We all have our own system for teaching the stop whistle, and there are a number of different approaches that work effectively.
These days, many gundog owners are keen to train their dogs with the minimum of physical confrontation and correction.
Getting a good response to the stop whistle without the over-use of aversives relies on two strategies.
- Making the stop whistle rewarding.
- Breaking stop whistle training down into stages.
In this article we are going to look at an exercise which can help bridge the gap between a dog which drops to whistle at heel, and a dog which drops to whistle remotely.
You should avoid distractions during this process. This is not advanced stop whistle training but rather an introduction to the concept of stopping remotely, and a foundation for future training.
The following must apply to your dog before you attempt the stolen retrieve
- your dog is able to mark accurately and retrieve willingly from up to 20 yards
- when walking or jogging off lead and at heel the dog will drop into a sit immediately you blow the whistle and even though you continue to move briskly in a forward direction
- the dog is reliably steady to a thrown dummy
The stolen retrieve
What we do is simply to trick the dog into believing that a dummy is lying in a specific area of fall, when actually, the dummy is not there at all.[wp_ad_camp_1]I call this exercise ‘the stolen retrieve’ because your ‘helper’ is going to act as your ‘thief’ and steal the dummy when the dog is not looking.
You and your helper should read the instructions through to the end before you start, so that you know what you need to do in any eventuality
Your helper will stand just a short distance from you and on your signal, he will throw a dummy a very short distance to land quite near his own feet.
You will stand facing your helper, with your dog at heel. Make sure the dog can see the helper clearly and tell him to go ahead and throw the dummy.
You will then turn around, with your dog, and heel the dog away from the helper and the area of fall, just a few short steps. Just long enough for your helper to take a step forward, pick up the dummy and step back again into the position he was in before.
Turn your dog around again now, and heel him back a few steps to where he was when he saw the dummy thrown.
Sit him up and focus him on the area of fall. Have your whistle ready in your mouth.
Send the dog ‘back’
As soon as he slows into the area of fall and starts hunting, blow the stop whistle.
As soon as he sits your helper must throw the dummy behind him. This ‘throw’ and ‘fall’ are rewarding for the dog. You can then enhance the reward by sending the dog to retrieve the dummy. If he does not sit the helper must not throw the dummy.
What if the dog does not sit?
If the dog does not sit, he gets no reward because the dummy is not there.
Don’t keep repeating the command.
If you are struggling to get a response, it is best to go back and practice dropping into a sit at heel for a few more days, before attempting the stolen retrieve again.
The one-man stolen retrieve
Some dogs will also run out and hunt the area of fall even though they have seen the dummy picked up. So you can on occasion, do this exercise on your own.
Sit the dog up, walk out ten to fifteen yards, throw the dummy, then pick it up again.
Return to the dog and send him for the missing dummy.
NOTE: not all dogs will be fooled by this, and none will be fooled if you do it more than occasionally.
Don’t forget to reward the dog when he stops. You can throw another dummy, or to ring the changes, walk out to him and give him a nice bit of cheese. Just make sure that the ‘stop’ is well rewarded in the early stages of training and don’t ‘fade out’ rewards completely, or very quickly.
For more information on retrieving visit this page: Retrieving Topics
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I do a similar exercise, but using a “target” that I have clicker trained the dog to run out to then return to me to get a reward.
However I would be cautious about repeating this exercise too much if the dog is not being successful, as this could cause the “back” command to go into extinction.
Used sparingly however, this is a great little idea to help with the stop whistle, instead of having to “correct” your dog when it doesn’t stop.
Wendy Hanson says
Throw treat overarm over dog’s head. Keep doing this until you think its a good moment, then pretend to chuck a treat. Dog stops and looks and notices arm still up like a traffic police person’s stop. This will associate the Stop with the Arm Signal. Go give dog treat OR C/T [if dog is clicker savvy] from distance. Release with either click or release word, at same time throwing treat over dog’s head [this stops any forward creeping] and repeat the Stop exercise. So we are repeatedly throwing treats over dog’s head and as soon as treat is eaten Stop signal again. At an appropriate stage a verbal or whistle signal can be introduced, which should be given just before the arm signal [new cue/old cue]. And soon dog will respond either to hand signal or to verbal/whistle and then you can start to introduce distance at an almost imperceptible rate so dog does not notice and hey presto dog is doing an emergency stop from 100 miles away!
I have an article coming about this. 🙂 (It’s Behind You) It’s a great exercise to do on your patio or drive. A bit more problematic in the field, as you want the dog to find the food quickly.