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

Effective
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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

Question
Woody
Sprocker Spaniel
11 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
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
463 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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