It can be difficult to get some breeds of dogs to come to you when you want them to. Whether it’s because of another dog, a prey animal nearby, or if he’s just plain ignoring you, your dog’s unreliable recall can be both frustrating and dangerous in the wrong situation. For breeds such as the Spaniel group, it can be even more difficult with a high prey drive, as they are bred as gun-dogs, ready to help on the hunt. On the off chance that your dog bolts out of the house and into the street after a squirrel, being able to call him to you can be life-saving! So what do you do when he refuses to listen?
Instead of using a verbal command, some Spaniel owners decide to go with a whistle instead. Training whistle recall can be incredibly handy in some situations. It can help stand out when surrounded by other people who may also be calling their dogs, and it can help keep your Spaniel from ignoring you when you sound angry or upset. Whether you find a regular whistle or a whistle specifically meant for dogs is up to you!
Training your Spaniel to respond to a whistle is not that much different from training him to respond to a verbal command. The stimuli is the only thing that differs. Both methods still require you to be decisive when choosing when and where to use the recall, how well you reward your dog for obeying, and how consistent you are. No matter which option you choose, poor training will net poor results.
You’ll want to start recall training as soon as possible. Even puppies can learn recall training once they are old enough to come home with you, and teaching any dog to respond well to a whistle should only take around two to four weeks before you begin to see some good results. Remember that Spaniels rely on association to learn things. When a behavior is rewarded well, he’ll be that much more consistent.
First, you’ll want to have both an indoor and outdoor space to practice your recall. Both spaces should be quiet and free from distractions to begin with, but later on, you can introduce your dog to other areas that can be a little noisier or busy. You’ll also want to get a good, long leash to practice with first that can allow your dog to wander but ultimately keep you in control. Some treats as rewards will come in handy as well. Once you have these things, you can move on to deciding what sort of whistle you’ll need.