Training your Whippet to come back to you when called is a valuable behavior. Although it takes little time to train the basic command, getting your Whippet’s recall in great shape will take a great deal of practice, as well as refresher training for the rest of his life.
This guide will show you the basics of training and reinforcing having your Whippet come back. However, it is important to understand that as sight hounds with a strong prey drive for small animals like bunnies and squirrels, it is never really safe to let your Whippet off leash around dangers such as brisk traffic.
All the same, if you work hard on training recall in a variety of situations, you can build a relatively strong drive for your Whippet to come back to you when called. It may even save her life in an emergency or save you hours of waiting for her to return from the woods after she ran off from your hiking party.
Our methods below will walk you through recall training from the most basic starting steps to more advanced “proofing” methods. But first, familiarize yourself with these common mistakes made by novice trainer so you can avoid them:
Calling a dog and then punishing her when she comes. This will teach your dog the literal opposite of what you want them to learn: Coming when called is safe, fun and rewarding.
Rewarding without touching the collar first. People that leave a collar touch out of their recall training discover too late that when they want to catch their Whippet in the field, they are often resisted as soon as they reach for his collar. You won’t win a race with a Whippet. Make sure you will be able to get a hold of that collar to leash him in pinch.
Repeating the recall command over and over. This is a common mistake. Use your recall command only once, every time. You can use other methods to entice her after the recall command is given, but do not repeat the command, ever.
Using the recall command, but then not enforcing when there is a failure. At some point, you need to add consequences to training your Whippet to come when called. Usually, this is done after you are sure he understands what is expected and has lots of practice under his belt. Once you add punishment (such as a short “time out”) for failures, you need to be consistent from then on out.
To prepare for training your whippet to come back when called, gather the following tools:
Long line: This is a leash or a rope that is very long (25’-50’ or more) that you can attach to your dog’s leash, then let trail around on the ground. Catching your Whippet when working outside is impossible if you are not using this handy tool.
High-value rewards: There is nothing wrong with using food to motivate your dog. He will work hardest if he is a little hungry during training. Feel free to mix in regular dog kibble rations to the treat bag. The more motivated your Whippet is, the faster he will learn.
Food stash: Keep some treats tucked away in different rooms in your home. This way you can do some random recall practice, calling your dog and then rewarding. By taking training outside of official training sessions, you help teach your Whippet that coming back when called at any time will be rewarding.