The stop command is one of the most important commands your dog needs to know and is just as important as the basic sit, stay and recall management.
You want to have better control over your dog to avoid overflow and make the inter-species cohabitation between you and your dog more harmonious. I invite you to read this article and all my advice to succeed in learning the stop sign.
Why teach your dog to stop?
Teaching your dog to stop is one of the main indications that it is necessary to teach your dog for several reasons.
Indeed, teaching your dog to stop allows you to
reinforce the education and cooperation between the master and his dog,
avoid serious incidents (crossing the road, for example),
teach the dog to manage its frustration,
teach the dog to give up and then get something,
teach the dog to calm down on demand,
stop a dog in its intention to do something,
stopping a dog in action in progress.
Thus, you can use the stop indication in many situations, such as if your dog barks excessively if he wants to greet guests too excitedly, if your dog wants to cross a road while a car is coming, or chase a cat, a rabbit, etc.
How to teach your dog to stop?
To learn the stop sign successfully, you must make sure to respect two main points:
To give up is to win
To teach your dog to stop while still respecting the principles of positive education, you must allow your dog to understand that when he stops when he finally gives up, he can obtain and gain something else “in exchange”.
For that, it will be essential to know your dog well and to know what pleases him. I invite you to read our article dedicated to rewarding your dog.
The 3D rule
Then, one of the main points to focus on when learning to stop is to take into account the progression in learning.
And you will be able to set up this progression thanks to the 3D rule, which consists of respecting the dog’s rhythm in the different stages of learning. To put it plainly, the “3D rule” is to increase the difficulty via three axes progressively:
Duration of the exercise/command,
Distance between the master and the dog,
Distraction(s) present during the exercise.
Therefore, it will be essential to start by offering your dog a learning experience without environmental stimuli (at least as little as possible), without great distance between you and your dog and by offering relatively short durations but repeated regularly to reinforce each stage. Not respecting the 3D rule in each of the exercises you propose to your dog is a bit like asking a five-year-old to do a division or solve an equation with two unknowns. It’s like asking a five-year-old to do division or solve an equation with two unknowns. It’s putting the child/dog in a situation of failure and hurting his confidence in himself and you.
Two exercises to teach your dog the stop sign
I now propose two different exercises to teach your dog the stop indication:
Exercise n°1: The on/off
This exercise is a game to propose to your dog to work on the stop indication and, more generally, on the notions of giving up and frustration, always keeping in mind the idea of “giving up is winning”. The on/off game allows you to excite your dog on demand and then calm him down instantly, like turning a light on and off.
Step 1: Take a toy that your dog loves (a knotted rope, a ball tied to a string or a pudding).
Step 2: Consider bringing treats to trade if your dog has difficulty letting go.
Step 3: Stand in front of your dog, stand up straight and show your dog the toy (without taunting him): he should not take it and stay in front of you. Here you can add a “no touching” indication in a firm, confident tone.
Step 4: Lean in and indicate to your dog to take the toy. Have a very enthusiastic attitude and repeat the indication to pick up the toy to excite your dog: “pick up, come on my dog, pick up, pick up…”.
Here, always keep the toy in hand and do not remain static; make movements from left to right with the toy while being as close to the ground as possible not to hurt your dog.
Step 5: Before your dog gets too excited (it’s up to you to get to know your pet), stand up with your arms at your side and firmly tell your dog to stop. At this point, be as static as possible and don’t pull on the toy. Otherwise, your dog will see the tugging as a continuation of the game.
Step 6: As soon as your dog has let go and has therefore stopped his current action, wait for him to settle down (you can ask him to sit, for example) and as soon as he has calmed down: resume step 4.
If your dog doesn’t want to let go, don’t hesitate to exchange the toy with a treat or another toy, but also to rework your posture, which may not be precise enough. It would help if you exaggerated your body language (bend over during play and straight during the stop) and your voice intonation (very playful during the tugging game and very firm during the visit).
By repeating this exercise regularly, you will teach your dog that respecting the “stop” means calming down and then resuming the game: giving up is winning!
It also strengthens your relationship and your dog’s obedience, but it also gives your pet vigorous mental exercise!
Exercise n°2: The stop at a distance
To teach your dog to stop at a distance, respect for the 3D rule will be very important! So, I advise you to start this training in a secure and very unstimulating place.
Step 1: To begin, before putting distance, we will work on the stop during the walk to teach your dog what the holiday means, namely “I stop”.
Step 2: So, walk with your dog and mark stops by indicating “stop” quite firmly to your dog. Repeat this several times.
At first, you may have to “handbrake” the leash a bit to get your dog to stop (so don’t do this exercise with a collared dog). Still, you’ll find that the more you repeat this exercise, the less tension there will be on the leash when you stop because your dog will have associated the word stop with the action of stopping.
Always remember to reward your dog when he stops!
Once your dog has learned the word stop and consistently stops when you ask him to during the walk, you can begin to add distance between you and him.
Step 3: Place your dog in a static position and back up about ten degrees. As you can see, your dog must know perfectly well the stationary and the moving step for this step.
Step 4: Then call your dog, but without making a big deal of it, and as soon as he starts running towards you: indicate “stop” very firmly with your hand extended towards him. Put a firm intention in the stop you suggest to your dog as if a car would run him over if he didn’t stop.
Step 5: Once your dog has stopped, you can warmly congratulate him by asking him to come towards you.
Then you can make the exercise more challenging by asking him to stop in the middle of his run and then towards the end of his run, which will be increasingly difficult for him because, having almost reached his goal (you), he will find it challenging to give up so close to his purpose.
If you are having trouble, you can also get a third party or even a dog training professional to hold your dog with a lanyard (attached to a harness and not a collar) to act as a “handbrake” in case your dog fails to stop and continues to run towards you.
But again, if your dog can’t stop, it may be that you’ve gone too fast in the progression and need to reinforce the first steps more. Once all the previous steps have been learned and strengthened, you can then ask your dog to stop in an action that leads him to move away from you: chasing an animal or a ball, for example.