Getting a spaniel or for that matter any breed of dog to come back when he is called or whistled is really important, for his own safety, the safety of others and to help him be well trained and obedient.
Springers are intelligent dogs and if we are looking to train a Springer spaniel to come back we just need to work with the dog and try a few different things. Training a Springer to come back when called or whistled is generally an easy process if we follow a few simple steps and if you can start when the dog is still a puppy then you give yourself the best chance of success.
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Start early with your puppy
This is only a very short video but it gives an idea of how you should try to be with your puppy and how you can use ‘playtime’ as a way to introduce a ‘command’.
In this case Kate is simply playing with Nimrod, and she whistles him to come to her. As far as the puppy is concerned it’s just more play, and he comes bouncing along to her.
If you can start to introduce things when your puppy is still young, without being demanding of him, then you stand the best chance of successes.
By the way, Nimrod is an English Cocker spaniel, but the training technique and commands are exactly the same for all spaniels, and in fact you can take this approach with any type of dog/puppy.
Progressing with the recall training
The short video gave a brief insight into how we get our puppy to come when we call him by his name or whistle.
It is important that when you are going to train a Springer spaniel to come back reliably that you regularly call your puppy up to you, when he is in the garden or yard, when you are out walking and when he is playing in the house.
Mix things up a little and when he gets in right give him lots of praise and the occasional edible treat.
You should get a whistle for your dog training and, ideally you should have this while you puppy is still young.
Call his name and, as he runs up to you, use your whistle, giving s sequence of short peeps as he runs to you, use loads of praise when he reaches you.
Eventually, you can reduce the amount of times you use his name and call him in just by using the whistle.
Combining the recall whistle with sit and stay
As you are working with your young spaniel one of the things that you will need to help him with is the sit and stay command.
We have a separate article that helps with sit and stay which you can read all about at this link – also known as sitting at a distance.
You never know what areas you will be in when you are out with your dog, and when you might need him to sit down and stay in a position while you attend to something else. You need him to be reliable and to not become distracted and wander off.
If your spaniel is a working or competition dog then you may be asked by a judge to sit him down at distance, while the judge explains the next activity to you, or, if you are out hunting or shooting, the action may be paused and you’ll likely need your dog to remain stationary.
Often, after your spaniel has remained ‘on the drop’ as it is known ( sitting and staying), then when it’s time to get moving, you will simply cast him off again, but, you may need to call him back to you.
If your dog is responsive to the whistle, then this should be pretty easy to achieve.
Using the recall whistle for retrieving
When we train our spaniel one area of training is retrieving. If we want to work our compete with a spaniel then he needs to be a good, reliable retriever.
Even if your spaniel is a pet I’m sure you’ll agree that playing ‘fetch’ is great fun and most, if not all Springer spaniels love that game.
You can see our article here on how to get a spaniel to retrieve.
Most spaniels will happily pick things up and if you came to visit us and left your shoes lying around then it is guaranteed that they would not be where you left them when you decided to leave. You could also include spectacles, gloves, cell phones, wallets and lots more on that list – the dogs have picked them up, and, in the case of Nimrod, probably buried them somewhere.
Being able to combine this desire to walk around with things and bring them to the handler ( you ) is what we want to achieve and we do this by using the recall whistle.
Again, your spaniel needs to be reasonably reliable to the recall and you will have worked with him to get him to a good level.
To work it into retrieving all you need to do is, as soon as your spaniel has picked up the dummy or ball, you simply give him the recall whistle and, all being well. he will run up to you, with the retrieve. You take it off him and give him lots of praise.
Eventually, with practice, you’ll be able to send him out to ‘fetch’ and you will not need to use the whistle to bring him back in.
Be consistent with the recall whistle
Once your Springer spaniel understands the recall whistle then it is important that you are consistent with him.
If you blow the whistle and he doesn’t come back to you then you need to deal with it.
The best and easiest way for you to do this is to rasie your voice and shout him, getting hjis attention and repeating the whistle. The tone of your voice should indicate your displeasure at him not coming back when told and, as soon as he makes his way to you, you should change it to one of encouragement.
You’ll find that spaniels can sometimes seem to be difficult and at others really soft and compliant.
The reality is that most of them are really soft and if you raise your voice then they’ll generally respond.
What to do if your Springer doesn't come back and runs off?
Sometimes your dog can get preoccupied with a smell or sound and he just simply won’t come back.
Even if you are really watchful of him when you are out with him this can happen.
If raising your voice and sounding displeased doesn’t work then the only course of action left open to you is to get after him.
Chase him down, all the time shouting how unhappy you are at him ignoring you, and keep going until you have either caught him ( tricky to do ) or he has stopped and has seen how annoyed you are.
If you can stop him then get your breath, calm down and call him in. The chances are he’ll now come back. Put his lead on and walk him on his lead for a good few minutes, or, better still take him home.
Let it embed that you were unhappy and let him think about it.
Overview of how to train a Springer to come back
The three areas that we’ve covered are the ones when you are most likely to use the recall for your Springer spaniel.
Practice them all, whenever you are able and keep the practice regular and the sessions short. If you try to mix them up to combine sitting at a distance, using a retrieve and when your dog is running free or hunting then you will get the best results.
Go to different places so that your spaniel realises that he has to come back every time, no matter where you are, and if he doesn’t come when whistled or called, then be prepared to run after him to make him pay attention.
We have more information on training a spaniel to come back in this article.