As many of you know, I've recently had a litter of black labrador puppies here at HQ (along with the brother and sister duo, Frodo and Eira, who are now approaching their first birthdays) so I thought now would be a good time to chat to you all regarding instilling early obedience training for your puppies - without them even realising! First off, recall training...
Make the most of instincts.
A puppy's first instinct is to stick with his littermates and to follow anything fun and engaging (aka you!) - recall training is simply capitalising on this instinct. Having bought your puppy from a responsible breeder (I hope you did...), your puppy should be used to following his/her breeder round, chasing the breeder's feet and his littermates - usually chewing any available laces or wellies in the process (there speaks the voice of experience!).
Keep it fun.
When you bring your puppy home and are playing in the garden or house, of course she is going to want to explore her new environment. Once your puppy turns her attention to you, call her excitedly and take steps backwards. She will come running, give her a big fuss - personally, I see no need for treats in training, but this is personal choice, you may choose to give food rewards.
Most breeders will recall a litter of puppies by calling 'pup, pup, pup' - usually in a super-attractive high-pitched voice! So use this first when teaching your puppy to come to you. Once he is responding to this, you can call 'pup, pup' to get his attention and then call '*name*' to get him used to his name being the command he hears when he should be coming back to you. Simply reduce the 'pup, pup' over time until you only need call his name for him to recall.
This is also how to introduce the whistle if you are aiming to train your dog to the whistle. Call your dog's name to instigate the recall, then add the whistle command as she is running to you. Again, over time fade out the spoken command until you are only using the whistle. Both commands are now learnt. Generally speaking, I would use her name to recall her from close by and the whistle if she is further away.
Keep it quiet.
When using spoken commands or whistles, introduce them as a gentle command. Not only is it unnecessary to shout at your dog on the first occasion, but if you start off loudly with your instruction, you have 'nowhere to go' with increasing the urgency if they choose to ignore you the first time.
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