Using the New E-collar to Enforce "Whoa"

By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs

There are two common problems people encounter when trying to use an e-collar. One is when they attempt to enforce their turn command but the dog freezes and stands still. Another problem is when the e-collar is used for enforcing "Whoa" but instead of stopping, the dog comes into the handler.

Both problems can be prevented with a balanced e-collar training program. In a balanced program, the dog learns to respond to the collar by both coming toward the handler and remaining stationary.

In our last Pointing Dog Journal (P.D.J. September/October '98) article we described how to use an e-collar to enforce your command to come when called and to enforce changing direction when you give the dog a command to turn. Both these instances require the dog to respond to the collar by turning toward the handler. In this article we will describe when we would use an e-collar to enforce the "Whoa" command (stand and remain stationary).

Teach Before You Train

It is important that your dog understand the command before enforcing it with an e-collar. If you have a pup, take advantage of the teaching technique we described in our September/October, 1996 P.D.J. article titled "Indirect 'Whoa' Breaking."

If the dog is a little older, begin teaching "Whoa" by using a slip leash around the dog's waist with the other end of the leash snapped to its collar. Rigged up this way, you can teach the dog both "Whoa" and "Go." Pull up on the rear of the leash when you say "Whoa." Pull forward on the front of the leash when you say "Heel."

Don't Sit or Lay Down

When the dog understands what "Whoa" means, you can use an e-collar to stop the unwanted behaviors of sitting or lying down. Put an e-collar around the dog's waist with the receiver on his belly. Give him a low-level nick if he tries to sit or lie down. This will cause him to pop back up onto his feet and works very well to persuade the dog to remain standing when given the command to "Whoa."

Don't Creep

Another unwanted behavior is creeping. To train the dog not to creep, we use a "Whoa" board (a plywood platform 4" high and just large enough for the dog to stand on comfortably).

The reason we start on a "Whoa" board is that it gives the dog a visible boundary. Dogs rely on pictures and the consistency of the picture that the "Whoa" board provides helps them learn.

Since staying on the board is new to the dog we will use a leash correction instead of an e-collar when he steps off the board. It helps to have a helper who stays 180 degrees from you. With the dog between you and the your helper, you can easily use the leash to guide the dog back onto the board when he steps off.

Precise timing will help him understand that stepping off the board is what causes the correction. After the dog understands that the edge of the "Whoa" board is a boundary, begin using your e-collar to give him a nick when he takes a step off the board.

Proof the dog by walking out in front and pulling lightly on the leash. The dog will soon learn to resist being pulled off the board

Begin Steadying

Now that the dog understands to stay on the board, you can start to steady him.
Use the nick feature of the e-collar when he steps off the board.

To steady the dog, put a bird in a harness that is attached by a string to a pole. Allow the bird to run around in front of the dog and create the kind of excitement the dog will have when on point in the field. Once the dog is steady with the bird on the ground have the bird fly around in front of the dog. Next add gunfire when the bird flies.

Whoa

We have now taught the dog not to move off the "Whoa" board. This will make it easier for him to be successful during the remainder of his "Whoa" training.

With the dog on a leash, walk him up onto the "Whoa" board and give the command "Whoa." Pause just long enough to help him stop, then walk away from him. Continue practicing until you can walk him onto the board, command "Whoa," drop the leash and continue walking without breaking your stride.

Next, we use a moving back-tie technique to teach the dog to stop immediately when given the command "Whoa". This transition step ensures that the dog will "Whoa" without the aid of a "Whoa" board.

Attach a leash and a check cord to the dog's collar. Have an assistant follow behind you holding the end of the check cord so that he can enforce your whoa command if the dog takes any steps. Walk the dog, say "Whoa" and drop your leash as you continue walking. Repeat this procedure out of a jog until the dog will slam on his brakes when given the command "Whoa."

Honoring

Part of training the dog to "Whoa" is teaching him that the sight of another dog on point is a visual command to stop. See our "Enhancing Intensity in the Backing Dog," January/February, '96 P.D.J. article. (Note: We strongly advise you to read our May/June, '98 P.D.J. article, about preventing blinking, before you use an e-collar to correct any fault connected with pointing).

Stop to Flush

Teach the dog that the sight of a bird flushing is a visual command to "Whoa." We use a bird launcher to flight the bird. Have the dog approach the bird from the upwind side so he doesn't scent the bird. When the dog is heading towards the bird and about ten feet from it, release the bird then command "Whoa." Practice this set up several times, until the dog recognizes that a flushing bird is a command to Whoa.

Roading or Creeping

Set up easy bird scenting conditions. Approach the scent cone from the side rather than coming straight at the bird from the downwind side. When the dog turns toward the bird he has made game and the scent is strong enough that he should go on point. If he doesn't, tell him "Whoa." There is no excuse for him to crowd in on the bird under these conditions. If he doesn't immediately respond to your Whoa command, launch the bird as a mild form of correction to reinforce "Whoa."

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