AIM - To teach your dog to respond to you when at a distance
To achieve this, you need to teach is the ‘send-away’. This exercise enables you to work with your dog at a distance but in a controlled manner.
The important thing to remember is the exercise is a ‘send-away’ and not a ‘send-to’. Initially, both exercises use the same method – you will be teaching your dog to go to a marker – but for the ‘send-away’ the marker is removed as early in the training as possible. The ultimate aim is for your dog to focus on the furthest point on the horizon thus achieving a true ‘send-away’.
Start by teaching your dog to touch a marker; a broom handle is the best choice for this. The method of teaching here uses a clicker as the reward marker but the word ‘yes’ or similar can also be used.
1) Hold the pole in one hand upright on the ground. Keep your clicker behind your back. You can have the treat in the same hand. Offer the treat to your dog then withdraw your hand, and replace it behind your back. Immediately after, present the pole. Most dogs will investigate a new object so will naturally move towards the pole.
At the exact moment your dog touches the pole, click from behind your back, and give your dog the treat. Once your dog is confident in touching the pole, have the pole at arms length and the treat in the other hand, again at arms length. This will be more difficult for your dog as they are likely to focus only on the food at first.
2) Once your dog is confidently touching the pole on offer of the treat, add a cue of ‘Away’ or similar.
3) Place the pole in the ground, preferably against a natural fence (e.g. post and rail). The idea is that the pole should not be obvious and should blend in with the environment. Keep your hand on the pole and ask your dog to touch it using the ‘Away’ cue. Your hand with the clicker in it now needs to be behind your back again.
4) Gradually move your hand away from the pole until your dog will confidently touch the pole with the ‘Away’ cue only without needing your hand touching/near it. Initially, your dog will associate what they are doing with your hand on the pole so you need to gradually move it away.
5) Gradually increase the distance between you and the pole.
Increase the distance only when your dog is focused on going towards the pole. Do not increase your distance when your dog is with and/or looking at you. If you move away with your dog, you are encouraging them to come with you. Your dog must be focused on moving away from you at all times in this exercise.
6) Once your dog is confident in going to the pole from a distance of around 10 metres, you can progress onto removing the pole. Remove the pole and repeat the exercise as before by standing close to the hedge and very gradually increase your distance.
Once your dog has been taught this exercise, they will focus on the furthest point on the horizon when you send them away from you. This will give you the opportunity to teach them to respond to yours cues from a distance.
You can now use this exercise in conjunction with ‘Stop’, Instant Down and Recall to practice responsive to your cues at a distance in a real life situation.
Teaching the Sendaway