Clicker training and the bouncing recall

After seeing a client yesterday I left full of awe and wonder at how just incredible my job is. My client was a young lady with an English Bull Terrier, which she had tried everything with and had little success. I know that feeling, I live with Bull Terriers! Her dog was beautiful black with white markings coloured EBT, entire and bred from (according to her booking form) a Hungarian acrobat who also breeds Bull Terriers. To be honest from the conversation we had prior to our appointment I thought I was about to meet my match in this dog. His owner reported he had zero recall, was beginning to get reactive with other dogs when out with the dog walker and was often difficult to calm down in her apartment.

When I turned up I was greeted by a striking looking Bullie, he was no-where near the out of control mad dog his owner reported him to be. I have met a LOT worse in all breeds. He was a bit of a show off, me being the shiny new toy he had to demonstrate his blanket gathering abilities and how good he was at stealing things but in all a good egg.

His owner went to the shop to buy some super terrific treats (ham) and we began conditioning him to a clicker. I figured if recall was his main issue then clicker and whistle training was the way to go. You should have seen this dog. He literally pulsated, his tail wagged like mad when praised and he gave a bouncing recall which was utterly adorable. This dog enjoyed working! He was amazing and within 20 minutes was racing toward his owner, ears up tail wagging.

His meeting with my fake stooge dog ‘Magic’ went as expected, he immediately took it bed and began showing it some love, shall we say.

I helped her boyfriend teach him not to pull which went really well considering he was used to handling his Scottish Terriers and using leash corrections. There’s plenty of practise to be done there but nothing they can’t cope with. By the end of the session we had established that V… was a keen learner, that Sasha regretted not doing clicker training in the first place, that her boyfriend should stop listening to everyone and allow his dogs to meet V… in a carefully set up situation, V… is not aggressive just lacking in social skills so a work in progress and that Sasha has done a really good job of raising a potentially difficult dog on her own just fine. Bull Terriers have a reputation for stubborness. I find them intelligent in a different way to other breeds, you just need to find their motivation buttons. Tweaking and the right methods is what she needed. She literally glowed when I told her this, something I had seen on another client’s face the day before when I told him his handling skills were fine. The release of pressure can be enough drive to carry forward, it’s so powerful.

V’s owner has some homework to do, mainly working on the whistle and clicker recall which we will take further afield upon my return but I have no doubt that V will prove to be a quick learner. In fact I suspect he will progress so quickly that I may have to adjust their homework! It just shows how well positive reinforcement training and progressive reinforcement training work so well in a short space of time and also how I should know better than to have expectations when visiting clients.

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