How to Teach Your Dog the Emergency Stop Command

Sometimes, you just need your dog to stop moving, whether she is headed toward something dangerous or just a place you don’t want her going to.  Maybe he saw a deer or a squirrel and has started the chase.  Other times, it could be a true emergency – your dog is loose and is headed for the street.  In either case, we need a way to have your dog stop in his tracks – the emergency stop command is what you need.  This is a command that will not only get your pup to stop, but to get her to stop and drop on cue.

Teaching an emergency stop is somewhat similar to emergency recall.  We want the dog to stop on a dime and then drop to a down.  There are a few ways to accomplish this, all of which will take time, high-value treats, and a whole lot of patience.  As always, it may take a little longer with older dogs and young pups, as one is set in his ways and the other is, well, all over the place.  But again, time, patience and great treats will win the day.

The best location to begin the training is inside, preferably on tile or hardwood, and with running room of about 15 feet or so.  The reason for the flooring preference is that you will be tossing the treats on the floor and we need your dog to see and hear them hit the floor to be effective.  So first start with your pup next to you.  Then toss a treat the length of the useable area of the floor – 15 feet away and say “go get it!”.  Your pup will happily saunter over and get the treat.  Now, on his way back, about halfway to you, raise your hand (either one) up as if you are being sworn in to testify and say loudly, “stop!” and then immediately toss a treat behind your dog so she has to turn around to go get it.  Ideally, you should be holding the treat in the stop hand between your thumb and forefinger for easy throwing.

As your dog runs toward the thrown treat, prepare another one in your hand between your thumb and forefinger.  As your dog heads back toward you halfway, raise your hand again and say “stop!” and immediately toss the treat.  This time, and all future times, you will mark the point he stops with a  “yes! Stop!” so he knows when he did what you wanted him to do, which is stop.  Continue this process for 5 minutes and then take a break, picking it up later in the day for another 5 minutes.  Do the above twice a day on the following day.  That should be enough to move on to part II.

So part II no longer requires the throwing of treats, as long as you have done part I correctly and for long enough.  Start with you pup standing next to you and then toss a treat saying “go get it!”.  Your dog will go get the treat and then on his return you will again raise your hand saying “stop!”.  But this time, you will not throw a treat.  Again, assuming you did part I correctly, your dog will stop on a dime.  At that immediate moment, say “yes! Stop!” then walk up to him and put him in a down position.  Once he is down, say “yes! Down!” and reward him.  This is the beginning of getting your dog accustomed to stopping and dropping when you say “stop!”.  Continue doing this process for 5 minutes a day for at least a few weeks – you can do twice a day if you want but take breaks in-between.  By the time 3 weeks roles around, your pup will be an excellent stop and dropper!

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