Standing still is an action we want over and over from our pointing dogs. However, it’s not easily achieved. Our bird dogs love to run, chase and have fun. We want our dogs to stand still when on point, steady to the flush in front of a point, steady to a wild flush, honoring another dog’s point, when given the “whoa” command, while collaring plus any time or situation where it’s just good manners.
The first step in training to stand still is simply introducing them to standing still. An excellent exercise for the introduction to standing still is using a whoa post. Except, the first two or three exercises, we don’t use the verbal command “whoa”. We just want the dog to stand still. We do this by tying an approximate 15’ rope to a post or tree. At the end of the rope we have a standard brass dog clip. We then half-hitch the rope around the belly of the dog. We also have a 15’ check cord clipped to the collar of the dog. We gently pull the check cord so both lines are stretched out. At this point, the dog is standing perfectly still. Keep the pressure on the check cord until the dog signals compliance either by blinking or licking their lips. For the second or third exercise, lengthen the time beyond acceptance. A word of caution…the first time you put your dog through this exercise, you may have resistance. Don’t stop the exercise….keep applying gentle pressure until you have compliance.
Once you have compliance, you’re now ready to introduce a command for standing still. Most pointing dog trainers use the command “whoa”. However, dogs don’t speak English so “stop” or any other word that you’re comfortable with will work.
In dog training, we often use the word “generalize” which means using a command in different situations and different places. If you only teach a command in one location and using one technique, your dog may not respond positively in a new location. To help you generalize, here are more exercises to teach your dog to stand still.
A very clever device which is sold through Lion Country Supply (www.lcsupply.com) is the suitcase handle. It’s just a rope about 3’ long with a brass clip on each end and a ring on the rope. Clip one end to your dog’s collar and wrap the other end around the belly and attach the brass clip to the ring. You now have a handle to control your dog. Holding the handle in your left hand (if you’re teaching “heel” on your left), simply walk forward and command “whoa” when you stop. Also, as you’re stopping, pull up on the handle to force your dog to stop. Keep your dog standing still for at least 30 seconds. Extend that to one or two minutes during future exercises.
Another training technique for teaching your dog to stand still is through the use of place boards. The most common place board is a 2’ x 3’ piece of plywood elevated 2” off the ground. We keep three place boards on the ground all the time. Simply lead your dog toward the place board and command “place” just as the dog steps onto the board. When on the board, command “whoa”. Then proceed to the next board and repeat the same sequence. As with the other exercises, extend the time your dog is on the board with each exercise.
It’s important to understand that two very important words in dog training are repetition and consistency. Dogs learn through repetition and understand through consistency with your training technique. Apply both with all of the above exercises.
There is an add-on to the above exercises. After you have your dog reliably standing still, introduce distractions. Either you or a training friend, throw your cap or jump up and down. If all is good with those distractions, here is a real tester. Using live game birds such as quail or chukar, with you handling your dog, have a friend throw the birds in the air in front of the dog. If you’ve done your exercises with repetition and consistency, the dog will stand still while the bird flies away.
Once your dog learns to “stand still”, you’ll have the foundation required to teach steady on point, stop to flush, honoring point and much more.
Copyright 2018 Paul Fuller
Paul Fuller is a life-long sportsman. He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show (www.birddogsafield.com) and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German shorthaired pointer in 1961. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.