Total Recall

I’m answering a Frequently Barked Question (FBQ) today.

FBQ: Is it easy to train Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, or Great Pyrenees, to come when called? If trained well, will they have a reliable recall?

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Clowie: Well… I’ll begin by saying that I don’t know many Pyrenean Mountain Dogs who get let off their leads (leashes) very often!

I’m only allowed off my lead when we’re somewhere that is a long way from any roads, that has limited exits and gives my bipeds excellent visibility. An example of this is one of our favourite beaches – we walk along until it becomes quite narrow and there is a cliff on the land side. I’m then allowed off my lead because it’s easy for my bipeds to see me and they are relaxed because there are no exits from the beach.

We have done lots of training on recall and I consider myself excellent at it, but my bipeds have a rather different view of things – the one who helps me with my blog fell about laughing when I said I’m good at recall! She said that I think it’s just a trick I do in an enclosed space to get a treat. She’s obviously confused because that’s exactly what it is.

She thinks that a reliable recall is coming immediately when called, wherever we are, however busy I am, whatever the distractions. I consider that a ridiculous idea! When they call me, I usually return as soon as it’s convenient to do so. If I’m busy checking out something that could be a threat to them then it’s only reasonable that I should finish that first. It’s my job to protect them and, I have to say, they have no idea of half the dangers that are lurking.

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My bipeds also complain that I like exploring too much. Sometimes when I’m checking for danger they mistake it for exploring. They seem to think that because I always check for exits I’m keen to go exploring, but it should be obvious that I’m doing my duty and protecting them. Exits are weak points and that is where danger is most likely to come from. Of course, if I do find an exit then it’s an invitation to go exploring and it would be rude to refuse! The bipeds are very welcome to come along with me – it’s hardly my fault that they can’t keep up with me on rough terrain!

Bipeds seem to think that “come” always means “get yourself over here as fast as possible” – so much has been lost in translation!

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For a typical Pyrenean Mountain Dog there are at least three interpretations of “come”, depending on location and circumstances:

In an enclosed space, having already checked for exits, on hearing “come” I think, “If the treat is tasty I may as well go and get it as there’s no way out and they’ll come and fetch me anyway.”

In an apparently enclosed space not yet thoroughly checked, I understand it to mean, “Check for exits and, if you don’t find any, come and get this treat if it’s tasty enough for you to remember I offered it.”

In an open space, I hear, “If it’s not too much trouble, if you’re not too busy, there’s no hurry, later is okay, when you’ve checked the surrounding area for danger, when you’ve finished sniffing, when you’ve finished exploring, when you have nothing better to do, if you still remember, it would be nice if you come and get this treat.”

I usually summarise the last one as “in your dreams”, or “see you later”.

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A Reminder

You still have until the end of May to enter the draw to win a free copy of ‘Someone To Look Up To’ – read ‘Spotlight on Blanche aka The Princess‘ for details of how to enter.

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See you next Wednesday!


  1. Looks like you have a very strong will & mind of your own Clowie ! Happy #woofwoofwednesday to you & your bipeds!

    • Yes, and oodles of confidence! My ancestors passed these qualities down to me. They’re necessary for a dog working largely unsupervised to protect a flock in the mountains.

      Enjoy #woofwoofwednesday!

  2. Me and Nellie would have to agree with your defination of “come”. It means different things to different dogs and We have pretty much the same meaning as you do. Love from your New Zealand cousins, Jasper and Nellie, the two bestest maremmas in all the land.

    • I’m sure there are lots of things we agree on. We’re probably related if we look back far enough! Our ancestors did the same work of protecting flocks in the mountains.

  3. Ho ho ho Clowie – life is all about interpretation!
    Animalcouriers recently posted…UK reunions for Ziollo, Meiow Meiow, Odie and Baboushka; and Jack makes a new friendMy Profile

  4. I like your way to explain the recall…. it’s a special way of super-selective hearing and interpretation, right? my answer to a recall is always: HUH? … and that’s the reason that I have to stay on a leash when we are at unfenced areas :o(
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog A LETTER TO:My Profile

    • It’s good to be selective. Your response is nice and straightforward and could be useful in many situations, Easy!

  5. “Come” is certainly open to interpretation. Your interpretations are even more extreme than most, C.! Yikes! I think Mom would keep me on my leash in the house if she could. She says I am “unpredictable.”I think that means well-behaved…..

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake recently posted…Starting OutMy Profile

    • I’m sure she means it as a compliment, Cupcake! I’m not quite sure why my bipeds hate the way I interpret “come”! I don’t get let off my lead nearly as much as I’d like – they say it’s my own fault.

  6. Oh EVERYTHING is open to interpretation and if it wasn’t, wouldn’t life be ever so boring??? HAHAHA

    Hugs, Sammy
    Sammy recently posted…Teaser Tell AllMy Profile

  7. Oh that sounds so familiar, BOL. You’re a powerful, independent soul, Clowie. So are we, wag wag, Max & Bella <3 <3
    Paulette Mahurin recently posted…The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette MahurinMy Profile

  8. Oh Clowie! You sound so very much like my huskies, I can’t even tell you!!! You would think they would come whenever called because they always do in a fenced in area etc……perfect recall……NOT!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Pet Charms And A Wanna-be Painting!My Profile

  9. Didn’t realize dogs could be so pedantic in their understanding of orders.

    • My ancestors needed the ability and confidence to work independently of humans so we like to think for ourselves.

  10. You so remind me of my former neighbor’s mountain dog! Brandy loved me and leaped over the dividing fence to greet me whenever she saw me. Unfortunately she preferred to greet me while I was laying on the ground after an over exuberant “howdy do” on her part. She was very friendly and didn’t bother my cats but she could be persuasive with her weight. Her concept of “stop that” was, “ok but let me say hi first.”

  11. LOL…our Pyr pup comes to the word “lunch”; otherwise, “come” means nothing to him!

  12. I don’t know much about dogs, Clowie, but I am always learning here. I do think you are a smart girl… a very smart girl 😀
    Pix Under the Oaks recently posted…The Little Dogwood That CouldMy Profile

  13. Recall is important and a vital thing to teach! Good job at training guys!
    Earl Lover recently posted…True Friendships PowerMy Profile

  14. Katie has always had a perfect recall if she was in the mood. These days she can’t runaway, so she can be off leash a lot, but in her young and wild years, she would take off now and then, close her ears and just run until she was tired. Mom would get so mad at her! Good for you being a good guy and listening.
    Emma recently posted…Waiting PatientlyMy Profile

  15. Hehe my recall is alot like yours 🙂
    Misaki recently posted…WW: ContemplationMy Profile

  16. I think you explained that very well, Clowie, and it’s good for us humans to hear things from the dogs’ side of the story. We rarely let any of our dogs off lead, now hearing how you see things I think that might be the wisest thing. 🙂
    Jan K recently posted…Questioning Pet Vaccinations (Part 5A – Non-core Vaccines)My Profile

  17. Clowie, we bipeds can hardly understand our fellow humans at times—of course there will be differences in interpretations with other species! 🙂 In time, maybe we’ll be better at understanding how your interpretations make so much more sense than ours!
    jmmcdowell recently posted…A Newly Drafted Manuscript Is Like Schrödinger’s CatMy Profile

    • Yes, you’re right – I’ve seen humans talking at cross purposes, it can be amusing!
      I think some bipeds are getting better at understanding animals, but lots assume that their view of things is the only view.

  18. Oh Clowie, I REALLY miss my Oskar when I read this post! How I loved living with a strong minded independent Northern dog! You made me smile today, thank you!
    Marty’s Mom
    Marty the Manx recently posted…Eventbrite Now Available for All of WordPress.comMy Profile

    • I’m glad I made you smile, even if it was tinged with sadness. When I’m not supposed to be listening, my bipeds say the bond with an independent minded dog is very special.

  19. Aurora Jean Alexander

    You are apparently a very strong willed and loveable as well as a little stubborn character, Clowie. Just the way I recognize myself in. 🙂

  20. I would have to agree that coming as soon as my bipeds ask is completely ridiculous, and somewhat rude. When they are in the middle of something I try my best not to bother them. Why can’t they provide the same common courtesy for me when I am sniffing the tree or squirrel hunting? -Jade
    Travel Animal Doctor recently posted…5 Woodland Friends from our Great Falls Nature HikeMy Profile

    • That’s a good point – I try not to bother the bipeds when they’re busy and I’ll wait unless it’s something really important such as my mealtime.

  21. Can’t believe just how much gets lost in translation Clowie! lol…. I’m sure your recall is totally reliable….allowing for certain criteria 😉 I think you summarise it all very well…in your dreams, see you later is an excellent and well practiced approach to this situation and you obviously have it well under control 😉 In fact can’t begin to understand why your bipeds would be fail to be anything less than remarkably impressed with your recall skills! 🙂

    • Yes, I think my recall is perfect, but bipeds have very strange expectations about it! They don’t give any consideration to circumstances.

  22. What do you call a Great Pyrenees off leash? A disapyr 😉
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…Keep It Cool with The Green Pet ShopMy Profile

  23. Pingback: Sitting Pretty | Clowie's Corner

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