Life – it’s full of unexpected opportunities. Today life presented chickens.
Three chickens were hanging out near my garden while I sat on the deck enjoying my morning coffee. I didn’t notice the visitors. Melody did.
Nose up and twitching, ears perked up, and in a flash Melody was off the deck and in the garden. I turned, expecting to see a squirrel. Then I heard the sound of chickens.
Chickens? Yes, chickens. The neighbor’s chickens had flown their coop and were busy snacking in my garden. Not a bad thing…
But they weren’t my chickens. And Melody had never met a live chicken. I had no idea what she would do.
“MEL-O-DY… HERE!”, I said in my cheeriest voice in spite of my pounding heart. And then I waited.
Full stop…U-turn…Galloping Great Dane headed my way!
“YESSS! GOOD GIRL!” Followed by ear rubs, back scratches and more praise.
The chickens wandered off into the woods toward home, squawking a bit. Melody returned to her spot on the deck. I finished my coffee, breathed deeply to calm my pounding heart, and thought about recall.
A strong recall is a foundation skill. Having multiple dogs in the house, children of any age, or guests in the home, making sure that a dog will come when called is a safety issue. If a door is left open and the dog bolts out, or a visiting child is frightened of a dog, or the pizza guy arrives, a strong recall is a safety check.
When any of my dogs, or dogs I’m working with, hear their name followed by a recall cue (in my house it’s “here”), I want that dog to come to a full stop, make a u-turn, and then come to me. (Fortunately for me Melody also knows how to put on the brakes and avoid plowing through me – another great skill for dogs to learn!)
I’d been confident in Melody’s recall, but I’d never tested her with running chickens as a distraction. I was so proud of her! Years of practice – Melody is 6 years old and has been with me since she was a wee little 6-week-old pup – and practice in different locations built her recall.
We still practice recall almost every day. Practice is for both Melody and me. I need to resist the temptation to raise my voice in panic or anger, chase her, or do anything else that would change the cue, which could change her response. And I’ll admit when I saw her chasing the chickens it was all I could do to stop myself from running after her or raising my voice. Our agreement is simple: I call her, she comes, great things happen for her.
The chickens visit every day. The garden has fewer bugs. Melody, Muse and Roadie are happy to co-exist in the garden with the chickens. I’m looking at chicken coup plans and reading about clicker training chickens. Life is full of opportunities.
Needing help with recall? Here’s an opportunity for you! Delores is teaching at the DOGHOUSE.
“If Only My Dog Could” Skills Seminars
The seminars are for dogs who have been through training (class or private) who need to refine their skills. For basic obedience Delores is offering Good Dog!: Basic Manners & Obedience at The DOGHOUSE Wednesday’s 7:30-8:30 PM.
What: “If Only My Dog Could” Skills Seminars
When: Wednesdays 6-7 PM
Where: The DOGHOUSE
2420 E. North Territorial
Whitmore Lake, MI 48189
For more information & to register, call 734-222-0655