A whistle recall is a must in my recall tool kit. If done and used properly the whistle will always be something special to your dog.
Our voices convey a lot of emotion, especially after you've tried to call your dog back to you and for 5 minutes they have continued to do their own thing and not listen at that moment. Without meaning to the agitation in your voice will be read very clearly by your dog, and that can make the game of coming back even harder. The whistle doesn't change emotion, it will no matter what always sound the same to your dog. The sound of the whistle also carries much further than our voice, so it's a perfect tool for a windy day or for calling your dog from a long distance. I often work with clients who say that their dog will come back to one of the humans and not the other as reliably, the good thing about the whistle is that everyone in the household can use it and have successful recalls with their dog.
There is a huge variety of whistles on the market, my favourite whistle is the ACME range. Acme whistles come in different pitches, designed to suit particular breeds. Head over to their website to find the perfect whistle for your dog.
HOW TO START
You are going to start this training at home, I repeat at home, do not get ahead of yourself and go straight to the park with your new shiny whistle.
The aim is to create an association between the sound of the whistle and the most amazing reward.
Start in a quiet room in your house. Be supplied with plenty of high-value treats, I'm talking about steak, hot dog, cheese or anything that your dog loves. This experience must be memorable for your dog.
I hear you ask how should I blow my whistle? I recommend doing 2 short, sharp blasts followed by one longer one, Pip-Pip-Piiiiiiip.
With your dog in front of you, blow your whistle (pip-pip-piiiiip) immediately feed your dog a handful of delicious treats. Remember this experience has to give your dog the wow factor. Repeat this at least 20 times, then pop your whistle away to repeat later in the day. Do the same exercise later that day and every day for at least the next week.
Dinner times are also an opportunity for you to use the whistle. Simply blow your whistle (pip-pip-piiiip) then place your dog's food down.
By this point, your dog is going to be making the connection that the sound of the whistle means tasty treats is coming their way.
After you have completed the above exercise and please don't cheat the above step. By this stage, you want your dog to hear the whistle and immediately start to salivate at the thought of the treat that they are about to receive from you.
Be supplied with high-value treats, stay in the same room as your dog but wait until they are a little busy, or at least not looking at you. Blow your whistle, hopefully, your dog immediately dropped what they were doing and raced over to you. If this happened, perfect, feed a handful of treats and praise. Then wait until your dog moves away from you or gets busy again with something else in the room and repeat this exercise.
If this stage is successful then try moving into a different room away from your dog, blow the whistle and wait, with any luck your dog is racing through the house to find you. Repeat, practice makes perfect.
For the next stage head into your garden, if you don't have a garden then find an area of the park which is quiet and pop your dog on a long line. Move away from your dog and blow the whistle, if they raced over to you, then feed a handful of treats and praise them.
Gradually add more distance. Finish the session after several recalls, don't overdo it as momentum may get lost. As the saying goes "Quit while you're ahead."
Don't rush this process, you must take your time.
Build up to using your whistle against distractions, if you can't bet money that your dog will respond to the whistle at that moment then don't use it, save it until your dog is a little less distracted.
Don't forget to bring high-value treats to the park, their regular kibble probably won't cut it!
To make coming back to you even more fun for your dog, jackpot their return with a game of tug, fetch, chasing you or whatever else that they love.
Most importantly have fun!!