I think that recalls are the most important skill for any dog - even if you don't plan on having your dog off-leash. You never know what might happen, and they may end up running free despite your best intentions!
My theme is to make recalls the most exciting thing for my dogs. When they do a good recall, we have a party. As my trainer likes to say, "if your recall party doesn't border on being embarrassing, you're not being excited enough". Until recently, our "party" consisted of treats, treats, and more treats, given one-by-one, as I excitedly praised the dogs. Very recently, I've started using tugging as a reward for Shyla, which works extremely well as long as she's in an excited mood.
My biggest folly is practicing recalls too much, which makes those "recall parties" become a little less exciting for the dogs. I think 10 per day is a good limit, making sure that everyone's enthusiasm stays high. When I am able to do so, I run away from the dogs after I call them to make myself a more interesting target. Running away is a key trick, especially when there are lots of distractions around.
For the rest of this post, I'm going to update you on our "nosework". We started nosework in December with a Fenzi course, and we've trained almost every day since then. We've done all sorts of training - including box training and interior searches (where I can hide the scent anywhere within a room, and the dog alerts on it).
Today, I'm going to show you videos of the Duo's first day of searching the exterior of vehicles. I placed 2 q-tips with birch scent inside a small magnetic tin. I stuck the tin to metal on the outside of the vehicles. I wasn't trying to truly hide the scent because it was the Duo's first time searching vehicles. Moreover, it was windy - making it harder for a dog to pinpoint a scent source. I placed the scent so that they would succeed quickly.
I tend to speak very softly to the dogs so it's hard to hear me in the videos. I say "search" at the start of each search, and then I say "yes" each time they touch their nose to the scent. You'll see that they knocked the scent off the car a couple of times. I put it back in its original spot... although I wasn't sure what I should've done in that situation (leave it on the ground or put it back). I'll learn.
Without further ado, here's the video (or you can watch it at Youtube). I was walking in an odd way in the video because I was walking on ice! Yesterday was the 1st day that it was safe enough to try this at all!
I think that nosework will be a game that I play with our Duo for a long time. It works their brains, and I cannot overemphasize how much they love it. I feel so good about having found something truly fun for R to do during this phase of waiting for surgery and then when he's recovering.
BTW, we live on a dirt road so it's impossible to have a clean car :)
Next time, I will video an "interior search" for you. It's amazing to watch the dogs work a room!