Most young puppies will come to you readily when called or when you clap your hands at least for a while. But later on other things, especially things that move, attract their interest and you are ignored. This is simply because the recall has not yet been instilled and is consequently not understood by the pup.
This can be irritating and at times has to be countered by adopting somewhat unorthodox methods. Ingenuity is the name of the game and what will work for one pup may not for the next, so you have to give the matter some thought in order to come up with a solution. In the meantime one should bear in mind two golden rules where the teaching of the recall is concerned:
(1) Do not call your dog unless you can be sure you can make him comply.
(2) Do not chase your dog, thereby allowing him to take the lead and thus the initiative; always try to have him come to you.
The following maneuvers usually do the trick with most pups.
First, call his name in conjunction with the recall command “Here” and, if this fails, run away from him the moment you have his attention. From the very beginning, use the whistle with the recall command, giving several pips. This will eventually be the signal in the field to call him to you from a distance, so the sooner he is trained to it the better. The whistle is a good attention-getter and is often reacted to far better than the voice. As you are by now moving away from him, the chances are good that he will follow you, as anything that is moving (yourself included) is of far more interest to a pup than whatever is standing still.
If he continues to pay less attention to you than he should, call his name and give the whistle signal, then quickly conceal yourself. Sooner or later he will notice you are missing and will probably become concerned and start looking for you. As soon as he does, call and whistle again and give him lots of praise when he gets to you. However, I must also point out that this approach is normally effective only when used in an area that he is unfamiliar with. This circumstance in itself will cause most pups to pay more attention to your whereabouts.
You may have noticed that the recall command “Here” sounds virtually the same as the command “Heel.” This is appropriate as one complements the other. The only way any dog can walk alongside you at heel is to come in to you from wherever he is. You are therefore using the two commands for virtually the same purpose.
There are times when problems with the recall can be counteracted by giving the miscreant a cookie or some of his favorite dog meal. Food temptation is hard to resist for most pups, who will willingly respond if such a treat is in the offing. However, I advise that bribery be used only as a last resort. Any well-balanced puppy or adult dog, if started right, should return to you eagerly when called without the incentive of food. Praise is all that should be necessary.
If disobedience persists, though, there is usually no alternative but to resort to the use of a check line and choke chain. A line about fifteen to twenty feet long will do. Put on the choke chain
attached to the line and let him trail it along as he runs ahead of you in the field. The presence of the line should not trouble him as he has probably become accustomed to the feel of the leash trailing. As he is running around, shout “Here” and give the whistle signal too. if he fails to comply, slam your foot down on the line and bowl him head over heels. At this point, grab hold of the line, repeat the command and the whistle signal, and at the very same moment give a sharp, hard tug on the line. He should now come running in towards you. As he does, give several more pips on the whistle, and lots of praise when he gets to you.
When he starts to run towards you remember not to pull on the line again. Don’t drag him towards you under any circumstances; he must learn to run back freely. Repeat this another two or three times, then leave it for the day. More often would be counterproductive as he would then be reluctant to get very far away from you.
Over the next two or three weeks have a few more sessions, going about it in exactly the same way. Then, when it seems to be taking effect, remove the line and substitute for it the short leash. He’ll be able to tell the difference all right as there will be less drag from the leash, but he’ll still think you possess that mysterious ability to control him from a distance. After a further two or three sessions, provided all has gone well, try removing the leash altogether while leaving the choke chain on. This will still provide a “link” (in more than one sense) between you and him. The chances are good that by this time you will find you have won and that shortly you will not need to put the choke chain on at all. Try to discontinue the use of the line as soon as possible, once he will come to you without hesitation.
It is clear that, if a puppy is taught the recall correctly early in life, returning to you becomes second nature. So if problems persist, there is something you aren’t doing right. You must sit down and try to analyze where you are going wrong.