Recall! Recall! Recall!
First off a few disclaimers: whippets being sighthounds have a moderate to high prey drive. What that means is they cannot reliably be trusted off leash outside of an enclosed space. Additionally, we always recommend following YOUR Breeder's advice about the care and management of dogs they've bred. Our dogs tend to have moderate prey drive and we prioritize recall work with each of our puppies from the time they're 6 weeks old till they go home either at 12 weeks of age or older. The puppies we hold back for the show ring we train recall almost daily. Do we at Aureate exercise our dogs off leash? Yes. We do not recommend it, without starting your dog early, intensive training and a heartfelt discussion with your Breeder. We live in an area where off leash hiking trails are easily accessible and away from traffic. We do not recommend off leash work for the average whippet and owner. This method of training has worked for us at Aureate with our dogs. We do not claim it will work for whippets in general or other dogs. We will not be held responsible for anyone attempting to follow our methods, but instead provide this information as a guide for how to train recall in the event of an emergency.
At Aureate, we feel the BIGGEST mistake people make with recall is failing to teach it early and failing to make it fun. By the time a dog is a year old, even 6 months it's rather late. We start early, our goal at Aureate is to be able to recall our dogs OFF ANYTHING. That's right, you read that correctly, off ANYTHING.
Now To Get Started: Teaching your dog a proper recall will SAVE YOUR DOG’s LIFE! We cannot emphasize this enough. We recommend you work on recall at least 5 days a week. There are lots of great articles online about teaching emergency recall. The following is what has worked for us. Start in your backyard. One person will hold onto your puppy with their leash. You’ll run away from your puppy for 10-20 feet calling your puppy as you run. The other person will release the puppy once you turn around and stop running. Call your puppy with THE MOST ENTHUSIASTIC VOICE YOU CAN MUSTER! When your puppy comes to you, shower them in praise and reward them with a high value treat. We recommend using a treat that the puppy loves and you don’t use for anything else (we always use meat for this i.e. boiled chicken breast). Gradually increase the distance between you and the puppy. Eventually, you should be able to stand across your yard and call your puppy and have them released. DO NOT DRILL THIS EXERCISE. You should only do it 2-4 times MAXIMUM any session and only daily.
Eventually, you’ll graduate to working in a different environment. Take your puppy to a SAFE and enclosed area that is free of distractions and try the same technique you’ve been using at home. Keep in mind you’ll need to decrease the distance as the new environment will present a bigger learning challenge for them.
Never get angry, frustrated or upset with your puppy for not coming. Who wants to run to someone who is going to scold them?!
ADVANCED LEVEL RECALL WORK:
This MAY NOT be suitable for most whippets and more importantly this is NOT to be done when you are distracted and busy on a family walk. At Aureate, we teach our whippets to hike on trails AWAY FROM THE ROAD with us. We constantly work our dogs off leash.
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS FOR THE AVERAGE WHIPPET OWNER AGAIN, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS FOR THE AVERAGE WHIPPET OWNER!
What we do is go on a trail we are familiar with. We take high value treats and a helper. Once we are safely away from the road or entrance to the trail, we have our helper hold our puppy. We also make sure we go at a time when the trail isn’t busy and full of distractions and other hikers We run away in the opposite direction, calling and teasing our puppy while they are being restrained by our helper. Then we go and hide (not to difficult for beginners but out of sight from where your puppy is) and then we tell our helper to release the puppy and we recall them twice to us but NOT continuously. This exercise is to help teach LOCALIZATION. We do this a couple of times a week and gradually increase the distance and difficulty we are hiding from the puppy. On our hikes, as our puppy becomes more and more proficient at recall, we spend 1⁄2 the time walking with the puppy off leash. We mix the time throughout the hike so the puppy is not put on leash simply at the end of the hike but throughout the hike so they learn that going on leash is not the end of the world. IT IS EXTRELEMLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO NOT LET YOUR PUPPY INTERACT WITH OTHER UNKNOWN DOGS OFF LEASH. Every unfriendly dog we’ve ever met has ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS been introduced as “oh don’t worry they’re friendly”! We strongly recommend you ALWAYS leash your puppy when another dog is coming. Even ask the other person to leash theirs (responsible dog owners will not mind). Even pick up your puppy if the other dog is approaching. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to prevent unfriendly and unfavourable interactions with other dogs. Just like with your children, you are responsible for preventing any harm coming to your puppy. Being intimidated by larger more boisterous dogs is just as damaging as physical injury. Be safe and remember the more training you do at home, the more you make YOU the centre of your dog's attention the more focused on you they'll be.