Can your dog stop on command?
Being able to stop your dog when it is running away from you, or towards you is extremely useful. However, I am realistic in thinking that this is easy to achieve, especially if you do NOT have a Border Collie!
One of the main reasons people don’t let their dogs off lead is because they are sure that they will ‘run off’. There are many reasons why a dog might run off, including:
- chasing after something, such as a squirrel, deer, rabbit or cat
- chasing a car
- being chased by another dog
- being frightened, usually by a loud bang from a firework, thunder or gunshot
- wandering off due to age and infirmity.
Obviously these reasons are all serious, challenging issues and can result in dogs getting lost. Fortunately, because it is now a legal requirement for breeders to microchip their puppies and for owners to transfer the details into their name, dogs are not lost for long. Once they get to a vet, they can be scanned and returned home.
Can you really stop a dog?
Honestly, not always. Many dogs have a very strong prey drive and will give chase to prey, once it is flushed. Dogs will do what they are bred for and you should not expect anything else. Equally, some dogs are easily spooked and will run off home, or hide in bushes.
I have heard of many stories of dogs running off, scared, only to be found hours later hiding in a bush beside where the car is normally parked. I remember Buzz being scared by a couple of German Shepherds when he was a pup. He ran off, I went home and then had to go off searching. Of course he came home, but obviously not the same way as me!
Worth a try
Despite these challenges, it’s still worth thinking about being able to stop your dog. There are many, less scary situations where it is useful to be able to stop your dog. With several (well OK lots of) dogs, I sometimes find myself on one side of a road, with some of the dogs having crossed over. No cars when they went, but when I turn round to collect the last one, a car is coming. Help! Now I need to stop the others crossing back to me. I would usually stop the car and make sure we were all across, but it’s amazing how easily things like that happen.
Of course you don’t want to wait until you get into difficulties before you try to stop your dog. Give it a go while you are on the walk.
Wait until your dog is wandering away from you, then call out “Wait!” or “Stop!” See what they do? If they pause, even if they look back at you, say “Yes!” and then go over and give them a treat. Keep trying it and see if you can get a bit of distance, or a bit of speed, or both.
The next step is to try stopping the dog when it is coming towards you. I sometimes find putting my hand up helps to make the dog think about what you want.
Which command to use?
I work on teaching a down command, with distance, from an early age. ‘Down‘ is one of the first things I teach my puppies as it is so useful. I keep on using it until my dog can go down on a verbal command only. Once this is secure, I can add distance. I keep practising this until my dogs drop when I shout down, even when they are running around, either going away or coming towards me.
‘Down’ is probably easier to achieve than ‘wait’ when the dogs stands still, but again, it depends on the breed and their desire to please! Whatever you do, don’t expect a sit. That won’t help. Dogs don’t really like sitting.
Whatever you do, keep practising, keep rewarding and keep engaging with your puppy!
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.