The Secret To Teaching The Instant Whistle Recall

Are you fed up with your dog only coming back when he feels like it? Do you keep thinking that you need to do something about it?

Don’t put it off any longer! Our recall training packs include everything that you need to teach a food-motivated dog to come a whistle, as soon as you blow it, every time.  We've teamed up with a qualified dog trainer to define exactly what you need to do to have a dog that comes running as soon as you blow that whistle!

Why won’t some dogs come when called?

One of the main problems with recall is that the recall cue is used far too often with no actual benefit to the dog. Think of the following scenarios from the dog’s point of view:

  1. He is sniffing one of the best smells he’s found that day, when you see a car coming and call him. He comes bounding over (if we’re lucky) and we put him on a lead or make him sit and wait.
  2. He is running with a friend that he has just met in the park and we decide it’s time to go home. We call him, put him on a lead, and the fun ends.
  3. He has been cooped up in the house all afternoon and we let him out into the garden. Woohoo - freedom!! He runs around sniffing and enjoying himself and then we call him back in and shut the door.

If you were a dog, what would you do after a few repeats of these different situations?

It’s pretty clear that we’d choose to ignore the owner. Whatever you do with your dog after you’ve called him will ultimately define whether he will continue to keep coming back when you ask him to. We all learn by consequences, including dogs.

Why will a whistle work?

Why will a whistle work when calling the dog doesn't?

When a recall command or cue is used as above or in other circumstances, it is said to become "poisoned".  This means that the dog either just doesn't hear it (due to it being used so much it has become background noise) or doesn't want to come back because of the consequences.  Once you have a poisoned cue it is very difficult to "unpoison" it.

Using a whistle (provided the whistle hasn't been used before) is a completely new noise.  It will initially attract the dog's attention and many dogs will naturally return tot he handle to investigate the noise.  We can then go on to use this reaction to train the dog and, so long as you read this article and stick to the training principles below, will continue to work as a recall cue over the long term.

What are main principles of training a great recall?

While in training:

  1. Only call the dog when you are carrying yummy treats or a favourite toy – consequences that he finds very enjoyable.
  2. Don’t call unless absolutely essential. Use a long line or a lead to move him instead. One of the fastest ways to a poor recall is to call the dog so much that it becomes boring and just “noise”.
  3. Instead of calling the dog, think of other ways to get him back to you. This might be excessively praising another dog, so that he comes back to join in, or it might be making a new, weird noise, or even running past him in another direction.
  4. Most importantly, don’t let him off the lead until you have trained the recall as described below. Don’t give him the chance to be wrong.
  5. NEVER call your dog to do something he will find unpleasant such as to tell him off or to put him in his crate.  This is the quickest way to a failed recall.

The recall cue has to say to the dog “come back quick because something really exciting is going to happen when you get here”.

So, how do we train a great recall?

It’s as easy as this:

  1. Take a few JR Pet Products Training Treats.
  2. Make sure that your dog isn’t doing something that he finds really interesting – we need him to be very likely to come when called.
  3. Blow the whistle.
  4. If the dog hasn’t already come when you blow the whistle, call him using his usual recall cue while running AWAY from the dog (running away from the dog makes him want to follow).
  5. As soon as he gets to you, place 3 or 4 training treats onto the floor between his paws. Don’t ask for a sit – reward the instant he gets to you.
  6. Eventually you will see an instant reaction when you blow the whistle and you will be able to drop the recall cue altogether.

Extra points:

  • Do this two or three times each day, no more.
  • Try and find times to practise when you know there is a good chance that he will come back but when he is not expecting it.
  • Don’t try it in the park, or out on walks to start with – keep it to the back garden or in the house. Only move to other areas when he is coming the instant you blow that whistle.
  • Save the JR Training treats for just this exercise so that he doesn’t get bored with them.
  • Save the whistle only for this exercise. Don’t let children continually blow on it or try and use it for other things. The whistle has to say to the dog “Come now and you will get some yummy treats.”.
  • Don’t EVER whistle (or call) the dog and then tell him off for something he has done wrong. All he will think is that he was told off for coming back and will be less likely to come the next time you call.

Long Term

Once you have your dog coming every time you whistle in the house or garden, you can start varying the number of treats he gets, from none to 3 or 4. So one time he might get 4, the next 1, the next 2 then the next 0. This helps to keep him interested and wondering what he may get.

As soon as you move into a new environment, such as the park or on walks, begin again from the start, following the training steps above. Most importantly, keep him on a lead or a long line (a very long lead without a handle that you can drop while he is near you but pick up if you need to have him under control) so that he can’t learn that he can ignore the new whistle.

Only let him off the lead once he is coming back every time you whistle. And if he doesn’t come back at any point, it’s back to being on the lead and going through the training steps again.

You can find our recall training packs here and they come with an instruction card that includes the main training points above.  If you have any questions or need any extra support, then please get in touch and we can help!