Sit Or Down At A Distance
Being able to stop your dog at a distance is very useful for emergencies. For example, a car or child could be crossing the path between you unexpectedly and if your dog continues to come towards you, he could get hit by the car or scare the child. Giving a cue that stops your dog and puts him into a sit controls his movement and keeps everyone safe.
How to do it
There are various ways to train this exercise and one is described below. Your dog will need to know how to sit or lie down in front of you on cue. If you struggle to do this exercise, or need a different technique, find a good trainer who uses positive methods to help (go to www.apdt.co.uk).
Start with an assistant holding your dog on a short (but not tight) lead, stand just in front of him and ask him to sit (or you can use ‘down’ throughout if you prefer), giving your hand signal for sit as well to help him get it right. Reward well when he does.
Repeat exactly as above but back up 2 paces before asking your dog to sit. If your dog tries to come forward so he can sit in directly in front of you (what he thinks you are asking for), your assistant needs to gently restrain him using his collar or harness.
If your dog does not respond to your cue once he has tried to move forward (i.e. he doesn’t understand what to do if he cannot move forward to sit directly in front of you), give it again and ask your assistant to lure him into a sit with a treat but not to feed the treat. As soon as he sits, move forward quickly to reward him.
Repeat this often over several sessions until he understands what to do when you ask him to ‘sit’ when you are 2 paces away. Give him time to learn this well. There is little point putting in more distance if he doesn’t know what he has to do to be rewarded so work on this until he can do it easily.
Once you think he understands what to do, progress slowly, over several sessions, gradually getting further away. Eventually you can dispense with your assistant, but, when you do, go back to working close up at first before gradually lengthening the distance again.
Be sure to reward him as soon as he responds at first, even if he is a long way away. Throw a toy or a large treat if your aim is good, or run fast towards him to deliver the reward, praising him as you go (although only reward if he stays still, stop and give the cue to sit again if he moves).
Hand signal in the distance
It may also be useful to teach him to respond to both the voice cue and the signal of an arm raised in the air as this can be seen easily when he is at a distance and is less likely to be mistaken for a recall cue. Do this by raising your arm just before you ask him to sit, and he will learn to associated the raised arm with what he has to do and it will become a cue he will respond to immediately.
Practice, practice, practice
Practice until he is reliable even when there are distractions going on around him, and also when he would rather be doing something else such as chasing his toy. Reward him well every time, with very high value rewards for good performances in difficult circumstance and, once he has leant the cue well, practice periodically so you will have a reliable stop when you need it.