What to do When the Dog Bumps Into You During Recall
Recall in Schutzhund/IGP requires speed and power. The side effect of that power is that the dog is sometimes not able to stop in time. A big bump into you in one instance can cause you lost points, in another - your knees. Either way, it is not desirable.
There are two ways to fix it. If you have an Assistant, you can put the dog on a long line. Make certain the line is safe and cannot burn you or get tangled easily. For a while, get your dog accustomed to heel while dragging the line. If you rush, the dog will know when he is on a leash and will not bump into you. The leash should become like a new watch that feels novel on your wrist, but after a while, the feeling fades away.
You will then have your Assistant follow your dog and hold the leash. Once the dog is used to the leash and the Assistant, you will call your dog. The instance he bumps you, it is very important that you use your Negative Marker. Right after that, the Assistant will provide a pop on the leash. Make sure it is as little as possible and as much as necessary.
The learning process is completed much faster if the dog is very clear which behavior caused the correction. Therefore, it is critical to have a good-timed Negative Marker. It is also important not to reinforce the dog when he, as a result of the correction, moves back away from you. This behavior is not offered by the dog and does not deserve a reward. You can calmly say, “good dog.”
After that, you will take a couple of steps back and call the dog gain. The two potential outcomes are:
1. The dog does not bump you, either due to the shorter distance or the clarity of the correction. You will mark and reinforce the dog.
2. The dog bumps you, you use your Negative Marker, and the Assistant provides a pop. You repeat the process above.
You might be tempted to have your Assistant prevent the dog from bumping you. In this case, the Assistant would pop the leash right before the dog makes contact with you. It is not a solution but a short-term Band-aid. We are true believers that it is faster to teach the dog due to him making a mistake vs. preventing the mistake in hope that it will permanently prevent the behavior.
The second option is for you to provide the consequence yourself. You would call the dog. He would bump you, you would use Negative Marker, push the dog back with your knees, tell the dog to sit, step back and repeat the recall. You will continue until the dog is clear what causes the discomfort.
It can also be a good idea to lower the reinforcer's value to help the dog focus better. If you are using a ball under your chin, switch back to food. Help the dog relax a little, learn the appropriate behavior and then use the ball to add more vigor and speed.
You are welcome to submit questions in the comments below.
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