When playing and enjoying the wonderful outdoor smells your distracted dogs might not be tuned into your vocals. By training our dogs to react to an audible cue instead of words we can shift their attention towards us quickly. Using a whistle grabs their attention. It also works better from a distance and does not carry your emotions that they detect in your voice.
Week One: Start by using the whistle indoors. Once a day for a week but not at the same time each day. Have a treat ready and with your dog at your side tweet the whistle and immediately treat your dog and praise it. Some dogs may be sound sensitive so no need to blow it loudly or for very long. A little tweet will suffice.
Week Two: Once a day for a week indoors, but not at the same time. With your dog in your sight but not at your side tweet the whistle. At this point your dog should come to you – treat and praise your dog. If your dog does not come to you go to your dog and treat. Please use high value treats. That is food that your dog really loves.
Week Three: Once a day for a week indoors, but not at the same time. With your dog “out” of your sight but close by (in another room), tweet the whistle and treat and praise your dog. Only tweet once. If your dog does not come immediately go back to week one.
Week Four: Once a day for a week indoors, but not at the same time. With your dog in a far part of your house tweet the whistle and treat and praise your dog when they come.
Week five: Once a day for a week outdoors in an enclosed area, but not at the same time. With you dog outside, playing and sniffing, tweet from the door. Reward your dog immediately when they come.
You are now ready to move to play at the dog park. But first you also need a solid sit/stay and wait/release command. If you don’t already have one you can be working on this while working on the whistle training.
With your dog on a five foot leash, place your dog in a sit. Give your dog the stay command and walk out five feet in front, return to your dog and reward, then walk out to the sides and behind your dog returning and rewarding your dog. If your dog won’t sit and stay at five feet step in and try 3 feet. Then go back and give your dog the wait command, walk out in front and give your dog its release command. If you can whistle – use it. Work this exercise until you can do it from 10 feet away.
Remember you don’t want your dog to move. You want to work on your dog’s success so don’t set him up to fail. So, if your dog cannot do 7 feet move back to 5 feet and end the session on a success. Gradually increase the distance.
Now back to the dog park with a tracking leash, 15 to 25 feet. Practice the sit/wait and release with the whistle. Allow your dog to walk free but dragging the tracking leash. Then stand on the leash while blowing the whistle. If your dog goes to chase another dog stand on the leash and blow the whistle. Your dog will soon realise that you are in control.
Remember to give lots of treats and praise and make it game so it is fun for your dog. Eventually you can reduce the tracking line to a regular leash and then allow your dog to be leash-less. At any time your dog reverts go back to the tracking line.
All my dogs turn on a dime at the sound of the whistle. Elfie responded to it right away. My Jack Russell’s with their strong instinct to chase prey, took more time. And even though they both come back to me immediately when I whistle I rarely let them both run off leash at the same time. I want them to succeed so I don’t set them up where they can fail.
And remember, training should always be fun for you both. If you are getting frustrated, stop. Come back to the training later when you are relaxed. Start again at a training point that you know your dog will succeed. Sometimes we try too hard, and move too fast.
Salty Dogs Agility Club