How can I improve my puppy's recall

(18 Posts)
MsVestibule Mon 07-Jan-19 16:49:10

Slightly nervous about posting as I realise it must be something we've done wrong, but I'm really concerned about my puppy's recall - we thought we had it cracked but it seems to be getting worse.

He's a very loving and affectionate show cocker spaniel, coming up to 8 months old. Of course he thinks every dog is desperate to play with him, but as we know this is not the case, I don't want him approiching any dog until I've said it's OK. However, he completely ignores us when we call him back - he does know the 'call back' signal as he comes back straight away if there are no dogs around (we give him a treat and lots of praise).

Does anybody have any advice? We started with a training lead; do we need to go back to basics and not let him off until we're 100% sure he'll come back every time?

It was so important for us to have a well trained dog, but I feel as though I'm failing at almost all of it 😕.

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AvocadosBeforeMortgages Mon 07-Jan-19 16:53:30

You're not failing, it's just that your dog is coming into the adolescent phase and recall getting worse is traditional at this time of life.

Keep doing what you are doing; you may need to start using a long line again temporarily. Distractions are challenging, but if you keep at it and when DDog grows up more, you'll have the dog you've worked hard for!

From what you've said you're pretty on it, but Pippa Matthison's Total Recall book is meant to be excellent if you want some reading material and extra pointers.

pilates Mon 07-Jan-19 16:54:41

Looking with interest at this post as we are in the same boat!

BiteyShark Mon 07-Jan-19 17:04:35

My working cocker had great recall until around 6 months old then he started to ignore me. The worst time was around the 8-9 months of age when he was in full stroppy deaf adolescent mode and would run off at any distraction.

I did several things.

1. I walked in places and at times when we would not meet any people or dogs so I could practice recall and not worry about him running off and being rewarded for it.

2. I became unpredictable so I would walk in the opposite direction to him each time and didn't call him so he suddenly started to worry that I wasn't going to follow him.

3. Probably the most important thing I ever did was to stop thinking of a walk as a stroll. I took my dog to gun dog training and one of their best advice was to go hunting with your dog rather than being a 'passive' walker. I started throwing balls for him and hiding them in the undergrowth and playing hunt. We really did stop walking and just doing that and I started to be the best thing he had ever met.

Once we had number 3 under our belt I started to relax the times and places we walked to bring in more distractions and his reward was me playing ball with him.

Recall really got better around 1 year of age and whilst maturity helped without number 3 I think we would still be struggling.

MsVestibule Mon 07-Jan-19 17:05:22

@avacodoesbeforemortgages (I agree, BTW!) thank you for your lovely, positive response. I'll get a copy of that book and in the meanwhile, will just keep him on the long line lead.

Being a puppy owner is so much harder than I expected it to be (he also chews everything, including skirting boards, so can't be left for more than 5 minutes) but it would be great if we get this cracked.

@pilates I'm sorry you're going through the same thing but also glad it's not just me! I hate thinking other dog owners are looking at me chasing after him and bellowing his name thinking 'well, she's a bit of a rubbish dog owner, isn't she?' 🙈.

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MsVestibule Mon 07-Jan-19 17:10:30

@biteyshark number 3 sounds great but I wonder if a show cocker has the same instinct to hunt items? He's lovely, but not the brightest...

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BiteyShark Mon 07-Jan-19 17:29:54

Some show cockers seem to have a hunting instinct so worth trying to get him interested in a ball at home. Throw a ball in a corridor whilst you are sat down and let him bring it back to you. Don't take it out his mouth straight away just praise and repeat a few times to get his interest then put it away so it's always a really exciting treat. Sitting down will mean he will come back to you and climb over you so helps with the retrieve. Once he understands what to do you can progress to throw and retrieves standing in the garden.

Also play hide the ball in the house and give him a 'find it' command but make it easy to find at first. When you progrsss to harder hunts then you can also give a command to let him know he's roughly in the right spot. You can do this with treats but balls work well outside.

Once he understands the concepts in the house do the same in the garden then progress on to the walks.


CallMeRachel Mon 07-Jan-19 18:31:06

I also have a show cocker puppy!

Mine is only 5 months and at the moment his recall is brilliant but I know that can change.

My plan is to;

Take high value treats on walks (Cheese/sausage/liver)- give him one when lead and collar goes on

Take a squeaky toy out walk - mine goes daft for these and reacts instantly when he hears a squeak. If you don't want to take the toy just remove the plastic squeaker and use that. You can practice with toys in the garden.

Other dogs are naturally more interesting to pups so you've got to make every recall you do 100% positive and never tell him off or shout if he comes back slower/more reluctantly than normal.

The other trick is to get them to focus on you during the walk, change direction often and mix things up.

There's some good advice above too.

Wallywobbles Mon 07-Jan-19 22:38:15

My cocker is now 10 yo and his recall is just beginning to be ok. It's been a long road!!

MsVestibule Mon 07-Jan-19 22:40:25

@biteyshark thanks, I'll try the ball in the corridor thing. Hopefully he'll understand the 'looking for the ball' concept! I think maybe I underestimate his intelligence and perhaps he just needs more attention and training.

@callmerachel we've found Primula works most of the time, but I think we need to mix it up a bit. One thing I've always managed is the enthusiasm whenever he does deign to come back, even though I want to do the complete opposite!!

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MsVestibule Mon 07-Jan-19 22:42:27

@wallywobbles don't tell me that 😫. Did you make a concerted effort in the preceding years? (Fingers crossed you say no.)

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TeaByTheSeaside Mon 07-Jan-19 22:47:01

The best bit of advice I was given was set them up for success. So if there's a lot going on, keep them on the lead. Only let them off when there's no distractions around. Use high value treats/ toys as rewards. And only give these on walks.

Apparently if you get into a situation where they're not set up for success and you let them off somewhere busy and you start calling and they ignore you then the ignoring can become a habit. So try and avoid these scenarios if you can.

BiteyShark gives some good advice. But don't get into a situation where you're continually throwing a ball. It's not good for your dogs joints or stress levels.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Mon 07-Jan-19 22:49:20

FWIW I find DDog is more obedient when I have a pick n mix of treats in my treat pouch rather than just one delicious one. It keeps them guessing and stops them being able to make an easy decision about what's more exciting - the other dog or dried liver or primula or freeze dried chicken or something else.

Wallywobbles Mon 07-Jan-19 22:49:49

Yup. Nothing doing. No food interest at all. 99% he's fab. But 1% he's a chicken murdering bastard. He went round to my Mils (neighbor 300m away) and sucked a chicken to death. But he's better now than he ever was before.

Bonkersblond Mon 07-Jan-19 22:50:19

We used a whistle (3 sharp blows) followed by a treat from a very young age, even to call in from the back garden. Ours still likes to go off especially after a squirrel but the whistle has always got her back. Also I prefer a whistle rather than sounding like a fish wife.

MsVestibule Mon 07-Jan-19 23:06:41

Also I prefer a whistle rather than sounding like a fish wife.

Ha ha, me too, I definitely sounded like a fishwife on the beach yesterday!!

@wallywabbles how do you suck a chicken to death 😨??? Luckily my dog is obsessed with food so I think a smorgasbord of treats is the way to go.

@teabytheseaside I think you're right about setting them up for success. I love him to have a good run about on the beach but it's just not worth it on a busy Sunday morning.

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BiteyShark Tue 08-Jan-19 06:16:59

But don't get into a situation where you're continually throwing a ball. It's not good for your dogs joints or stress levels.

Agree with that. I intermix ball throwing with a bit of walking and hunting so we do a mix but he is always wondering and wanting the ball so his recall is now great just in case he gets a throw grin. Having gone from 100% as a puppy, to zero and back to 100% the ball obsession has saved my sanity.

OP what whistle do you use? I use the acme ones so if you lose it or have more than one they are exactly the same pitch.

Wallywobbles Tue 08-Jan-19 21:31:40

He has had quite a few teeth out so he only really sucks them to death. The bloody springer has jaws and teeth of steel but fortunately is terrified of Mil's dog. But his recall is superb which is the upside.

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