Finishing the “Whoa” Command
In an earlier article I talked about the importance of properly introducing the most important pointing dog command, “Whoa.” This article covers the next steps to producing a dog that reliably stops whenever and wherever you tell him to.
This next phase of training begins when your dog is stopping on command with no correction from you. Now you’re ready to finish this command to guarantee 100 percent reliability in the field. This becomes very important during an exciting hunt when some dogs seem to forget a lot of their training lessons.
Your dog should already be introduced to the electronic collar. But now you’re going to put the e-collar around the dog’s flank instead of the neck. You also want to find the lowest level that your dog will respond to on the flank. Be aware that you dog will likely be more sensitive to the e-collar on this part of his body so start at the collar’s lowest level and work up until you can see he feels the stimulation.
With the dog on a check cord, start to walk forward. When you stop moving, deliver an e-collar correction until the dog also stops moving. Do not give a command at this time. You are teaching the dog the proper response to stimulation on the flank. (Note: It is helpful at this early stage to keep the check cord in a half-hitch around the dog’s flank so you can give a tug and stop him that way the first few times you do this exercise. It will help eliminate confusion about what the flank stimulation means.)
When the dog will stop consistently upon feeling the stimulation, you can phase in the “whoa” command, which the dog already knows from your previous exercises. (Keep in mind that dogs advance through their training at different rates. It could be a day, or a number of days, between phases of this command.) Start with stimulation, followed by “whoa,” and then stop the stimulation. You’ve taught him that he’s turning it off by responding.
Soon you can get rid of the check cord and you’ll see the dog is anticipating the command. At that point, when you’re sure he fully understands the concept, you can switch the collar to his neck. Because you took your time and taught this command properly, he should understand the difference between the various commands such as here, kennel and whoa, and you can reinforce all of your commands as needed with the e-collar on the dog’s neck.
The e-collar on the flank comes into play again if you want to train your dog to be steady to the flush. We insist on this at our kennel and on our quail hunts because letting dogs run loose after the flush usually leads to wild flushes further down the field, and that means a lot of missed opportunities for the hunters. The training exercise for steady-to-flush starts like this:
Plant a bird in light cover and move your dog toward it from the upwind side so he can’t smell it. Whoa the dog several yards short of the bird, then release it. Your dog will chase, but you can slow him easily with light flank stimulation from the e-collar. After several of these drills, he will anticipate the correction, just like he did in the yardwork, and he will stop chasing birds.
Now you’re ready to have him point birds naturally and reinforce steadiness as needed. It can be a long process but stay with it and be consistent. You will be happy with the results come fall.
Note: As with all dog training commands, “Whoa” is a command that builds upon other training exercises. Be sure to read the previous article, as well as the other articles in this series that deal with introducing a dog to the e-collar, before starting this part of pointing dog training.