How to Train a Spaniel to Recall

Medium
2-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

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.

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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

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Step
1
‘Come’
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.
Step
2
Reward
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.
Step
3
The yard
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

The Whistle & Leash Method

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Step
1
Long leash
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.
Step
2
Whistle
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.
Step
3
Lure
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.
Step
4
Reward
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

The Hide & Seek Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Temptation
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.
Step
2
Run away
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.
Step
3
‘Find me’
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.
Step
4
Reward
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Woody
Sprocker Spaniel
11 Months
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Question
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Woody
Sprocker Spaniel
11 Months

Woody is very driven by wildlife and his nose. If I have his attention, his recall is fairly good. But if he catches scent of something or seeing something, he is off for a good few minutes before listening to my command. He has phases where he will be as good as gold and now more recently he has gotten worse.
He hasn't been neutered yet.
We would just like him to reliably come back to us.
We trained his recall by using high value rewards like cheese and sausage.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello George, Training with treats is a great way to start, to teach a dog what a command means and to motivate them to want to do it, at some point there will be something that trumps your rewards though, so he also needs to learn that coming is not optional. There are a couple of ways to do this, and the best method depends on your dog's level of distraction. First, use a long leash for training and practice your recall around distractions, like birds, using the long leash. Follow the Reel In method from the article linked below to do this: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Second, use the distraction as a reward. This process is called the PreMack principle. It works by using a long leash and something that your dog wants to get to (like a person, treed squirrel, or exciting food). Set up the training so that the thing your dog wants is just out of reach of the long leash when it is fully extended. Release your dog so that they start to run over to the thing they want, as soon as they get a few feet away from you (say 5-10 feet out of 25 feet worth of leash) quickly tell them to "Come". If he disobeys, the leash will stop him and you can either reel him in with the leash and have him sit or see if he comes back to you willingly within a few seconds. Repeat the training until he comes right when you call, before reaching the end of the leash. If she does come to you immediately, then after he sits and you touch his collar, tell him "Okay" and give him enough slack in the leash to let him get all the way to the thing he desired. Practice this until he is convinced that the only way to get to what he wants is by coming to you first. As he improves, uses a longer and more lightweight leash to proof this around other distractions too. I suggest using a padded back clip harness while practicing commands that involve a long leash - to prevent the potential of a neck injury until he is reliable. 3. If the above training is unsuccessful, then I suggest hiring a very qualified trainer who can find his 'working level' and teach a remote e-collar come. This is often unnecessary for more dogs, but very bird or prey driven dogs sometimes need this. Done correctly, the training should be done with low levels of collar stimulation, and by combining the above two methods with it to help the dog understand the training clearly and keep the training fun still. The e-collar simply allows you to enforce the training at a distance and consistency that you otherwise wouldn't be able to. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Shadow
Spaniel
1 Year
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Question
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Shadow
Spaniel
1 Year

Whenever he gets the scent of a rabbit he is gone like the wind and no amount of calling him would bring him back.. I know that's in his breed, what's the best way to get h to. Come back. I just bought a whistle

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
131 Dog owners recommended

Hello! So I am going to give you some tips on teaching recall. It is something you will have to practice consistently for him to be responsive 100% of the time. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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Question
Coco
Spaniel
18 Months
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Question
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Coco
Spaniel
18 Months

Guarding things

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jade, What types of things is pup guarding? - Toys/objects, furniture/locations, people/animals, or food? The specifics of how you address depend partially on what pup is guarding. With furniture, you would desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle, practice Off, and keep a drag leash on pup, so that when pup gets on furniture, you could tell pup off, reward for going to their own dog bed instead, and enforce the command calmly with the drag leash while pup wears the muzzle and can't bite you. You would also work on building pup's overall respect and trust for you in other ways, not allowing pup on furniture anymore, and teaching directional commands - like Off, Leave It, Place, and Out - which means leave the area. For object/toy guarding, you would work on teaching pup a drop it command, and trading pup better treats or other toys for the one they drop in training sessions ahead of time - using less desirable toys that are long so that you never have to let go of it while pup "takes it" then "drops it" during the training session, and gets a treat. You would also work on overall respect and trust building exercises in daily life. For people guarding, the person pup is guarding would need to teach directional commands, and work on building pup's respect for them since guarding people is related to pup thinking they own that person, and thus they are possessive of them often. Please respond with more detail of what exactly pup is guarding and any details that might be helpful for me to know. In general, I suggest a combination of teaching pup directional commands, building their respect and trust for you calmly through boundaries and obedience commands, and creating and enforcing household rules consistently. Pup needs a bit of a bootcamp as far as structure and boundaries being increased, at least for a bit. Check out the following articles and videos on teaching directional commands like Out, Place, Leave It, and Off. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Off - section on "Off command specifically: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ To build pup's respect, have pup work more through the Working and Consistency methods linked below. Pup will already be following the Obedience method somewhat with the above commands too: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Finally, decide what the rules are in your home and you be the one to enforce them. For example, when you say Off - they must get off furniture, no guarding of people or things - if you guard, you have to leave the area, no blocking spaces and doorways, no nudging, climbing into laps uninvited, or barking for attention, no stealing things from another animal. If pup is biting, you may need to desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle, and keep a muzzle and drag leash on pup when you are home (don't leave them on when you aren't there or they may get tangled on things). With a muzzle and drag leash, you can then calmly enforce commands like Out, Off, or Leave It when pup reacts aggressively, and reward good responses. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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