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THE WHISTLE RECALL

Training a reliable recall is a long, gradual process. The dog will generalize a good recall to the classroom or your backyard, but will NOT understand that the command means the same thing in new places with irresistible distractions such as squirrels, cats, or strange dogs.

By FAR, the best thing to do is to take it slow and do a lot of recalls on the long line in many different places. I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice frequently. Keep a long line in your car and another at home and practice, practice, practice. You are looking at months of this kind of practice, if not years, before you can trust your dog in new places.

You should also practice the distance stop (sit or down) for those emergencies when you can’t use “come.” Have someone hold your dog on leash and back you up when you give the command. If you don’t have help, tie the dog to an object while you practice.

With those two things said, you should also teach a whistle recall. You MUST purchase a few inexpensive whistles and leave them around your house, car, purse, fanny pack, and so on. Your mouth will not work as a whistle command. If you are frightened or out of breath your dog can hear even the most subtle changes, and know that something is different and they have an option not to come.

Once you have purchased your whistles, everyone in the family must decide on the command to use. It might be a short, sharp blast, several blasts, or one long blast. It doesn’t matter as long as everyone in the family agrees to use the same sound.

Then, you whistle that sound whenever you feed your dog. (It’s very Pavlovian!) If you want the process to go fast, whistle for every bit of kibble. (Please, don’t leave food down for your dog all the time. You need the power that being the provider of the food brings.) After a few days, you should be able to whistle the dog to you from a sound sleep, from the backyard or basement, and from a play session. Always smile, praise, and treat.

Now you save the whistle for emergencies. Every once in a while, do a fire drill to remind the dog what a great thing that sound is. Never, ever link with a verbal command! Only praise and treat after the fact. The first time you use a verbal command in an emergency situation and the dog doesn’t choose to respond, you have just ruined your verbal command. From then on, the dog knows that that word is optional. If you keep the whistle “pure” and only use it for emergencies, it will remain a valuable tool in your relationship with your dog.

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