Cohen is a good dog, and I would say 80% reliable off-leash. My standards for behaviour are very high and I try as hard as I can to strive for perfection. The issues I run into time and time again are a) getting too pushy during play, intimidating other dogs and not recalling, and b) finding something vaguely edible on the ground and, again, not recalling.
So without further ado, the list.
- Weak history of reinforcement associated with you.
- A strong history of reinforcement from the environment. (Very guilty of this!)
- Reinforcement value of having an owner chase the dog that doesn't come.
- History of recall equating to a loss. (Guilty of trying to call Cohen off when she gets too involved in rough play.)
- History of being "tricked" into coming when he doesn't want to.
- Dependency on confinement, tethering or a long line.
- History of punishing the dog upon return.
- Lack of opportunity for freedom to run and explore.
- Lack of exercise.
- The "poisoned" recall cue.
- Too much freedom too early in life and a lack of awareness from you where the balance lies. (Again, this might be an issue for me. Cohen has always been allowed off leash since she first arrived home. It's a minor issue, if anything.)
- A history of positive consequences when the dog chooses not to come when called. (This ties into my other issues.)
Poor strategic use of reinforcement -- lack of time or knowledge. For me, I fear it's lack of knowledge. Hopefully this will be rectified during the course. I fear I reward too often for mediocre behaviour, and use too low-value reinforcers. I use kibble often since Cohen will work for it 95% of the time.
Lately I've been wondering if I use food rewards too habitually, and the constant expectation for reward lessens their impact overall.
The most important thing to remember is to "be the cookie" as in, make yourself intrinsically valuable to your dog.
Sorry for the jumbled nature of this post -- it's more to serve as a reminder to myself than to educate those having trouble with their own recalls.