The Two Commands
For the average bird dog owner, there are two commands your dog needs to learn. And both are inviolate. They must be learned completely and the pup must respond immediately. They are the recall (here or come) and the whoa commands. Teaching recall is fairly easy; however, teaching “whoa” can be a little more difficult.
Both commands should be taught during the 9-12 week period. There are many pro trainers who feel “whoa” should be taught first. This is to avoid the recall command becoming the default response. Your author agrees with this philosophy. Or, teach both recall and “whoa” simultaneously.
The “whoa” command is used for many purposes. It’s used for teaching a dog to remain steady on point, it’s used for a dog that is about to run across a road or approaching other danger such as a porcupine or rattlesnake. Whenever you want your dog to stop and not take another step, you “whoa” your dog. Teaching your dog “whoa” is simply teaching your pup to stand still.
When teaching “whoa”, the command is given softly and almost using two syllables. There are numerous training aids used for teaching “whoa”. The most common, is the whoa table. The whoa table is typically either 8’ or 12’ long. There is a ramp at each end of the table. The table is elevated about 2 ½ feet. On a lead (Smith Wonder Lead recommended), you bring your pup up the ramp and lead it about half way across the table. You then, simultaneously, give the “whoa” command and put a hand in front of the pup so it must stop. Then pick up the puppy by the rear and chest and as you set the puppy down on all four legs, say “whoa”. The puppy won’t pay much attention the first time; however, repeat the exercise at least twice more. At this stage, it’s okay to use positive reinforcement by rewarding the correct response with a treat. If possible, do the exercise twice per day in sets of three. Alternate the actual whoa spot on the table and the ramp you bring the pup onto the table.
Don’t have a whoa table? The same exercise can be done simply on the ground. It requires more back bending but the same result can be obtained. Repeat the exercise twice daily with a minimum of three reps in each set. In two weeks, you’ll have a pup standing still. Proof your work with the pup off lead. If the pup doesn’t respond off lead, you need to go back to the table. A great video to help you with this exercise is Standing Still For Pointing Dogs. Go to www.birddogsafield.com and click the video button. Find the video under 2018 videos.
Now, let’s discuss the recall. Recall is simply a method of controlling our pup which is very important in the daily life of a dog. The most common words for recall are here and come. Since dogs don’t speak English, you may choose any word you like. In this exercise, we always use treats to reward the puppy. Teaching recall requires two people. One holds the pup on a puppy lead…three to five feet is good. The other stands about ten feet away facing the puppy. The person facing the puppy, in an excited and happy voice, and clapping their hands, says the puppy’s name and then quickly says “come”. The happy and excited voice usually will be enough to get the puppy to come to you. Greet the puppy with open arms and hands and then reward the puppy with a treat. Turn the puppy around to face the other person and have that person repeat the exercise. Each time you do this exercise, lengthen the distance between the two handlers. Eventually, you’ll want 100 feet of distance. Do this exercise twice daily…at least three repetitions during each set. As with the “whoa” command, proof this exercise off-lead. If your pup won’t come when off-lead, go back to the two person drill and start over.
As with all puppy training, keep the training fun and positive. We want to develop a bold young bird dog. Harsh negative treatment can be very damaging to our young pup. Once you have the “whoa” and recall commands taught, you’ll be prepared for the bird field.
Copyright 2019 Paul Fuller