Teaching A Dog
. . . . . . to 'stop'
The most important command for any working dog is a stop – slam on the brakes and stand still.
A lot of people’s dogs find this virtually impossible, and it is understandable, because when a dog is chasing an animal his natural instinct is to run it into the ground then go for the jugular. When we domesticated dogs and required them to herd stock that was the last thing we wanted.
We have to train our dogs to ‘stop’. It isn’t hard but it does require time, time that is well spent. Some people prefer to beat their dogs into submission but that doesn’t do anything for their partnership - their dogs work because they have to, not because they want to; believe me, a dog that worships you, will die trying.
You have already taught your dog to lead nicely, either side of you, when he was younger. If you haven’t now is the time to do so. He needs to walk on a lead, at your heels, not walking in front, nor lagging behind, and most definitely not pulling.
Use a stick, just over a meter long, to guide your dog in position. If he goes to walk in front, wave it just in front of his nose to keep him back; you may need to give him a light tap with it, on his nose, to keep beside you.
Say ‘behind’ as you correct him – this is teaching him that ‘behind’ is beside you.
Once he is walking well at heel you can start teaching his ‘stop’ command. The word you use should be short – sit, stand, stop; or whistle - teet, teew.
I prefer my dogs to stand upright on their feet when they stop, even though I say ‘sit’, but some dogs naturally prefer to sit or lie down. Don’t make a big issue about it, the main thing is that they stop and are stationary.
‘Walk’ is a useful command to get your dog moving from a stop position and it is taught in conjunction with ‘sit’.
Ok, let’s walk the dog, on a lead, and teach him two commands at the same time - ‘sit’ and ‘walk’.
As you both begin to walk forward say ‘walk’. Don’t keep saying it as you are walking along, that is pointless, only say it when you begin to move. Walk about ten paces and when you stop say ‘sit’. Wait a few seconds, so stopping registers in your dog’s brain; then ‘walk’ as you both begin to walk again.
Repeat all of this at a minimum of a dozen times. This is not an unpleasant lesson so you can do it for half an hour if you wish. You will need to do this lesson several times, in fact, you can’t overdo it. You will know your dog grasps the words with the actions, and is learning, by giving a simple test.
Walk slowly and say ‘sit’, if he stops, he is ‘getting it’. Also, say ‘walk’ and if he starts moving forward before you, he is ‘getting’ this as well. If not, he just needs more time – practice makes perfect.
When I teach the stop command, I do the above, as well as the following.
I attach a long 5 meter lead to the collar (sash cord from a hardware is perfect – thin light comfortable and cheap). I give the stop command ‘sit’ and then rub the dogs back lightly with my stick. He will happily stand as his back gets a massage.
Don’t keep saying ‘sit’, only say it if he moves. Only rub him when he is standing still – it is the reward for doing as you asked.
Stop rubbing and move a foot or two from where you are - he will probably try to follow - say ‘sit’. You may need to use your hand as a barrier to stop him. As soon as he stops, reward him by rubbing his back.
Continue to rub him, and as you do so, move around him so that you are standing behind him, and also either side of him. You are aiming for your dog to stand still when you give your stop command, and for him to stand relaxed, comfortable with you standing anywhere, unafraid even when you are behind him.
It is desirable, when your dog is working, that he doesn’t turn and face you – his focus should be on the stock that he is handling – and now is a good time to start to teach him this.
When he turns his head to look at you, say ‘sit’ and use your stick to turn his head. Either gently push it away or give a very light tap. When he does - ‘good boy’ – and give his back a rub. When he tries to look at you again, stop rubbing, ‘sit’, straighten his head, and when he stands square, rub with your stick.
Remember to be consistent with everything you do. He won’t learn if you give him mixed messages. Have your voice quiet, controlled and with an air of authority.
If you know what you are doing, you are clear with your instructions, you are consistent, you are patient, and you are firm but kind, your dog will gradually learn what you are trying to teach him.
And, at all times, remember, your dog hasn’t got a clue what you are trying to do or why, so allow him the time to slowly understand, after all, English is a foreign language to him.