How do you know when recall is "100%"?

Often here, the advice is to make sure recall is 100% before letting off lead etc…

Question is, how do you know when recall is 100%? How long do you "test" them for?

I ask, because Wendy gave me a scare today, and it’s back to square one (again!)

Her recall is great – she may dart off after squirrels etc but a sharp whistle and she comes back (usually immediately, very occasionally after 30 seconds or so). She sits in front of me and waits for me to say it’s OK to carry on.

A few weeks ago, she started "testing the waters" – her immediate recall became 30 seconds every time – and she’d get further before she came back.

I got more careful – only allowing her off-lead when she had her ball (because she’s focussed on that and doesn’t wander) and did work without her ball on a long lead to improve her without-ball recall.

I thought I’d cracked it – it was back to being excellent, she would come immediately, sit in front of me and wait til I released her – every time – so I risked letting her off-lead again without her ball. For a week or so it’s been fine.

Today, we went on our usual woody walk – and she pelts off after a squirrel or something. I whistle – she doesn’t come back. Not only that, I can’t even hear her (you can normally hear her scuttling in the bushes nearby)

I walk the way she went, whistling away. Nothing. I start to panic. I walk back the way we came. Nothing. After 15 minutes, I decide to go home to see if she’s gone back there and to get reinforcements. Got home and the neighbour said "got a little dog here waiting for you". He’d picked her up from the road outside my house where she’d been running up and down looking for me. Home is about 5 minute walk from the woods.

She could have been killed. I thought I’d done the right thing – being careful – improving her recall – keeping her on lead until I thought she could be trusted.

Can she ever be trusted? How will I know when she’s cracked it?

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