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Recall training

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Hello, everyone! I have a 9 month old border collie pup named Sawyer and I am eager to get him off the leash so he can have more freedom during our walks in the woods. However, he is much, much more interested in sniffing out squirrels and chipmunks than I expected. I had a border collie mix many years ago who had excellent recall and absolutely no interest in woodland rodents. Sawyer, on the other hand, has developed pretty good recall but only when he isn't consumed with following a scent trail. When he is tracking something, he completely ignores me. I fear he could just keep going on a scent trail for miles and leave me behind.


I believe Sawyer is only about 75% border collie, although several border collie enthusiasts I've met say they believe he may be 100%. This doesn't matter to me except that I'm so surprised at his focus on tracking small animals in the woods. Due to his breed, I hoped he would be more interested in checking in with me during our walks. It is possible he is also part hunting breed (hound, pointer, or spaniel of some kind). Of course his current proclivities and lack of focus may be entirely due to his age.


I am wondering if Sawyer's behavior sounds familiar to other border collie owners, and if folks have tips on how to improve his recall. How can I get him to pay better attention to me when we are on our walks? I have brought him to an obedience class and am working with his day care so I have started a few activities with him, but I welcome other ideas. It may also be helpful to know that Sawyer and I have only been together for about 2 months.

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Aha, I have squirrel hunters as well, all 100% Border Collies. I have had great success with the Look At That Game in Leslie McDevitt's "Control Unleashed". I can even call my Ruby off a squirrel, which is pretty amazing as she has tremendous prey drive and is very excitable. I highly recommend all of this book/program for preparing any dog to be off lead. That is what Leslie designed it for, and it really works.


Kathy Robbins

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My Gibbs tracked some young raccoons from my yard to the neighbors once, and he really likes scent work. The age of your Sawyer is definitely part of the issue. And with only 2 months in, he's still finding lots of REALLY EXCITING SMELLS to find and follow.


Long line, teaching him some scent work so you can work with this talented nose, and time will help.


Welcome to the Boards!


Ruth and GIbbs

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All good advice above. (particularly long lines until you feel you can trust him more)


Also look up 'recall games' on the web. Try to make sure that you give him a reason to come back to you - awesome treats and/or whip out a toy that you have brought along and play tug with him and/or get him to come back to you so you can throw a ball for fetch and/or RUN away from him and then reward when he catches up. Use whatever HE values highly. Don't be boring. The recall games should build up a habit that he always returns when he hears his name. Once he is in that habit, the rewards become more intermittent and are eventually faded away. (Although I will employ these strategies once in a while even in an older, well-trained dog to keep him eager to return.)

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