot of dog training with Mocha and Ninja over the past year. They both have their CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and Mocha is a certified therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International (TDI). I also helped with puppy and obedience classes at my local dog club, and I got a lot of training experience with our foster dogs last year.

I'd like to share some basic training advice on my blog each week. Simple stuff that you can do at home with your dog. I made a big list of topics this week and had a hard time choosing, but I think the easiest to start with is a recall game you can play at home any time.

Here's how this game works. And it's going to work this way every day for you and your dog from now until forever.

We have a recall word for our dogs. It's a word that they know gets them a treat, no matter when, where, what, how, why, whatever, if I say "Cookie!" they come running for that treat.

You can make this word whatever you want. We thought about making it something silly like "broccoli" or "sassafras," but "cookie" just seemed to fit for our boys.

Step 1: Create the response. Spend a couple days with a few treats in your pockets. When your dog is paying attention to you, hand him/her a treat and say the magic word. (I'm going to use "cookie.") If you do this 5 times in a row 2-3 times a day for a couple days, your dog will start associating "cookie" with getting a treat. Do this for at least three days before moving to step 2.

Step 2: Add a little distance. Have your dog sit and back a few steps away. If your dog doesn't know how to sit and wait for you, then do this when s/he's at the other end of the couch, or when s/he just walks in a room. Say "cookie" and reach out with a treat in your hand. You'll be amazed, your dog will jump right to you. If you dog doesn't respond, go back to step 1 for another day or two.

Do step 2 for a couple days, maybe a week.

Step 3: Hide in the house. Start small here. Go into the kitchen and yell out "cookie." Your dog should come running, and if s/he doesn't, go back to step 2. Make sure you give them the cookie when they come!

Make a game out of this, dogs love games. A couple times a day, when you're in a room and they're not, yell out "cookie."

Step 4: Moving it outside: Doing this in the comfort of your own home is all well and good, but anyone who's done any dog training knows that once you get outside, most of that training goes right out the window. Here's how my husband and I did this (you're gonna need a friend for this part):

Keep your dog on the leash. Go stand in your backyard to start, then move to a park or the front yard once your dog has the hang of this. One person has the dog on the leash, the other takes 10 steps away and faces the dog. Yell out "cookie" as excited as you can. Your dog should come running. Give him/her the treat. Then switch positions. You hold the leash and your friend/husband/partner/whoever takes a few steps away and yells out "cookie."

Just keep increasing the distance. Eventually, you'll be able to have your dog off leash just about anywhere and yell out your recall word and they'll come running.

Here's the catch: Every time you say your recall word, you need to give them a treat. If your recall word is cookie, then every time you say cookie, whether you're saying it to them or in conversation, you'd better give them one. In our house, we say "C-word" for cookie when we're talking about the cookies we eat. Otherwise our dogs are in our face so fast and we have to get off our butts to get them a treat!

Here's Ninja all of 2 seconds after I say cookie.

Try it! Let me know how it goes! And if you have questions or problems, I'll try to help.