Today, we’re joining the Positive Pet Training Blop Hop which is all about recall this week.
[insert exasperated sigh from all the pyrents out there]
If there’s one thing a Great Pyrenees does exceptionally well, it’s NOT coming when called. It should really be a pyr super power. The ability to tune out any sort of come command unless the word treat, walk, hungry, or ride is included in the statement.
Some pyrs don’t even care about the extra word. Nothing you can offer is going to make them get off their fluffy butts. Nothing.
If you share your life with a pyr, you are fully aware that an off-leash pyr is a disapyr. There are a few exceptions (I could probably name the pyrs that I know that can be off-leash on one hand), but the vast majority cannot be trusted off-leash. They immediately become deaf and roam to patrol their territory, which they believe is everything the light touches (yes, that was supposed to be a Lion King reference).
From here on out, I’m going to generalize all Great Pyrenees. There are pyrs that can be trusted and I don’t need a ton of comments telling me that pyrs can be trained because yours is. I know that some can be, but they are the exception, not the norm. So to save myself from saying, “the vast majority”, 17 billion times, I’m just going to add this disclaimer here 🙂
You can be an all-star trainer, but you will never be able to train a Great Pyrenees to have a 100% reliable recall. If anyone wants to accept the pyr recall challenge, let me know and I’ll let you borrow Mauja. However, you must allow me to supervise all training sessions so I can make a video at the end. You have to laugh or you’ll lose your mind with this breed.
Best breed ever, but such stinkers.
Now, all hope is not lost! While training a Great Pyrenees to have a 100% reliable recall on a day to day basis just isn’t realistic, a recall can be literally life-saving. It’s definitely not a skill to neglect.
In working on recall with your Great Pyrenees, it’s important to remember why they typically won’t come when called. The Great Pyrenees is an extremely independent breed. Pyrs are a livestock guardian dog (LGD) and work independently from humans. No one is coaching them through their job day and night.
The lack of human direction made it absolutely necessary for them to be able to function on their own. Even if your Great Pyrenees isn’t working the farm, he will still harbor this instinct. Don’t fight it, embrace it, or you will set yourself up for a lifetime of frustration with your pyr.
While I knew exactly what I was getting into when we brought Mauja home, I was confident that I could train out the barking and build a reliable recall. I had done it with tons of dogs before and had an awesome trainer backing me up – there was no reason I couldn’t do it.
Yeah, I was a complete fool.
Mauja challenged me in ways I never thought possible (and I thought our husky mix was a piece of work!) and taught me so much. Most importantly, she taught me to not only accept, but love breed-specific traits.
Let me tell you, I’m obsessed with all things Pyrenees.
Rather than fighting her and ultimately frustrating us both, I opted for a much more realistic recall for her and Atka. The emergency recall.
The Emergency Recall
While living in California, our trainer suggested teaching the emergency recall so we had something in case we ever had a life-threatening situation. We never let Mauja off-leash anywhere that wasn’t fenced, but accidents happen and we wanted to be prepared.
Since training the recall, we’ve only had to use it once for Mauja and it worked like a charm.
Before we started using a harness for Mauja, she slipped out of her collar after being spooked by something. She then heard a dog bark and sprinted across the street toward the noise. After brief panic, I composed myself and yelled,
She immediately stopped and happily pranced back toward me. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The training had paid off.
The emergency recall is a skill I will teach all of my dogs and recommend that everyone, especially those with a Great Pyrenees do the same. The best part, it’s a surprisingly easy skill to teach.
Training the Emergency Recall
- Come up with a command for your emergency recall. Make sure it is something you can easily remember, yet isn’t likely to be used in everyday conversation. We use the word “pronto”. You can also use a noise – Maggie from Oh My Dog! uses a two-note whistle. I’m not talented enough for that, but it’s a great option if you can whistle!
- Grab plenty of high value treats – something your dog doesn’t get in usual training sessions. You want this treat to be extremely special! Perhaps some cooked chicken or lean hamburger meat.
- Start off in an easy location (e.g. your house) and stand just a few feet away from your dog. Say the command, “pronto!”, in a high-pitched voice with happy, excited posture to entice your dog to come to you.
- When you dog makes it to you, reward him/her with treats for 20-30 seconds. Don’t just open your hand and let your dog snack away. Reward treat by treat for the full length of time. Endless, single treats are perceived to be a higher value than a pile of the same number of treats. You want it to feel like your dog hit the jackpot!
- After you’ve finished with the treats, let your dog go back to whatever he/she was doing. Often, “come” is associated with fun ending (coming in from outside, leaving the park) so let the fun continue as it was.
- Practice, practice, practice!
Once you have a good hang of the emergency recall in the house, it’s time to start adding distance and distractions. We used a long line in open areas and gradually worked our way up from there.
It is important to avoid using the emergency recall in non-emergency situations. Repeat usage in everyday situations (other than practice) will reduce the overall strength of the recall. You never know when the emergency recall will save your dog’s life, so be sure to keep it to true emergency situations.
If your Great Pyrenees won’t come, you can still train this life-saving skill.
Does your dog have an emergency recall?