The Drop on Recall is in the Details

I’m a bit superstitious about the AKC Obedience title CD (Companion Dog, if Obedience isn’t your thing). Every dog I have ever put one on has had a debilitating health problem that meant they couldn’t continue in Obedience, or worse, died, before they could get more than one leg into the next title, CDX (Companion Dog Excellent). By contrast, nearly every dog I haven’t bothered showing in Obedience lived to a ripe old age with few health problems. So with Lackey I want to put his CDX on him within as short a period a time as I can manage after getting his CD. And let’s all assume for the sake of argument heĀ will get it.

This means as I begin to prepare to show after the rules change May 1, I am also refining my Open behaviors. Lackey has a Drop On Recall, but I would really like to reduce the amount of forward travel on the drop. Lackey knows a lot of different cues that will result in a recall or recall-like behavior, and he also knows a number of behaviors that can be categorized as a “down.” I thought I’d play with these two elements to see what I could learn.

Recall Cue

First, let’s look at the different recall cues: his name, a release cue, “come”, and a hand signal with a hand signal down and a verbal down. The hand signal down was a mistake–I had not intended to test different down cues in this session–but I’m glad I did, because it was informative.

0:27: “Lackey” Two full strides and one collected stride.

1:01: “Break” One full stride and two collected strides.

1:38: “Come” Two full strides and two collected strides.

2:30: Hand signal recall, hand signal down: No full strides, 3 collected strides.

3:30: Hand signal recall, verbal down: One full stride, two collected strides.

In all cases, it took at least three strides for him to get stopped and dropped, but the judge would be able to see his response to the cue as faster with the hand signals, especially since it’s probably not possible to accurately watch both my hand and his response at once.

Drop Behavior

Lackey knows quite a few behaviors that will result in his lying on the ground, so next I wanted to look at what would happen with each of those. I had never asked for most of these in this type of situation, so I knew up front I was being unfair and I expected a lot of frustration barking. So I want to caution people who are disturbed by watching frustration in a training video that you might find this difficult to watch. I have changed how I train quite a bit after analyzing these two videos, and that will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.

To summarize what you’re about to see, the first cue is “boom,” (chin on the ground down) followed by “scootch,” (scoot backward in a down), I cued “bang” (down on right side) and got “boom,” repeated that and helped him with the hand signal and praise, repeated that with a simultaneous hand signal and verbal and got “flat,” (down on left side), repeated again and got a boom-flat. I helped him with a hand signal and decided to take it and move on, cued “flat” and got it. Then I came back to “bang,” with both verbal and hand signal, and got such an enthusiastic response he rolled over. I would have loved to have rewarded that, but he started barking immediately so I did not. And then I repeated that and got a beautiful down on the right side. I ended with a straight recall.

So now let’s see if we can tease out what is fastest.

0:27 “Boom” Two regular strides, two collected strides

1:25 “Scootch” one and a half collected strides. No surprise there.

2:00 “Bang” cue, but “boom” behavior: three collected strides.

2:35 “Bang” cue, “boom” behavior: three and a half collected strides.

3:05 “Bang” cue, “flat” behavior: four collected strides.

4:04 “Bang” cue, “boom-flat” behavior: three collected strides

4:48 “Flat” one and a half collected strides.

5:55 “Bang” cue, roll over behavior: two collected strides

6:28 “Bang” cue, “bang” behavior: 0 strides

It’s worth noting this sequence nearly extinguished his “bang” behavior on a verbal for about two weeks–I would pretty much always get “flat” unless I also used the hand signal.


It seems to me that there was not enough difference between the various recall cues for me to pick one over the others based on speed. The drop behaviors showed me Lackey can drop like a rock under the right circumstances. I’m not sure that no latency is a good idea if I want him to stay in working condition for many years, but I also don’t need to accept four strides. The training plan I’ve been implementing in the time since I shot this is to use a “scootch on recall” to build the muscle memory for a near-instant down, with the goal that I will switch to a normal drop behavior over the longer haul.

I’m also using some of his puppy training where I taught him to plan to stop where I am looking so that I am not completely catching him by surprise. I’ll need to proof that to allow me to look at the judge and also to keep bringing him in if the judge doesn’t cue the drop by the spot I was looking at, but between these two things I am already seeing a dramatic improvement in the speed of his drop.

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