Have you ever witnessed a dog get hit by a vehicle? Or trampled by a horse? Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself thinking "If my dog just understood what I was saying, I could save him."?
I know I have been in all three situations, plus some. None of them ended well. That is why I have made a big deal about drilling my dog, Pilot, on three simple commands: Come, Whoa (stop), & Down.
Suppose Pilot is hiking with me off leash (as he often does) and he unknowingly strays toward the den of a wild animal. I can say "COME" and he will obey me right away, leaving the territorial wild animal with big teeth and innumerable horrific deceases alone. This works the same way if he is out of the yard and the UPS truck pulls into our drive unexpectedly.
The "Whoa" command works in a similar way.
There have been times when we are walking down an old dirt road and Pilot and I are on opposite sides. If a vehicle comes down the road toward us, I can tell Pilot "Whoa" and he'll stop, sit down and not move until I give him the okay to do so. This allows the vehicle to pass us both safely.
Down is another important one, where I live. Sometimes, the places we hike have horses or cattle. Most cattle, especially those with babies, do not like dogs. If the cows grow concerned with Pilot's presence, I can simply tell him "Down". As soon as his head disappears beneath the grasses, the cows settle down and eventually move away to greener pastures. This works for horses and stray dogs as well, and keeps fights at bay.
One other command I am trying to teach Pilot is "RUN AWAY". Sometimes, that's about all one can do when faced with an angry cow, horse, or certain kinds of wildlife. The thing is, though, I want him to run AWAY FROM ME. He tends to run to me and hide between my legs when things get heated. That causes.... *cough*.... problems. Especially when we are both running for our lives.
HOW DO YOU TEACH THESE COMMANDS?
There are tons - TONS - of videos on YouTube on how to teach your dog the "down" and "come" commands. So I won't even try to explain those to you.
Whoa, or stop, is a little more complicated.
The first time I needed such a command was when I'd just brought Pilot home. He was playing in the farm yard one day, saw me, and started running toward me like a crazy happy dog. Sitting right between him and I was an angry hen with a bunch of tiny baby chicks. In an effort to stop a catastrophe from happening, I ran forward, put my hand out like Iron Man, and screamed "WHOA DOG!"
He stopped instantly and looked at me like "Oh no! What did I do?", and the flustered hen was able to shuffle her chicks to a safer part of the farm yard.
From then on, I started actively teaching the "Whoa" command to Pilot. I started out by calling him toward me. When he was just a few feet away, I jumped toward him with my hand out and said a loud, firm "Whoa!". When he stopped, I'd wait a second before calling him to me. Then I would throw a super big party for him with lots of treats and praise until he came to realize that "whoa" was not a harsh, mean word. As he got better, I started stopping him further and further away from me, and making him wait longer and longer for the release. Now, he's pretty much a pro.
Now, I will say that I haven't tried to actively teach this to any other dogs yet. I guess this technique would work with just about any dog, though, since it is a natural reaction to freeze if someone jumps and yells at you.
If the dog was a small or very gentle mannered dog, though, I'd take a softer approach to teaching the "whoa" command. Otherwise, it might scare them away, not make them freeze.
Here is a very short YouTube video of Pilot demonstrating his "Life Saving" commands. Enjoy!
The beasts of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls. - Isaiah 43:20
Self-published author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion, she returns to this world just to play with her dog, blog about her fun, and coach people through writing self-doubt.
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