Having a solid recall is, in my opinion, one of the basic skills required of any dog. There are many ways to recall your dog, but one of the most popular, particularly if your dog is far away from you, is by using a whistle. Many people say to me that their dog recalls well to the whistle. Assuming that you have taught Fido the recall whistle, I find that a good way of finding out if Fido really is what is called “on the whistle” is to attempt what we call “the blind recall”.
If Fido is 100 yards away in thick woods or even somewhere nearby where he can’t see or isn’t looking at you, we need to teach him to respond immediately to the sound of the recall whistle. It is, in my books, a must for any dog, whether a companion pet that needs to come back when chasing a cat towards a road or a gundog 100 yards away in thick woodland. Safety aside, it’s part of the skills set we teach all our clients’ dogs as part of what we call our “steering and brakes” package – being able to stop and recall Fido using a whistle alone.
Here’s how we proof the blind recall. Simply leave Fido at sit/stay and walk 20 yards away from him, keeping your back to him. Pause for a few seconds and fold your arms across your chest so that Fido cannot see your hands. Without turning to face him or offering any visual cues, blow the recall whistle. If Fido comes immediately, in a straight line and sits down next to you, congratulations! Fido is indeed “on the whistle“. But if Fido doesn’t come immediately, it’s probably because he is used to some additional form of visual or audible cue e.g. opening your arms, clapping your hands, calling him, bending down, making eye contact etc.
If Fido does not respond first time to the blind recall whistle, here’s how you can layer the exercise up to achieve your goal. Do the exercise as described, but once you are stationary facing away from Fido, turn your head to look at him, tap your thigh and blow the recall whistle simultaneously; he should come with all these visual and audible cues. Once this has been mastered, cut out the turning of the head, simply pat your thigh and blow the recall whistle. Eventually cut out the thigh pat and blow the whistle only. Vary distances and length of time before recalling.
Soon you’ll have Fido recalling to the whistle no matter if he’s in the next field or just a few yards away!
Good luck and keeeeeep training!