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Dexter is an active Spaniel. As soon as you let him off the leash he's off to roam the countryside with his nose to the ground. This is hardly surprising. I mean since the 17th-century, Spaniels have been bred for roaming the countryside helping to hunt on land and water. You can tell your Spaniel definitely has that in his ancestry. However, Dexter's love for the countryside may go a little too far. So far, in fact, that you can’t call him back. Once your Spaniel hits the ground, he is gone and no matter what you do or say, he does not want to come back.
Training your Spaniel to recall, therefore, is important. If you don’t pursue this training, then your Spaniel may get into trouble. If he comes across a busy road then Dexter may suffer an injury and you may be landed with a hefty vet bill, or worse. This type of training will also make it easier for you to tackle other problematic behaviors.
The good news is training your Spaniel to recall is relatively straightforward. You need to build up a dependence within the dog to get them stay close by. You can do that with consistent training and an effective incentive. Fortunately, Spaniels have a weak spot for anything they can eat. So some smelly food that appeals to their strong sense of smell will certainly help.
If your Spaniel is just a puppy then they should eager to please and particularly receptive. As a result, training may prove successful in just a couple of weeks. But if your dog is older and stubborn, with years of running away under their belt, then you may need a couple of months. Get training right and you won’t need to worry when you lose sight of your Spaniel. It also means more freedom for them as they won’t have to constantly be kept on a leash.
Before you start training you will need to make sure you have a few bits. A long training leash will be required. You will also need a decent stockpile of treats. Alternatively, break some smelly, tasty food into small pieces. Cheese often works very well.
Set aside 15 minutes or so each day for training. You’ll need a large yard or local fields to practice in. You’ll also need a friend and a whistle for one of the methods below.
Apart from the above, you just need enthusiasm and patience, then work can begin!
The ‘Come’ Method
Start training inside the house. So regularly give a ‘come’ command in a high-pitched, playful tone. The animated tone will encourage the dog to come to you. Alternatively, you can call their name instead.
As soon as they do come to you, hand over a tasty reward. You can also hold out a treat to lure them over. This will get them associating you with positive consequences.
Now take your Spaniel into your yard. Here there will be a few more distractions around so it’s a good place to up the training. Continue to call them over every now and then and always make sure to give a generous reward.
Out on walks
Once the dog comes whenever they are called at home and in the yard, then you can practice on walks. Continue to call them back, just make sure you only give the command once. You don’t want the dog to think they can wait until you’ve asked five times before they have to respond.
Lose the treats
Now you just need to practice regularly. In fact, the more consistently you train, the sooner you will see results. Once they come back whenever you ask, even with distractions around, slowly phase out the treats.
The Whistle & Leash Method
Secure your Spaniel to a long leash and then take them out on a walk as you normally would. You can use a long bit of rope instead of a leash, if you would like. Make sure you have a whistle and some treats with you.
Once they have run off for a little bit, give a loud whistle in the dog's direction. Give it for just a few seconds. If you can whistle using your hands or mouth, that is fine instead. Just make sure it is loud enough for them to hear.
When you give the whistle, they will probably look up to see where the noise is coming from. They may not, however, come rushing back to you. So hold up a tasty treat or one of their favorite toys. You can also pat your knees and smile.
Be patient, eventually they will come charging back to you. When they do, you can hand over a delicious treat or play around with a toy for a minute. If they don’t come back, give the leash or rope a quick pull to encourage them.
Lose the leash
Practice this several times each day. Once they get the hang of it, you can let them off the leash and practice. After a few days without the leash, they should be in the habit of responding whenever they hear the whistle. At this point, you can gradually cut out the rewards.
The Hide & Seek Method
Head out into your yard with your dog and some treats or their favorite toy. You’re going to turn recall training into a game of hide and seek. Without them realizing it, they will soon come running whenever you call. Hold up the treat or toy so they can see it.
Once the dog has seen what is in your hand, you can run away and hide. As you do this, have a friend hold them by the collar so they can’t sprint after you. The very fact they can’t run will only make them want to come to you more.
As you go or when you’re hidden, issue a ‘find me’ command. Give it in a playful tone and keep it light-hearted. Note you can use any word or phrase you like. Your clever Spaniel can learn hundreds of different commands.
Have your friend let go of the dog and then wait for them to find you. If they are struggling, shout again to help them. But try to make sure to keep things easy to start with. Your Spaniel may give up if they have to try too hard. Once they do find you, shower them in verbal praise and give them some food or a toy.
Make it harder
Now you just need to practice several times a week. However, make it harder for the dog to find you each time. Now you can just use the command whenever you are out and need to bring your dog back to you. They will now be in the habit of coming whenever called.
By James Barra
Published: 04/11/2018, edited: 01/08/2021