Will your dog stop on cue when trotting, loping or full-out running away from you? I consider it an essential tool for any dog that is ever off leash. (When I say “running away,” I mean “running with their faces turned away from their humans, not “running away” as in packing up their dog beds and leaving home.) I can’t imagine having a dog who won’t stop right away if he or she is regularly off leash. Frankly, I’d be a nervous wreck on walks if I didn’t know my dogs would stop when told if they flush a deer from the brush. But wait, no I wouldn’t, because I simply wouldn’t let my dogs off leash if I wasn’t confident that my dogs would stop when I said “Stand.” It’s something I work hard on, because the more control I have, the more freedom my dogs have. Gotta love one of life’s beautiful ironies.
Here’s me asking the dogs to “Stand” in the back yard. It is, of course, not the perfect video, or the best video, but darn it, it’s a video. (My skills at doing anything while videoing it at the same time are, uh, limited.)
Is it possible to stop every dog, of every breed, to stop on cue if chasing a deer while using positive reinforcement? I doubt it; it’s important to be realistic here, both regarding the breed, and the dog’s level of training. I didn’t let Skip, already a highly-trained sheepdog, off leash on our country walks until I’d had him for a good three or four months or so, after training and testing and training and testing. I have friends who have wisely never let their hounds, adopted long after puppyhood, off leash in an open, unfenced environment, and I say “Hear Hear!” to them.
But it’s a wonderful tool to have in your tool box, and it’s easier to teach to some dogs than many might imagine. I fell into training it as a matter of course a bit sideways. It evolved because I learned early on that yelling “Come” to a dog who is moving fast away from you was more successful if it was preceded by a Stop signal first.
That makes sense. If a dog is moving away from you, and can’t even see you, it has to first stop it’s forward motion, turn around, and then come back to you. That’s three separate behaviors. So why not train them one at a time, and help your dog succeed at each stage? Here’s the way I go about it.
STEP ONE: Decide on a good cue, not to mention the meaning of it. A ‘flying lie down” is a great thing to have, but again, that’s asking a dog to do two things to one cue–stop or slow way down, then lie down. I’ve learned that just stopping them is the easiest to teach, so it’s the best place to start. My definition of Stand is simply that: Stop and Stand Still for a moment. Define it however you want, but be clear about what you expect from you dog.
Choose a word that you don’t use in another context, and that doesn’t begin with a syllable that sounds like another cue. Take a tip from sheepdog handlers, and use just one word so you can get it out fast.
Last word on the cue–use a low, strong voice. Working sheepdogs teaches you that the pitch of your voice has a huge impact on your dog. When I call Maggie away from the sheep she doesn’t flick an ear if I say “That’ll Do” in my usual high, squeaky voice (sigh). When I think to consciously say the same in a still quiet, but lower voice, she flips around like a gymnast.
STEP TWO: Decide on the reinforcement. You know your dog, and you remember, of course!, that it’s the student who defines what is reinforcing, not the teacher. Saying “good dog” or giving Stella a pat on the head may be punishment to your dog, so be very thoughtful about what your dog gets for stopping when asked.
Example: I start teaching a Stand with some kind of great food, but quickly move on to using the dog’s desire to run to the sheep/barn as a distraction, and a reinforcement. Once we’re at that stage, all I have to do is say “Okay” once they stop. Usually nothing makes them happier. However, note in the video that Skip choose to run back to me rather than to the barn. Context matters: I had tried it just before but didn’t get it recorded well, so Skip was a bit confused about what was going on. He always comes to me if he is unsure, so that’s what he wanted to do.) Another example: Recently Skip’s nose went up on a walk off the farm, we heard crashing in the woods (deer) and Skip took off. He was about 40-50 yards ahead of us, but I belted out STAND! and he did. Needless to say, I couldn’t reinforce him by letting him chase after the deer, so I ran backward calling “Skip! Skip!” and gave him a bunch of treats from my pocket when he caught up to me.
STEP THREE: Start training. The trick is to understand that calling a dog to come to you, if they aren’t facing you, is a different context than if they are. So you start with your dog literally one step in front of you, facing away from you, in a low-distraction environment. Wait for your dog to walk forward one or two steps, and say your cue. Most dogs, when close by, not too distracted, and hearing an unfamiliar word from you, will stop. Immediate mark the behavior with a Good! or Yes! or a clicker, but make it even better by backing up away from your dog. Reinforce with something truly wonderful, whether it’s a ball throw or a piece of chicken, whatever works best for your dog.
Gradually increase either the distance the dog is in front of you or the level of distraction (but not both). Actually, there’s a third factor, which is how fast the dog is moving away from you. Your success is going to be dependent on how well you balance these factors, understanding what distracts your dog, and how powerful your reinforcements are.
This one step could take months, depending on how responsive your dog is, how much training you do, etc etc etc. I can tell you that the biggest mistakes people make are going too far too fast and not realizing how behavior in one context doesn’t translate, without training, to another. If your dog is 99% solid in your fenced backyard, you still have to start at the very beginning in any other context. If there are two dogs, you have to work on one dog at a time at first.
This step is tricky for me to write about, because it’s the part where the details of you, your dog and what you expect are critical to your success, and generic advice begins to not be enough. But let me stress again, go slowly and set up success. Over a week or two, ask your dog to stop at 2 feet away, then 4, then 6, then 10, if it’s going well. Don’t push the boundaries if you don’t feel confident. Create situations where you know your dog wants to move forward, but not so much you know he’ll fail. Make stopping on cue the coolest thing your dog has ever done, but be careful not to overwhelm them by gushing so much they turn their heads away. Again, be very very thoughtful about what you do for your dog when they comply.
Okay, I’m about to write an entire dog training book here, so, on to the next . . .
STEP FOUR: Test your success. This is actually part of Step Three, but it makes it cleaner to divide it up. Always be asking yourself “Will it work now?” “Will it work here?” When Skip came, I trained both on leash at home in fenced areas, and on leash off the farm. For about a month I’d ask for a stop and reinforce while he was on a leash, then a long line. Once I had 100% compliance (yeah, I did get it to that level, but in part because I set up success), I put him on a long line and asked when he was farther away. After weeks of that, I dropped the line and let it drag. I saw all this as a constant combination of training and testing. The few times he didn’t stop when on a leash or a line I simply went back to asking when he was closer, and making sure my reinforcements were motivating. (I always mix reinforcements, so he got high quality treats, chasing me and Jim as we ran in the other direction, or a toss of a toy.)
STEP FIVE: Never stop “training”. It’s not practical for me, or necessary to give my BC’s a treat every time they stop when asked. Especially since they are sheepdogs, and have to stop and lie down when I say while working sheep. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need occasional reinforcement. I’ll reinforce a great response, for example, while walking off the farm with a treat from my pocket. I’ll say “Atta boy” while working sheep when Skip slows down and turns into the sheep, and let him fetch them to me at whatever speed he’d like to use, as long as he’s not beginning to chase them.
I should confess that I’m not a fan of constant reinforcement for something a dog knows well. I use the example of someone praising you every time you brush your teeth. It becomes almost an irritant rather than a reinforcement. Even a piece of chocolate would lose value after a while, right? But don’t make the mistake of many, and assume that your dog is “all trained” and you’re done for the next ten years.
LAST THOUGHTS: It breaks my heart when someone ends up with a tragedy because they thought their dog was reliable off leash, when it wasn’t. Thus, this training is not for all dogs. However, it can be useful for dogs when on leash too. It’s just a handy cue to have in your pocket. And, of course, dogs can get “off leash” by accident–the leash pulled out of your hand, etc. Or, the leash not stopping anyone, including you —
In an ideal world, every one would train some version of Stop!, and it would be included in dog training classes. But safety first first first. I never let our Great Pyrenees off leash away from the farm; Tulip and Bo Peep spent much of their time outside with the sheep, and I didn’t take the time to train them like I did the BCs. One of the most common GP jokes is “What do you call an off leash Great Pyrenees?” Answer: ” A Dis-a-Pyr!” So . . . be realist.
In that ideal world I mentioned above, I would have a video for you for every stage of the training. But I’m not living in that world today, so forgive my lack of extensive videos. Life is just like that sometimes. I hope the one video and what I’ve written is helpful, and would love to hear your thoughts and experiences related to the topic.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: It’s been a week, I won’t sugar coat it. Last Friday Jim got an MRI for a rotator cuff injury he sustained three weeks ago. We’re waiting to hear what the sports med doc recommends, surgery or just PT. Either way, it’s a many-months long recovery, and well, you know, we live on a farm and it’s spring. (Translation: There are a gazillion things to do that require strength and two arms.) The good news is that my Pilates is helping me be stronger, we have lots of wonderful friends to help, and we still feel crazy lucky to live where we do and be as healthy as we are.
Last piece of yuck: I had a trauma-related set back after the two shootings, resulting in what was quite literally the worst most horrific nightmare I’ve ever had in my life. It took a few days to recover, although I can’t say I’m 100% back to where I was. Good news here though too: I know what to do (threw out my To Do list, forgave myself for being imperfect flawed snappy, bought two beautiful house plants, watched comedies, and hugged Jim a lot. A whole lot.) My heart goes out to people who have more severe cases of PTSD; they are truly heroes for just staying alive. I am in awe of them. (If you don’t know the back story here, it’s in my memoir, The Education of Will.) I bring this up not for sympathy, I’m really, truly fine, but in hopes of bringing awareness to the profound effects of trauma, and how important treatment can be for it.
The week was also full of wonderful things, including a delightful trip to Galpaca Farm. After mentioning their lotion bar in a post about frost-bitten paws, the owners generously sent me some more of their products as a thank you for all the orders they got as a result of my mentioning their Queen Bee’s Lotion Bar. I was surprised and delighted, and so called to thank them. That resulted in a oxytocin-fueled visit to their farm, where Jim and I spent a perfect morning in animal heaven.
Who couldn’t love a face like this?
The photo below is of Mindy, who co-owns the farm with camera-shy Linda. Mindy is sitting beside the new love of my life, their hard-working livestock protection dog Barney, also the sweetest, dearest, friendliest dog on the planet.
I pretty much could have pet and cooed to him all day.
Jim and I got to feed carrot snacks to the flock.
Nobody spit on us, but the alpacas would spit at each other when competing for carrots. It’s a silly, quiet spitting sound that cracked me up.
Alpacas frolic like lambs when let out into their pasture. I only got one good shot of it, but trust me, it was beyond charming.
Other wonderfulnesses of the week included the first daffodils of the spring and fun with crocus:
I hope your week included lots of wonderfulnesses (is that a word?) too. Let us know about them, and if you have a Stop or a Flying Lie Down cue for your own dogs. We’d love to hear.
I have an all purpose cue – “Wait!” – which means stay where you are until I tell you differently. It is constantly used and reinforced – wait to get out of the car, wait to get back in (and get a treat), wait until I catch up on walks – and as long as I get the word out quickly enough (at the first riveted stare, before the chase reflex cuts in) has also been enough to keep the dogs from chasing deer, rabbits and the occasional unexpected sheep. But nothing would stop Poppy once she sees flapping, squawking, skittering hens… The most exciting day of her life was when as a pup she came across a small flock that had strayed into my sister’s garden, and once she sees flappy poultry running she simply doesn’t hear me or see me, she is totally focussed on catching them. So hens mean leash, no exceptions!
I was one of those who ordered the queen bees lotion bar. I love it! I’m happy they saw a good response. With my huskies and off-leash, it just doesn’t happen for obvious reasons if you know anything about the breed. I have reasons to work on recall and I do. At a fenced in dog park, I really don’t enjoy playing “catch me if you can” when I want to leave. So I carry a pocket of treats and call my dog to me every few minutes. If the dog comes close enough for me to touch they get a treat. I also foster for a rescue and have learned (the hard way) over the years that two points of contact are mandatory for all dogs outside of the house at all times. I like to take my 6′ leash, make a loop out of the handle end and put it around the dog’s neck, then attach the clip like normal to a collar. And my collar attached to the leash is a different collar than the one the tags are attached to. The leash never goes on the tag collar. Instead it is attached to the other “leash collar” in case that collar breaks or slips over the dog’s head. If that leash-collar fails, the dog is wearing another collar with tags.
Olive is not off leash very often. She has a long lead that is mostly slack as we walk, but she is so sound sensitive and skittish that she and I feel better with something attaching us. (She is the first dog I’ve ever had that calms down completely on a leash. If she’s upset or nervous, we just leash her up [even in the house] and she’s much calmer.) That said, she does respond really well to a “wait” command. It stops her immediately, and she waits beautifully until I say “Okay, let’s go.” I love this stand concept, it’s a thing of beauty. I will try this if/when we ever get another dog (I can’t believe I even wrote that out loud!).
I am so saddened to hear of your week. It’s hard to stay upright in these days of endless tragic news. In spite of our brain and body doing all they can to compartmentalize and catalogue our traumas, sometimes, it’s all just too much. I’ve been wakening in the night with this heavy feeling of dread, like a blanket of lead on me. I think all of us who have experienced any kind of traumatic event(s) are triggered by this accumulating, collective sadness and loss.
Okay, on to the Alpacas. OMG, I want hair like that and a high kick in my step. Yay for you and Jim to be able to experience these comical creatures and make so many new friends.
My wonderfulnesses this week are the surprise flowers popping up all over. We haven’t been here for four seasons yet, so it’s a marvel to see the snow drops, daffodils, grape hyacinth, and who knows what else popping up in the most unexpected places. Just like the crocuses, we are resilient.
Frances, love your all-purpose Wait. I use it too; and realized while reading your comment that Stand came from working dogs on sheep. (Stand = Stop but stay standing, vs. stop and lie down–makes a difference when working sheep.) As I think about it, I tend to use Wait more now at door, cars, etc, Stand more when the dogs are moving around. In some ways, I think having just one cue is ideal, makes things simpler. (Simple has never been my best skill!)
Love that you love the lotion bar MM! And so glad to hear (and not surprised) how wise you are with your huskies. Your double safety system is impressive!
To LisaW: Yay the marvel of snow drops and daffs and hyacinth–and your reveling in their beauty and resilience. Thanks for the kind comments re our crappy week, and I’m so sorry to hear about your blanket of dread, may spring help to disperse and lighten it. This truly is an extraordinary time, so many different challenges for so many of us. Same storm, different boats.
Maybe it’s too early in the morning for me, but I’m still not sure how to start training the emergency stop. With the dog 2 feet in front, when I say “stand” my dog will usually turn around and face me (instead of planting his feet), walk back to me, or ignore it completely. How do you get your dog to stop in place instead of turning around or coming back to you? Thank you for the help!
I’ve been practicing WAIT with Auggie (at doors, at street crossings, etc.). I haven’t yet tried it with him in motion, so I will start doing that. He is always on a lead, mostly slack unless he sees a squirrel. He is my first dog, so I feel like I’m traveling in a foreign country and learning things the hard way. When I brought him home 4 months ago I set out on our walks with a huge grin, excited for all the adventures we would have. Since then we have been charged by off-leash dogs multiple times. I keep looking for new places to walk, but I’m amazed by the frequency of off-leash dogs, pretty much in every environment. Auggie is 21 lbs, and we’ve had some scary encounters with large off-leash dogs. He wears a harness that allows me to pick him up, which I’ve had to do a couple of times. I have fantasies of the day he is trained well enough to be off leash and to run with abandon, but I’m not sure where this magical (safe) location would be.
I, too, have a sense of dread that can be very hard to shake. I keep dreaming of being under water. I’ve also been trying to delight in very small things as a way to balance the global mood.
We live in the PNW, not too far from Seattle. Some wonderfulness from this week include the increasing daylight and sunshine, the sound of birds, sweet smelling air, and a few flowering trees showing off amidst the evergreens.
Alpacas are kind of a happiness drug. They are mesmerizing.
May I ask a question, Dr. McConnell?
I’m currently taking traditional Obedience classes with my dog (a 1.5 year old Golden) and use “Wait” for my command when leaving him for the recall, indicating he will be asked to do something else. I use “Stay” when I don’t want him to move at all (e.g. Long Sit/Long Down).
Could I use “Wait” for the behavior you are talking about, or would it be confusing to him? I could use “Stop”, I guess, but “Wait” already works. Thank you!
Jodi Grzeczka says
Trish, hoping this week is better and that Jim gets some good news. I have an amazing chiropractor in Delafield who’s name I’ll share, if you’re interesed.
I bought a Corgi last August, and brought her home to learn something from my aging Yellow Lab. My friend has 2 Corgis, and I noticed that they have a lot of Lab traits, PLUS being herding dogs. The Corgi has been quite the dog trainer for me! Her first 2 commands, and they are quite solid, are “Wait” and “Leave it”. The regular training has been kind of shelved with reroofing of the house, and the long cold winter. I hesitate to ever leave either of my dogs off-leash, living about 40 feet off a busy highway, even though we are “in town”. I wasn’t even able to get my back yard fenced yet because of all the other goings on. I decided to start Paisley’s training the next time I took them outside, so just a little while ago, she had her first lesson. I wish I’d had a camera on THAT! She walked with me just fine (we do take walks every day), and then I said STOP! and stopped walking. She stopped on a dime! Then turned around and in pure Corgi fashion jabbered at me for 30 seconds, essentially telling me off for the silliness of the exercise! I laughed out loud, brought her back to me and praised her for her obedience, but couldn’t stop laughing. We repeated the exercise several more times, with a verbal scolding for me every single time! Don’t get me wrong, she did as she was told, but had to crab about it! Thank you for the excellent post. I am definitely going to make a purchase from the Alpaca store! Looks like fun!
Thank you so much for this! It’s something I’ve always wanted but couldn’t think through how to train it…
Having the nightmare of all nightmares, triggered by other people’s tragedy, is a reflection of your humanity. You have such a vast capacity for empathy, be vigilant against letting it drown you.
Anne Johnson says
Your “stand” lesson came at a perfect time. I was getting to be at my wits end to find a way to get Tank from running up to the horses, who are behind fencing a good 180 feet from the back porch. Karen London enjoys watching Tank bolt for the horses because he has great recall once he’s gotten to the fence before me. But, to teach this energetic boy a “stand” would be worth so much gold to me. Horses and dogs are not always a great mix. I’ll admit, Tank lives to see the horses move even the slightest. He is the most horse reactive herding dog I’ve had yet. Always a joy to see his excitement, but it sure will be nice to have some control to it.
Thank you for another great article and your wonderful work! After almost a year without dogs (equal to: one year missing a limb), I’m back into “dog business” next week, when a 10-week old Toller mix will move in. My hormone status is somewhere between pregnant and fallen in love 🙂 When would you recommend working on the “Stand” with a puppy? I think it might be too confusing in the beginning, when I’m still training the name and attention game and mainly reinforce for looking at or coming to me. But it has parallels to “Stay”, so it might be good to train those together?
By the way … I brought him a stuffed alpaca as welcome gift 🙂
Perfectly timed post! I was just thinking a “stop” cue would be a good next training goal. (I’ll use “stop,” since my dog already knows “stand” to mean “please stand still in your beautiful natural stack for just a few seconds, so this poor judge can actually SEE you!”) Thank you, and good luck with all of life’s recent curve balls.
All of the information about “stand” is great life saving, training information! Ya’ think it would be possible with a 9 and 10 yr old? No plan to go off leash outside the large backyard, but to stop the mad dash toward squirrels or smell of wildlife in woods on other side of fence would be good.
So enjoy all of your posts, thank you.
Jann Becker says
We use “wait” around here too; it started as “If you guys trip me going through the kitchen door there will truly be hell to pay.” Our hand signal is just hand at side facing backwards toward the dog(s.) I started using it when we had two 60+ pounders, so getting tangled up in my legs was really dangerous. Compliance is promptly followed by dinner.
My go-to with Jack the Corgi was “Wait.” I will confess that Jack was a super-easy dog to train and learned most uncomplicated commands in one or two repetitions, and then it was just a matter of proofing them. Plus he was very herdy and predisposed to checking in often. So my method will not work with a lot of other dogs.
This was the one command I did not train with positive reinforcement. What is the operant conditioning word for withholding a reward? I think that is what I did.
He was already conditioned that me being around his food bowl was a fabulous thing. I used the ASPCA recommended method of adding better things to his bowl while he ate (there are preliminary steps to this).
To train “wait” I would put his food bowl down, say “wait” while standing between him and the bowl, wait about a second and say “Good!” And then step aside and let him eat.
We increased time to a few seconds, then shifted to me standing a half step away from the bowl. Over several sessions I would step further back from the bowl when saying Wait. If he moved forward I’d step toward the bowl.
It took just a few sessions for him to realize that moving forward before I said ok kept him from his dinner, and that dog did love dinner.
He really seemed to transition easily between that and responding when off leash. As I said, he was a fast learner. Sometimes I would then call him back to me, other times I’d then tell him to Stay and go get him, or if it was safe I’d release him to go on to what he wanted to do.
The proudest moment for Wait was when we were out hiking and it got warmer than expected. He was hot and had his tongue out despite frequent water breaks. Well what do we come upon but a retaining pool. Ugh. He adored wading in water, one of his favorite things in the world. He saw the pool and broke into a run. I had visions of giardia and toxins and sunken sharp metal flashing through my head. I yelled “Wait!” in my most commanding voice. He stopped, I took a deep breath and forced my voice to be chipper and said “Come come come!!” He paused for just a second and then ran to me. He got both a huge jackpot reward and another big drink. What a good boy he was that day.
Hi Trisha, a farm full of alpacas is the dream. Who could not love those faces and that exuberance?
Like many of the others I use the phrase ‘wait’, mostly it’s been for practical city living reasons – wait at the kerb, wait before approaching a person or another dog or other such daily banalities. Wait never had to be sitting or standing or lying, but just remaining relaxed and in place. It has been part of our routine for a long time; but a few months back it proved its weight in gold. Kona’s lead slipped from my hand and he ran – at full poodle speed – towards a busy road and his doggy mate who was on the other side. Heart in mouth I called out in aloud and low voice “Kona, WAIT”. My obnoxious, strong willed, little monster pulled up short and executed the perfect sit. Oh! The rewards rained down upon him that day. Thank goodness for ‘wait’.
It’s the beautiful part of autumn here at the moment – with the leaves starting to turn red and gold and orange, a little mist rising form the water in the mornings, which are crisp, cold and clear growing into warm afternoons. Being outside with Kona is heavenly and brings me daily joy.
I use “stop” and “come” to play red light / green light with Zelda (Husky x Shiba rescue) for a fun practice session. She’s onto me, though, so I don’t really get a chance to try it when she’s facing away — she’s too busy waiting for the game to start!
Bitsey Patton says
So sorry about Jim and your setback. I think of you often. I say, “Far enough,” and teach it on a long line. I don’t care what the dog does after that, as long as they stop the direction they were heading. It’s a life saver.
Rachel Lachow says
I’ve always been meaning to teach something like this…I too will use “stop,” as “stand” already has a meaning in obedience and conformation. It seems to me that the starting point would be with you stopping the dog and moving on ahead (as we do in agility for contacts) and then advancing on to being behind the dog. Thanks for bringing this up as it is something that my clients sometimes ask for and I really should have a protocol!
I’m ashamed to confess that Ranger and Finna both learned ‘stop’ in a negative way. Each was essentially untrained at the time and when they tried to take off after something while on leash I yelled ‘stop’ in a futile effort to prevent the inevitable. In other words I yelled just before they hit the end of the leash and were yanked to a stop. Fortunately for them and for me they were both brilliant and the next time they tried to chase after something and I yelled ‘stop’ they did for which they were richly rewarded. Not at all the way I would have liked them to learn this skill initially but it did make it easy to train it more carefully going along, asking them to ‘stop’ unpredictably on leash walks and rewarding them generously for complying. It’s not a skill I’ve tried to teach D’Artagnan. I’m just happy he’s finally developing a reliable recall. You’re probably familiar with the line about never giving a Great Pyrenees a cue more than once–they ignored you just fine the first time; good thing I like independent minded dogs.
Ranger’s reliable stop made me look so good one day. He was off leash in the middle of a park playing with a pair of Border Collie pals when a family with young children drove up and unloaded the kids. Ranger loved kids and took off flying over to meet them. Knowing how much I’d hate to have a large unknown dog flying at my young children I yelled “Ranger, Stop!” and he did, then I told him to ‘wait’ as I hurried over to him and put him back on leash. When we walked over to meet the family they already had a very positive opinion of him having just seen him obey instantly at a distance. Add his natural charisma and they were completely smitten.
Many commiserations to Jim. I tore my rotator cuff with a one year old in the house. There are few things as frustrating as only having one good arm when you have so many things to do that need two.
Barney is gorgeous. As are your crocus and daffs.
Stacy Braslau-Schneck says
I’m a little confused about “Step Three”: “Wait for your dog to walk forward one or two steps, and say your cue. Immediate mark the behavior with a Good! or Yes! or a clicker”. What is the behavior you are marking? Stopping? How are you setting this up to happen? I feel like I’m missing something both important and obvious!
Such a beautiful post. Love, totally love how you weave, so gently, pieces of yourself and your life throughout. Thank you so much for this.
Good question Stacy. Yes, I’m marking the stopping. What I should have included (I’m going to add it in now, thanks to you!), is that IF the dog is close, and not too distracted, most dogs stop automatically when you say something new that gets their attention. Just start when you think you can’t lose, and build on it from there. Make sense?
The only variant of Stop that I’ve taught came from skijoring with Elly (back in the days when my knees still worked…). Since cross-country skis are not equipped with brakes I taught her to freeze in her tracks at the word Whoa. In the interests of self-preservation I reinforced the heck out of it. It did transfer well to the Agility field–saved many a qualifying score, especially since she already knew Right and Left as verbal cues from her guide dog training.
I also did some field work with her; she learned to stop, sit, and look back at a whistle.
Jesse Kelsch says
I need to work on “sit” and “lie down” happening away from me, because my dogs believe those are commands that happen when facing me, 1 foot from me, with a treat soon to come. “Wait” works great when we are on walks and they need to wait for me to tell them which way to go, but if I don’t catch up to them soon, OR if I tell them good dog, they have somehow (I know!) been trained that it’s fine to stop waiting and to proceed. Hm. As I type it out, I can tell what work I have to do.
I had some success using “stop”, which in some UK pet-gun dog training circles means: sit on your bum until you’re told otherwise. But, I was having trouble with the consistency and one day, having mulled it over a while, I called out “SSSIITT!!” Works like a dream. I also started playing a sit/break game that he LOVES. And I don’t use tangible reinforcers often – it’s the release from the command and the anticipation of it that he loves. However, however, however…..if I am slow off the mark and he is already in full prey drive mode then I have to go and get him. So where there is likely to be rabbits, sheep or deer, he’s on a lead.
I’m desperate for help in this area. I have a great, loving, smart dog. She is a runner off leash.
My first dog knew ‘stop’ and it was his best command. He was not very well trained and generally poorly behaved because I was a clueless and inconsistent trainer, but he would stop on a dime when I said stop. It saved his life on more than one occasion (because I didn’t know enough to not put him into dangerous situations). I emphasize this with all my dog-owning friends, whatever else you train your dog to do train and proof an emergency stop. For my guy it meant stop in your tracks and don’t move until I say Ok.
That pup deserved better than me and I’m not even really sure how this particular cue got so well established, so I found this really useful while I’m working with my new pup.
Melanie Hawkes says
I taught Upton ‘bang’ – lie on your side and relax (or play dead). It grew out of necessity, as he’d always be in the kitchen while cooking so I’d reinforce him when he’d lie down on his side and relax. He does it on cue now. It makes a great party trick. I fancied asking him to drop dead while running through a park – wouldn’t that get some looks! But sadly he’s too reactive to go to parks now, let alone be let off, so will never get my chance to try it. Will keep this in mind for a future dog though.
It must be the week for dread. I’m waiting this Easter long weekend for some test results. Will see my GP on Tuesday, but I’m probably going to need surgery. I need to find a local alpaca farm! That looked like fun 😀
Barbara Finch says
As my dog’s French, I’ve trained him using “stop”, “attend” (for wait) and “bouge pas” (for stay). Reading your blog, I’ve realised that even though he’s pretty good, he’s not reliable enough. Usually, I can stop him even once he’s taken off after a cat, but “usually” isn’t good enough, especially as I now often walk him without any e-collar for back-up. So, it’s back to reinforcement exercises and treats in my pocket. Given that Echo is now about 11 years old and his training started when he was 5 years old, I don’t know how much of his good behaviour is due to successful training and how much is due to reduced energy levels. Whatever, I’m thankful that walks are so much more enjoyable now.
Perhaps the most difficult part of your suggestion is in getting the person to actually do it. I have leash trained hundreds of dogs beginning with Stop, and often several at a time. The ones who stayed long enough started on off-leash training, with the same starting command. We have just enough rabbits and cats around so my guy is now well trained for that.
Over time I had a few dogs I could easily walk with one hand, while their owners needed the leash strongly held in both hands. Without the person changing their body language or responses, the dog just isn’t going to change. Not hard to manage, just very insistent if he wants something. Which makes any off-leash activity very limited.
In the current conditions, I’ve been seeing more people out with loose dogs in nearby parks. They are all well socialized but many of the dogs have decided that “stop” is something to do only right after they check out this new dog here. But, they do behave and return, so that’s all their owners really care about.
Thank you for writing about your experience with ptsd. I have struggled with complex ptsd most of my life due to years of physical, mental and sexual abuse from a step parent. I am a pet lover because animals helped me survive my childhood and heal to the point that i have now at 57.
Thank you for writing Terri, and please accept my gratitude for your time, and my admiration for your stamina. I hope today is a good day, and this week is a good week.
Cheryl BOSS says
Curious as to your thoughts on tandem off leash training? Tried it for the 1st time this week at an off leash dog beach. I have a near perfect, well trained 10 year old 70lb pointer mix…and, a 5yr old, 65 lb husky I adopted 2 months ago. The husky is, well, a husky. Training is progressing well, but she is definitely not trustworthy off lead yet to not bolt away, fast and far. She wanted SO to be off lead though with the other dogs. I tandem leashed her to the pointer, with some risk/trepidation. It worked!! They had a blast and the pointer kept her within 100 yards of me constantly. I used it to further her recall training–calling her to come, knowing the pointer would make her, and praised/rewarded them both. Thoughts?
Cherly–tandem leashes? Never heard of it! I love it worked out so well for you. I’d be a bit worried too, I’m sure it would not be good for many dogs, but I love that it worked for you.