My sweet little puppy of a few months ago, has now become a curvaceous young lady with growing confidence to explore the world around her and with that confidence, I have noticed an ever-so-slight slip in her recall over the past couple of weeks. So, I think now is probably a good time to work out how to sharpen Poll's return response again, before my furry teenager has the opportunity to rebel too far!
My sister mentioned the mystical training power of liver cake, but also warned it smells appalling, so I have steered clear of introducing it until now. Needs must though and as the way to Polly's focus is most definitely through her belly, I decided to find a recipe online and give this doggie delicacy a try.
After blitzing up a packet of chicken livers (warning: disgusting 'exorcist' type yuk if you don't cover bowl with a tea towel before you blitz!) I added a splash of milk, a couple of eggs and enough flour to bind everything together into a thick gunky paste. Then I baked on a lowish heat for about an hour. I don't know which recipe my sister used, but mine didn't pong badly at all, in fact, I thought it smelt pretty good while it cooked.
Polly stayed close during the entire process - it seems making liver cake is very, very interesting!
When it was cooked, I turned the liver cake out of the dish, waited for it to cool, then cut into treat pieces. It was a good sized cake, great value for money, so I stored half in the freezer and put a bag in the fridge ready for use (and of course, one or two little taster treats found their way into my eager assistant's mouth!)
My next mission is to work how to help Polly understand that whatever the circumstances, I mean business when I call her. I would like Polly to continue to respond to my verbal 'come' call, so will of course keep working on that, but also want to develop her recall further to achieve a more immediate response when I really need it.
Recently I've been reading 'Total Recall' by Pippa Mattinson and have decided to try following her advice on how to condition dogs to respond to a whistle. Me 'n Poll had a little try with a whistle previously, but it was pretty 'ad hoc' and I'm sure I need to follow a prescribed method, to achieve a reliable result.
With that in mind, I've gone back to basics this week, giving Polly her extra special liver cake treats during the day, then as she eats, blowing a few quick 'pips' on my whistle, as the book states. After a couple of days of this, I introduced the whistle to her dinner bowl, inviting her to come to different spots in the house to eat, then 'pip, pip, pipping' on the dog whistle. I've noticed Poll now looks for me to blow the whistle before she is given treats at home, so already is making a connection with the whistle, in the same way she did with her clicker when we started clicker training as a young puppy.
Ultimately, I am hoping this whistle training lark might help overcome Polly's selective deafness when she spots other dogs on the horizon, or disappears into the woods after squirrels and puts me 'on hold', or decides it's time to completely ignore my shout because rolling in fox poo is far more fun ...
Okay, okay, I know that last one is probably a bit too hopeful, but you get the gist!
Will let you know how we progress ...