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So I have more than one dog, who are free to roam around in a rather large area and they are often out of (my) sight. Usually one of the dogs hangs around the house (they seem to take turns on their own accord).

Each dog also recognizes that the other dogs have their own names. I think this is the case since when feeding them only the one I call out with each bowl of food comes up, and not the others, who wait for their turn (please correct me if I am wrong about this).

Is there a way I can teach them to go and call/bring (one/more of) the other dogs (for instance, the younger ones need to be given their medicine) so I don't have to walk the acreage on a mission of discovery?

The most obvious solution is a dog whistle. But there are other creatures around who are also sensitive to that (frequency of) sound and will respond to it. So whistling is not an option. I could also experiment different kinds of whistles (and I probably will), but that's not the point of the question.

I should add: they don't play fetch. Rather, they (each) played it exactly once. The second time I threw the ball they just looked at me and walked off. Neither am I interested in fetch, nor traditional schutzhound training. The dogs are very well behaved and "sensible", but not "highly trained".

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    Just because other animals can hear a dog whistle doesn't mean they are all going to come. It's not like a magic whistle that attracts all that hear it. It's training that makes them recognize to come to the whistle – LateralTerminal Dec 8 '17 at 14:52
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That is a highly interesting question. I have never trained a dog this and to be honest, I have never seen dogs who were able to do this. But I don't think that it is impossible. If I would try to do this, I started with the following steps:

  1. Train the dogs to come to you when you call them by name. Let them sit down in the same room, go some meters away and call each of them. The others have to stay sitting down while the called one comes to you.

  2. Train them to bring you items. Train every dog seperately. Start with one item first (e.g. a ball). Throw it away and reward when the dog runs after it. Then start to reward only if the dog touches it. If it does it perfectly, start to call the dog after touching. Reward every step of the dog in your direction while carrying the item. At the end just reward the dog if he/she brings you the item. Use a command like "bring ball". Then let the dog sit down, throw the item away, but it is not allowed to bring it until you send the dog. Don't let the dogs wait too long at the beginning. Extend the time they have to wait before they are allowed to run. Always use the same item. That is important at this point.

  3. Train them to bring a second item. Do the exact same steps as in 2 but use another command for this item.

  4. Train them to differentiate between the items. Let the dog sit down, throw both items, but send the dog for just one of it. If the dog is confused by this step, retry step 2 and 3. Throw the different items alternating and be careful with the right command. Retry to throw both items. If the dog does not understand you can throw both and send the dog to the wanted item. If it brings you the wrong one, point to the other one, send him/her and reward only when the dog brings you the right one. This step can take long time.

  5. Train to bring you a third item. If the dogs understood step 4, they will be able to learn this much easier.

  6. Train the dogs to push items with their nose. Take a treat in your hand and point with your hand to the item. Let the dog sniff at your hand. If he/she touches the item accidentely, immediatly reward them. Retry it. Start to use a command e.g. "push". Don't use names for the items first. Then start to introduce names. Use the same items they know already the names for. It is possible that they mix the commands "bring" and "push" up at first. Be patient but consistent. Only go ahead if they really understand the difference. Now they know the names for items, and the commands "bring" and "push" and they are able to understand combinations of it. That is highly complex, so be proud of your dogs!

  7. Start to introduce the names of your dogs. Train with two dogs seperately. Let one dog sit down. This dog has nothing to do but sitting there (sometimes a challenging task). Take a treat in your hand, go with the other one in the near of the sitting dog, call his/her name, say "push" and the name of the sitting dog. Maybe they understand directly, but maybe not. Then touch the sitting dog at its back with your hand with the treat. Let the other dog sniff at your hand. If he/she touches the sitting dog, reward it. Don't forget to reward the sitting dog for sitting still. Increase the way the dog has to go before touching the other dog.

  8. Start to call both dogs after one touches the other. Reward both when they come to you. Try to introduce the already known command "bring" for the combination "touching + coming both". Increase the distance between the dogs. Be consistent. The dogs may try to shorten the task while the sitting dog starts to run before the other could touch it. Stop this behaviour by don't reward this and try it again.

  9. Try to practice situations, where the sitting dog does not see you, so he/she can't wait for your command, but have to react on the pushing of the other dog.

  10. Start to train with multiple dogs at once. It depends on your motivation and the intelligence of your dogs, if they are able to bring just the exact dog you wanted and know another word for bringing all together or if they are "only" able to bring all dogs.

This is a highly complex task! Not every dog is able to think about multiple steps. And it is likely that your dogs learn at a different speed. Be patient and calm all the time. Be creative in teaching them what you want. Don't want too much at once. Just increase slowly the training steps and be sure that they really understand the steps before. Be aware that this can take a long time. At least weeks up until to years.

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    Googling "Train dog to find a lot sheep" yielded this: clickertraining.com/node/3562 . May be an additional source to this excellent answer, as it describes roughly the same process :). – Layna Dec 12 '17 at 11:16
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    Though not exactly the same, I've seen dogs walk other dogs (i.e. hold the leash), including directing the other dog to e.g. not run into traffic by pulling them away from the danger zone. Given that dogs are capable of this, it's not that farfetched for them to be able to look for another dog. Whether they are able to convince that dog to actually follow them, is a different question altogether. – Flater Dec 12 '17 at 13:15
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    @Flater Correct, the most complex part is to teach them to follow. That is why step 8 and 9 are very important. But dogs can communicate much better than we think. E.g. in a pack wild dogs and wolves are following the alpha dogs/wolves. Following is known thing. I am confident that this can work. – Haras Brummi Dec 12 '17 at 13:29
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    @HarasBrummi But isn't the owner the alpha? Do the dogs have a more complex hierarchy, where the "calling dog" is considered above themselves, and thus defer to the "calling dog"? And would that mean that you can teach A to call B, but not B to call A (because one is above the other; not the other way around)? – Flater Dec 12 '17 at 15:58
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    @Flater If the dogs decided themselves to call another, than yes, A could call B but B couldn't call A. But because every dog learned that pushing and running away means the owner, who is the alpha, called them, they will accept it. – Haras Brummi Dec 12 '17 at 22:10
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Even if you did not ask the question, how to train your dogs with a whistle, the following passage of your question leads me to answer this seperately. It does not answer this particular question, but is a solution for your intention.

The most obvious solution is a dog whistle. But there are other creatures around who are also sensitive to that (frequency of) sound and will respond to it. So whistling is not an option. I could also experiment different kinds of whistles (and I probably will), but that's not the point of the question.

As LateralTerminal already stated, the whistle is not a magical whistle and does not attract any animal, whether it is able to hear it or not. It is a normal training process. You could use a normal whistle, too. The only difference is that a normal whistle could disturb neighbours.

To train your dogs to come when they hear the whistle, you should do the following steps. Start with training the dogs seperately at first.

  1. Let them sit down, go some meters away, blow the whistle and call them immediatly. Reward them for coming. At the beginning reward them so much that they nearly can't wait to come to you.

  2. Repeat step 1 often. Don't reward them, if they start to come to you before you blow the whistle, just let them sit again and repeat the lesson.

  3. Watch them closely. Do they already start to come when they hear the whistle, but before you call them? Try to just blow the whistle. If they come, well done, if not, go to step 1 again.

It is not a very complex training program, but you have to be carefully with the timing. With good timing they will learn it easily.

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