Perfect your whistle work
Last month, we took an overview of how we might start to reschool a dog that has come off the whistle. This time, it’s my intention to take a slightly more in-depth approach to some of the techniques we can use to teach the dog to listen and take instructions.
We are going to start right at the beginning! The beginning starts with you and your ability to assess the dog’s behaviour and your relationship with it! We need to check to see if your dog fully understands the whistle commands that we are going to be giving him. Let’s run through a checklist and do a few simple assessments.
THE SIT A single ‘peep’ on the whistle should see your dog either sit instantly at heel or, if out in front of you, stop, sit and look straight back at you. Most importantly, the dog needs to be in a mindset where it’s looking at you to help it find the dummy rather than as a demanding nuisance.
Call the dog to heel and walk along at a slow walk. Bearing in mind that the dog’s ears are just a metre from your whistle, gently blow your Sit command… peep.
If he sits, instantly reward him. If he doesn’t, we need to get the dog back on the lead. Once again, with the dog at heel, move forward, blow the whistle and give a gentle pull backwards on the lead. As soon as he sits reward him with a ‘Good’.
Quickly repeat this exercise until the dog is responding with a quick and accurate sit to the whistle. This needs to be done over several sessions, ensuring you are using a lead every time, and at different paces – walk, trot, canter – with increasingly difficult levels of environmental distractions. If he fails to respond to the whistle command, immediately correct/instruct him. You will need to be consistent until the dog is trained to sit each time you blow the whistle.
Now we can try the same exercise without the lead. If we have done enough training he will give you a consistent Sit. If not, it’s back to lead on.
Take your dog and a dummy outside. Release him from your heel, but keep his attention and try to encourage the dog to stay close to you. Blow your Stop whistle; if he sits, immediately throw out the
dummy, hold him in the Sit for a few seconds before sending him for the retrieve. If he ignores the whistle then here’s an exercise you can use:
As before, get yourself outside with a dummy and the dog. Once again, release the dog but keep his attention – try tapping the dummy a few times to get his focus. As the dog looks at you thrust the dummy up into the air, implying you are going to throw it. The dog will respond immediately, but keep holding the dummy high above your head and prompt him to sit using first your voice and as he sits blow the whistle. As his backside hits the floor throw the dummy.
How much schooling the dog has had will determine whether he runs in or waits to be sent for the retrieve. Either way, give the Fetch command and let him have the retrieve. Regular practice of this exercise will see a high-drive, dummy-focused dog throwing itself into the Sit in anticipation of a reward, with the mindset we want when a dog hears the stop whistle.
A series of pips on the whistle will see your dog galloping across the field… or not?
Leave the dog in a Sit position and walk about 20m away. Turn your back on the dog and put your hands in your pockets; this is to stop you using them as a visual cue.
Now blow the Recall whistle. If your dog is on the whistle it will race towards you. If not, you need to do some more work. Some dogs that are really good on the whistle get a little confused by this exercise, so initially you might have to prompt