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How To Teach ‘Stop The Dog’

This training exercise is part of the Kennel Club’s Gold Good Citizen Award:

Exercise 6 – Stop the Dog The object of this exercise is for the handler to stop the dog at a distance in an emergency situation. With the dog off lead and at a distance, not less than approximately ten paces away, then handler will be instructed to stop the dog on the spot in any position. Note: The dog should be moving and is expected to respond straight away to the stop command, but if moving at speed, will be allowed a reasonable distance to come to a stop.

I usually ask my dogs to drop into a Down when I do this exercise (spot the collie dog owner  :mrgreen: ) but you could choose to stop them in a Sit/ Stand instead – the key thing is that they’ll stop when asked. Personally I don’t feel the need to teach a new word such as Stop in order to get the dogs to perform this exercise – I feel a thorough understanding of their verbal cues for Sit or Down should be sufficient. But if a handler needs extra words to keep them happy, then that’s fine by me  😉 It’s a great exercise to teach, but lots of students struggle – not because they have unwilling dogs, but because it can be difficult to help the dog understand that they should stop away from their handlers. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. Since puppyhood usually all reinforcement (food/ toys/ affection) have happened in close proximity to their owners.
  2. Dogs aren’t good at generalising the cues that we teach them – so Down for our dog means “lie down in front of my handler”, it doesn’t mean “lie down wherever you hear it/ whatever you’re doing”

So to help them understand we need to improve their understanding of these verbal cues. I usually warm up dogs in class by asking them to do some changes of position at a distance, something like..

Sit..Down..Sit..Stand (if known)

Dogs that understand to wait in position, can usually understand to move from one position to another without coming towards you. If you’re struggling with this warm up, start a bit closer and gradually increase the distance. Once you have understanding you can get as far away as you like, don’t rush  🙂 Oh and if you have somewhere you can train behind something like a baby gate, or have your dog in a crate – that’s another way to run through your positions without the dog moving towards you. Just be sure to throw your reward in, rather than go back into the dog with it – otherwise they still think you need to be around for good things to happen  😛 If you’ve had good success with this warm up exercise, then have a go at my suggestions in the video clip below where I demonstrate the next stages with Ella.

Couple of notes:

  • When I mention ‘Release Word’ I’m talking about the word that means she’s allowed to move out of a control position such as Sit/Wait, Down/Wait. Ella’s is OK! 🙂
  • Choose better treats than I had access to for this clip! They need to be visible on the surface you’re working on and shouldn’t bounce!

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