Whole Dog Journal's Blog July 19, 2010

Emergency Recalls

Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:05PM - Comments: (3)

I’m a huge fan of the Tour de France. I install cable every July just so I can spend every early morning for almost a month watching dramatic racing as well as absolutely stunning aerial views of France (and sometimes the neighboring countries that the race visits).

But there is one sad certainty of every Tour: At some point, a leashless dog runs across the road, right in front of the racers.

Sometimes the dog gets hit, but more often, it’s the bicycle racers themselves that take the brunt of the accident as they swerve and hit the brakes. They fly through the air at high speed, hinting the pavement with gruesome injuries. Almost always, the dog walks away in one (although bruised) piece. The real victims are the hopes and dreams and a year of training for the riders who are injured badly enough to have to quit the race.

This year’s first canine-caused accident happened on the first stage of the Tour. At kilometer 55 (of 223 total kilometers, or more than 138 miles), a dog that appeared to be a small Golden Retriever ran out into the road just in front of the peloton, or main group of riders, who were traveling at about 23 miles an hour. Boom! Riders went down, shaken, bruised, and scraped. The announcers said later that the dog was okay.

This year’s first Tour/dog incident made me wonder: Why do people bring dogs to crowded, hot, loud, stress-packed places? And why don’t people leash their dogs in such a place?

It also makes me want to remind people of the importance of teaching their dogs an emergency recall – and practicing it frequently, keeping their dog’s response fresh and sharp. In almost every Tour de France dog crash I’ve ever seen (in seven years of fandom), the camera catches sight of the dog about three seconds before the cyclists come into contact – and the dog is invariably wearing the international posture and expression of “Uh oh, I’m in trouble with my owner.” At this point, you know that the owner just noticed the dog on the road, has bellowed the dog’s name, and maybe even made one final dog-handling error: he or she is dashing toward to the dog in an effort to grab it. When a dog looks like this (lowered ears, head, and body; tail tucked), it doesn’t matter if he’s running away from his owner, apprehensive about a potential imminent punishment, or is slinking fearfully toward his owner; the fact is, he’s not doing the one thing that could save him from getting hit by a speeding cyclist: running keenly and speedily toward his owner and off the road. Short of a leash (duh), only a well-honed emergency recall can prevent canine and cyclist carnage.

For more in building a better recall, see the following Whole Dog Journal articles:

Teaching a Reliable Recall,” December 2008

Teach Your Dog to Run Off-Leash,” July 2007

Training Your Dog to Come When Called,” December 2005

Building Off-Leash Reliability,” March 2002

Comments (3)

Sonia A: Can you explain how you taught Dobby the 'Danger, Danger!' command? My two dogs can NEVER be trusted off leash outdoors either. Thanks!

Posted by: L C | July 25, 2010 1:11 PM    Report this comment

Fortunately, emergency recall was taught in our puppy class. My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dobby, can NEVER be trusted off leash outdoors. While he is very food driven and loves reinforcing voices and touches indoors, none of that matters once he's outside. Meeting the next person or animal, chasing a bird or moving light, any distraction at all and he's unreachable. This made teaching the emergency recall difficult for us. The good news is that he as mild obsessive tendencies about bright lights and shadow movement. My very dedicated instructor helped me find out that Dobby's trump card (the thing that works every time) is a laser pointer. We practice often. We call his favorite game/toy "Danger, Danger!" THIS SAVED HIS LIFE! Not long ago, we had visitors that included a beautiful, trustworthy lab. Our guests forgot to use the fenced yard, and neglected to secure Dobby before opening the front door. Dobby dashed outside after the Lab, but immediately was distracted by and drawn to the young girl across the street. I hurried out the front door in time to see him about 5 feet from the street, a car coming, quickly, down the road. Thank God, I remembered the practiced recall and shouted "Danger, Danger!" Dobby turned on a dime, ran past the lab, his 2 masters, me, and into the house,directly to the spot where his favorite toy is stored. I will be forever grateful to that patient and dedicated instructor that helped us find our perfect emergency recall. I hope this comment will encourage anyone reading my commen to commit to this practice.

Posted by: SONIA A | July 23, 2010 4:40 AM    Report this comment

WDJ is the best dog magazine to subscribe to. Every issue contains articles and great advice, which sure beats the online research game.... Keep up the good work WDJ!!! Sincerely, TLD

Posted by: tld | July 21, 2010 1:21 AM    Report this comment

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