Lesson Nine - Stopping In His Tracks
guide's right arm raised full height over his head.
Following the DOWN-STAY
command, the dog is called by the guide who is
about ten feet away. When the dog is, say, five feet distant, the guide
suddenly gives the command DOWN
and at the same time raises his right
arm. The dog drops immediately into the DOWN position and remains there
until further commands are issued.
For a very definite reason I have delayed this lesson until now. True,
we might have studied it in connection with the COME WHEN CALLED lesson
except for the fact that we are now taking up exercises carried out
without benefit of the leash. Consequently at this stage we can begin
the STOPPING IN HIS TRACKS WHEN
SIGNALLED at a time when the dog has
become more proficient in obedience. The exercise will thus prove
easier for both dog and guide.
Moreover, were we at this point, to practise the exercise under
discussion in conjunction with COME
WHEN CALLED, we would most
certainly breed confusion in the mind of the dog when, for example, he
attempted to come and then was suddenly stopped. But if the dog is
thoroughly grounded in the DOWN,
that is, if he understands that he
must assume this position when the guide signals by lifting his right
hand as the command is issued, then the entire exercise will present no
difficulty at all. Considerable disadvantage will result of course if
the guide has been careless, still we can correct this quite easily.
The fault most frequently observed is that the dog, as he approaches,
does not DOWN at once. In that
case the guide must take at least one
step toward him at the same time the signal and command are given.
Allowing the dog to come too near, before the command is issued,
constitutes another fault: the dog will then lie down as soon as he
arrives in front of the guide. It is easily seen that rather than have
the intervening distance too short, the guide had better be farther
away, so that he may take a few steps toward the approaching dog and
still have a little distance between the two remaining.
The long leash, held by someone who can assist the guide, will be found
helpful in this lesson, along the same lines as in COME WHEN CALLED.
The long leash fastened to his collar, the dog lies down, while the
helper with the end of the leash in his hand, stands behind him. A mark has been made previously to
show exactly where the dog should
sign of the correctly raised right arm, the dog goes into DOWN
The dog pays no attention to the
incorrect sign of the half raised arm.
Now guide and helper watch each other closely. The guide gives command
and sign COME, (both hands
toward the knee) and the instant the dog
reaches the designated mark, he gives command and sign (raised right
arm) DOWN. The helper who, it
will be remembered, holds the leash-end
in his hand gives the dog a sharp jerk and the dog, without knowing the
source of the jerk, will DOWN
at once. If he turns around in an attempt
to discover where the jerk came from, and if he is not in the proper
position, then the helper issues the same command DOWN plus the
sign of the raised right arm. Practically every dog will realize at
once that he is between a cross-fire of men with arms raised and, being
on the leash, he will lie down.
To a few over-sensitive people, this exercise may appear a trifle
drastic but let me assure them that it is not, when handled in the
right way. The distance, though, should not be too long while the dog
is in training: later, when he understands and obeys the command and
the sign, without the leash, it may be extended.
Another method, requiring more time and patience, is to have the dog
while the guide is about four feet in front of him. Let the
dog sit for a few seconds, then raise the right arm and follow with the
command DOWN. Emphasize this
with a step toward the dog, arm still
raised until he lies down. This will have the desired effect but it
must be repeated several times, with the distance between guide and dog
gradually extended. Start again with the short distance. Call the dog,
then give the command DOWN.
Extend the distance gradually, with this
difference, that DOWN is
commanded while the dog is approaching the
guide; whereas before, the command was issued while the dog was resting
or in sitting position.
It will be found helpful to familiarize the dog with the effect of the
chainette. Try shaking it with the right hand in its raised position as
the command is given. But remember never to throw it as the dog
approaches for this would have a deleterious effect. On this point,
refer again to the lesson COME WHEN
Various benefits could be mentioned by way of illustrating the value of
this exercise. For example, suppose the dog is out of control, the
guide on one side of the street, the dog on the other. Clearly the dog
is endangered by passing autos if and when he starts to cross the
street. But the STOP signal,
given him while cars are passing, will
serve to protect him. It has in fact saved the life of many a dog!
Another practical application of the STOP
sign concerns the dog that
may prove a little unmanageable or excited perhaps after, we will say,
he has been playing with other dogs. The STOP sign brings him under
control quickly, thus giving the guide an opportunity to approach him
and attach the leash. Recently I had in training a dog that was
entirely out of control. Because he had been trained in Europe for
attacking, which is a part of police work, the dog presented a real
problem for an owner who did not know how to handle him. This dog was
always kept in my room but in some unexplainable way he got out, and
rushed from the house to within a few yards of a passing farmer.
Fortunately I happened to be on the opposite side of the street when I
saw him speeding to the attack. At my cry DOWN, right hand raised, the
dog dropped instantly, disappointed I suppose at losing a chance to
test his teeth. Here again is proof of what it means to have an
obedient dog which, though he may under certain circumstances
occasionally go out of control, still reacts immediately to signs and
Just one warning before this lesson is ended. It is unwise to repeat
the exercise too often in succession for it may bring about an
unfortunate association of ideas in the mind of the dog. Which is to
say, that it may tempt him always to wait for the command STOP when he
is summoned. Many dogs in fact, slow down when approaching as if
expecting the command DOWN
when half way to the guide. Once in a while,
then, after calling the dog, use the STOP
sign to keep him alert but do
not practise it too often.
The time of practise remains unchanged.