Recall: The Light Tower
With my soul-dog Benny, a Kintamani dog, who grew up on the wonderful beaches of Bali, I developed our own Recall game, out of the necessity that Benny, while being a naughty teenager, had the tendency to just bugger off, while we were walking without leash on the beach. When I shouted „Come!“ to recall him, he never heard it as the wind carried my words towards the sea. So I always ended up chasing after him, which he enjoyed immensely, thinking it is a game of chase and he is in charge. It was time to do something about it, so I prepared some of the best, irresistible chicken treats he and went with him to the beach for a new training session.
I started to introduce a new element in the form of a visual clue, which consisted of me standing still while holding one of my arms firmly up into the air and standing still like a tower. That’s the reason Benny and I called this exercise „The Light Tower“.
Standing still and brimming with calm and assertive energy should signal Benny, that even he can’t hear me, the moment he checks back on me and spots my visual clue from a distance, I want him to leave whatever fun thing he is involved and immediately return back to me.
- We started the training session by him having to sit down and remain in a calm manner, while I showed him the box containing super value treats.
- Slowly I walked a few steps backwards until I was about 10 meters away from him. I stood calmly still and in slow motion raised my arm into the air with my hand holding the treat treasure box.
- The moment my arm was fully outstretched into the air I gave the command „Come!“ and he shot towards me, sat down in front and awaited more or less patient to be rewarded with tastiest chicken bits.
- I lowered my arm slowly until I could reach and touch his collar and could have leashed him if I wanted to.
- Only then I gave him his impatiently awaited treat and a big „jackpot!“ reception with heaps of praise.
- We repeated this exercise for a few days, during our morning and evening walks on the beach, until it had become second nature to him and he came back without fail.
- In the next step I gradually phased out the verbal command „Come!“ and simply raised my arm in the air. The moment it was fully up, Benny raced towards me, sat down calmly and got rewarded. Well done!
- Once he head learned this step perfectly, I simply increased the distance and then started to apply the light tower Recall command whenever I felt like it.
- It took us about 6 months to perfect this behaviour, but it became a valuable tool. Having Benny return by only using a visual clue saved us from many unpleasant and dangerous situations.
Recall using the Whistle
Once you have achieved a fairly good success rate in recalling your dog using verbal and/or visual commands, you can introduce a whistle for Recall.
Using a whistle has several advantages. Not only is your dog able to hear the sound of the whistle much better from a far greater distance and in noisy environments than if you shout „Come!“ on top of your voice, but the main advantage is that the whistle sound is consistent and always the same.
The sound of a whistle is entirely void of emotions, so that even in situations, where you might get distressed and anxious or upset, seing Fluffy speeding towards the road, the whistle will always convey to your dog that its leader is calm and assertive in the call to return to him/her.
It is a good idea to train with several members of your household the whistle Recall, so that your dog does not only come back when its preferred humans commands.
Of course its important for the human clan to agree to a fixed sound pattern or a series of repetitive blows. Instead of one long blow of the whistle, I recommend two shorter and a longer one, e.g. TOOT – TOOT – TOOOOT!
Time To Blow The Whistle
As with most exercises, it is important to start in an environment without too many distractions, your living room, backyard or garden is just perfect for it.
- Start by using the already trained verbal Recall command, which might be „Come!“
- Immediately afterwards blow the whistle using your chosen whistle sound. „TOOT – TOOT – TOOOOT!“
- Give the verbal command again.
- If your dog responds correctly, a lot of praise and super yummy high value treats will await it.
- Repeat the whole process over and over again while gradually phasing out the verbal „Come!“ clue.
- Practise, practise, practise…everywhere and all the time. Dont forget that you always set up your dog for success, so please give it time and only slowly increase the difficulty by choosing more distractive environments and longer distances for recalling your furry friend.
Different Types of Dog Whistles
Basically there are two types of whistles, audible and silent ones.
They are similar to the kind of whistles you might have played as a kid with, at least I did and enjoyed sneaking up behind friends and blow the whistle so hard that their ears start ringing. This approach is not recommended with dogs.
But nevertheless audible dog whistles which have a small ball inside are perfect to train your dog. Blowing them allows you to make more sound variations, which is helpful if you want to assign whistle sound commands to different actions and behaviours. But dont forget to have clear and easily distinguishable whistle sounds, so that your dog doesn’t get confused.
Those whistles use a much higher, sometimes also called ultrasonic frequency, which sounds loud in dogs ears but are less annoying for humans.
If you want to use your whistle in a dog park or train your dog during early morning or lunch nap-time when your neighbours are asleep, the silent whistle are preferred. They are not entirely noiseless, just less loud. As they lack a ball inside, the sound is much more uniform making it easier to use for different people.
For dogs hearing the sound of a whistle can be extremely enjoyable, if you associated it well with lots of praise from you as calm, assertive leader and of course enforced it with rewards, praise and treats.
It goes without saying that you should never use the whistle Recall to punish your dog for having been disobedient and drag it off home, after it came back to you. Be patient and carry your whistle around to surprise your dog in unexpected moments with a great successful whistle Recall!
This concludes the extensive 5 part series about everything you need to know for a successful Recall. Find Part 1 here
You must be logged in to post a comment.