Coming back when called reliably is one of the most important behaviours you need to teach your pup!
I highly recommend you train recall three ways:
But why would my dog, who is a family pet need a whistle?
As always we’re going to train this response in a step-by-step fashion. Let’s look at loading the whistle first.
For the first week we just associate the sound of the whistle with an amazing new food your dog has never had before and that tastes absolutely amazing! Pip the whistle and find that whiskery chops with the food that’s all there is to it.
Dogs that are fed mainly dry food will go bonkers for a premium brand wet dog food so that’s my top tip. Do this at least once a day for a week.
While we’re doing this we can also start teaching the hand signal, there are a couple of important points to notice.
Make your arms outstretched very clear hand signal first then say your verbal cue, in my case “Jim, Here!” and then drop your hands down. You dog is getting used to moving towards your hands with the other exercises in Week 1 so should readily come towards you, feed several treats with one hand while you hold your dogs collar with the other hand.
Holding the collar like this is really important so your pup learns to accept restraint as part of the recall cue.
Dogs often don't like feeling restrained but they need to be very comfortable being held by the collar, or the harness. This is really important because you might need to grab your dog in a hurry and if they are nervous of being held or grabbed then they could shy away from you and get themselves into trouble. So, we hold the collar nice and gently and feed the food and this gets the dog used to being restrained.
Recall is about keeping your dogs safe so you don’t want your pup to bounce back grab a treat and then run off again!
This is the last exercise for Week 2 and the good news is Exercise 3.2 is exactly the same as Exercise 3.1! That’s right, I’d like you to do a second week loading the whistle!
With recall training in particular we’re not aiming for a rational, well thought out decision from your dog. We don’t expect him to make a moral choice about coming back when he’s called - what we want from the dog is an unthinking reaction to a cue, in all manner of situations.
Getting that reaction takes some time and effort and the finished product is an automatic trained response and that’s why we’re going to condition the whistle for another week to really embed the sound of the whistle in our dog’s mind as being associated with the best food in town!
We’re making use of a type of learning known as classical conditioning or associative learning but by any name quite simply, it is learning by association. Classical conditioning is not used to train a dog to consciously act or behave in a certain way, but rather conditions them to unconsciously react in a certain way.
Classical conditioning happens everywhere all the time, without our help. One of the most obvious examples of classical conditioning is the dog that goes crazy every time he hears the jingle of the car keys. A set of keys by itself has no special meaning for dogs but when those keys are linked with going for a walk, they can trigger as much excitement as the walk itself.
While classical conditioning occurs naturally, we can also consciously use it as part of training and it’s one of the most powerful training tools available. Classical Conditioning does not focus on what the dog does or how he behaves instead classical conditioning focuses on how the dog feels and that’s why it’s so powerful.