Dog Manual

Lesson Nine - Stopping In His Tracks When Signalled


The Sign—The 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 stop.

At the sign of the correctly raised right arm, the dog goes into DOWN at once. 

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 DOWN 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 SIT-STAY 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 CALLED.

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 commands.

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.