Written by Society Member Emma Liddell
This month I will be looking at ‘Total Recall’ by Pippa Mattinson (2012). Pippa Mattinson is another big name in the dog training world and has written a large number of dog training books. I have to admit I was looking forward to this book arriving, as let’s face it who doesn’t struggle with recall with their dogs? And a whole book dedicated to one topic sounded too good to be true!
On arrival, the first impression I had is that the book was much thicker than I expected it to be (248 pages). For me I had mixed first impressions varying between ‘Wow this will go into a huge amount of detail’, as well as ‘Is recall really this complex to get than hang of?’ and ‘No wonder my dog doesn’t get it, look how big the topic is!’ The actual size of the book is between A4 and A5 to easily portable.
There are a good amount of lovely quality photos and pictures that break up the text in the book well and there are clear gaps between the text’s chapters and headings which made the book much easier to navigate and didn’t mean the topic was so overwhelming. The printing and paper quality I found excellent which made me see it as a really professional product. It certainly comes across as a very comprehensive book.
The book is split into three sections – Preparation, Training The Recall, and Problem Solving – as each is colour coded you can easily flick to the right section by just looking at the side of the book which I have found really handy.
The preparation section covers how dogs learn, how they see reward and punishment, and how we can use this in our training, proofing, getting to know the dog, and training strategies. I found this section really very clear and had a really good blend of introducing theory without it becoming dry and unengaging. I find Pippa’s writing easy to read and understand and it is clear that she takes a balanced training approach which is largely based on positives and rewards and correcting the dog when needed.
The middle part of the book really is where it goes into detail about recall, this is further broken down into:
- Puppy Recall
- Pre-recall for older dogs
- Basic recall
- Proofing with people
- Proofing with dogs
- On Location
- Putting it all together
- Recall for life
What I enjoyed about this section is no matter where you are with your dog you had somewhere to start. I have an older dog (10 years – rescue) with little recall and a puppy, so immediately I had two places in which I could start. This then led to the proofing aspect and the onward exercises from there.
I love how clearly each of the topics is broken down in this section with progression exercises for each area, including troubleshooting and also guidance about when to move into the next section. Each exercise was clearly bullet-pointed in a step-by-step fashion which I found I could follow really easily.
The starting exercises were really easy to implement without investing in lots of kit (treat pouch, bits of cheese, and a whistle) and even better I didn’t need to leave the house to begin, which meant I could practice these foundations over and over without men having to ‘make time’ as it were.
I felt very safe when I read the topics of section three of the book
- Where did I go wrong?
- Out of Control?
- The absconder
- The about turn walk
- The artful dodger
- Using a training lead
- Getting active with your dog
- The finish
As I read through each of these issues, I felt a smile creeping on to my face as a lot of the content seemed familiar, and it was a bit of a relief to read it wasn’t just me and it wasn’t just my dog! Each issue did have some great suggestions as to where I may have been going wrong and what I can do to resolve the issue, I have a feeling moving forward this may be a well-thumbed section of the book. Again in the writing, there was no judgment or criticism just guidance and advice that made sense to me.
In summary, I have to say this is one of the best books I have read on one of the most difficult issues we all have with our dogs. Simple to read, clearly explained, and comprehensive really a bit of a bible for those that train dogs. I really have to admit I found it hard to criticise any aspect of the book.
This is a book I would 100% go back to over and over again as I look to work with my dogs a refine their recall more and more. In fact, I wish I could memorise the content as we know this is an invaluable skill to have under our belt as dog handlers.
Do my dogs have the perfect recall as a result of this book? No. But that is fully down to my effort as a handler. But I know that if I 100% put in the effort and followed this program their recall would improve dramatically. For me one of the best books you can have out there, and a great accompaniment to the wonderful training in the LWDG Recall Mastercall – How To Recall Your Dog Successfully.
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