Dog Obedience – Send Away Drop and Recall

This exercise is the same in classes B and C.

On command of Judge to handler, dog to be sent away in direction indicated by Judge. After the dog has been dropped handler will call the dog to heel whilst walking where directed by Judge and both will continue forward. No obstacle to be placed in path of dog. Simultaneous command and signal permitted but as soon as the dog leaves the handler the arm must be dropped. (NB An extra command may be simultaneous command and signal, but an extra command must be penalized.)

In Working Trials the exercise is simply:

The dog shall be sent away not less than twenty yards and dropping on order from Judge to handler. The dog should drop instantly and remain down until the Judge instructs the handler to call his dog up.

The Send Away and Drop are best taught as two entirely separate exercises. The former is one of the most difficult and probably least useful of all exercises. The only practical purpose to which I have been able to put it is when working dogs in films. Even then, if a dog has not been taught the Send Away I usually find some way of getting it from point A to point B without the use of invisible strings!

There is a good deal of difference of opinion about the best method to use in teaching this completely negative exercise. I think the fact that some dogs always do a perfect ‘Send Away’ whilst others never do is due as much to the dog itself as to the method of training. Up to now you have been doing everything you could to get your dog to come closer and closer to you, but now you want him to go away in a straight line to a point given by the judge. From the dog’s point of view, you are sending him to nowhere at all for no reason whatsoever. It is because of this that so few dogs show any pleasure in this exercise. Because the exercise is so muddling to the dog it is important to remember to ‘make haste slowly’.

I shall try to describe only two methods which I have found successful, although I know there are successful trainers who use other methods. For the first you will require a smooth, round post placed firmly in the ground. A garden fork pushed right home is very good, as it can be easily moved about. Now walk forwards towards the post with the dog on an ordinary lead. As you almost reach it, give him the command ‘Go’, at the same time encouraging him to go round the post and back to you. When he does this, praise him well. Next stand a little farther away from the post, and gradually increase the distance until the dog will, on command, go forward the full length of the lead, go round the post and come back to you.

With some dogs it is then possible to take the lead off and gradually increase the distance which you send the dog to the post. I find, however, that it is usually easier and quicker to put the dog on a long line and get him to go some distance before attempting the exercise entirely free. Put the line on the dog, make him sit, go forward round the post with the line and back to the dog. Now give him the command to go and he should, by now, at least make some move to go away from you. Encourage him with the line to go right forward round the post, but on no account try to drag him away from you. If he halts or falters, order him to ‘Go’, at the same time jerking lightly on the line. When he shows the least sign of responding to this jerking, praise him very well by tone of voice.

If you take care to put the line round the post in the same direction as you started the dog on the lead, he will in all probability go round the same way. If he should go the other way round, and so wind the line round the post, it does not matter. Go up to him, praise him very well for having gone forward, and bring him back with you. From that it is just a matter of increasing the distance and of getting the dog to understand that ‘Go’ means to go away from you in the direction you point.

Discard the post as soon as possible, and get the dog to go as far as you can, and keep going until you call him back. Never call him back when he has decided to come back anyhow. If he turns, send him on again, and call him back when he is actually going away.

My second method of teaching the Send Away is one which I first tried in desperation with a Greyhound which I ran in Working Trials. I found it so effective that I tried it on other dogs and now always try it to start the Send Away. With a greedy dog it is quite the easiest and most pleasant method I know for both dog and handler.

Sit the dog and place a piece of food a few feet in front of him. Now tell him to ‘Go’, at the same time pointing to the food and encouraging him to eat it. From the dog’s point of view, there is some purpose in this, and the distance the dog will go forward can usually be increased at a remarkable pace.

Once the dog understands that to ‘Go’ means to go forward for food that he sees me placing for him, and will go quite a long way, I start at the beginning again. I now try to make him respond to ‘Go’ without his having seen me place any food for him. The best way to do this is to place a piece (perhaps several pieces) of food before bringing the dog out. Be careful not to lay tracks to them or put them in a position where the dog will wind them as soon as he comes out. Throw the food away from you so that it is down wind of where the dog is going to be. And be sure to note carefully where it is lying.

Now bring the dog and sit him not too far from a piece of food so that his nose is pointing straight to it. You can place him carefully by hand and will be allowed to do so in competitions. Tell him to ‘Go’, at the same time pointing with the right hand in the direction of the food. Repeat this in as many different places as possible, gradually increasing the distance until he will go a long way.

The dog should now go to look for food even if there is none there. He may be somewhat disappointed at not finding any but he does understand the command ‘Go’. He should also have had sufficient training to make him obedient and responsive to your wishes. Once that stage is reached it is easy to replace a request by an order. In this case, instead of asking him to go for his own benefit, you tell him to go because you say so. You should also be able to reward him by speaking to him in a praising tone which, to some extent, should compensate for his not finding any food. From there it is a question of practice.

Never drop your dog when teaching the Send Away, as it will encourage him to go out as far as he feels like going, and then lie down and look at you as if to say ‘Is this far enough?’ Simply teach him to drop on command at any time, and in any place, as any obedient dog should do. When you want him to drop on the Send Away, you can then rely;on his doing so.

Many people experience difficulty in getting the dog to go exactly in the direction ordered by the judge. The safest bet is to teach the dog to go forward exactly in the direction he is facing. Whichever method you use, from the very beginning place your dog sitting facing exactly in the direction you want him to go, remembering that his body should be facing in the same direction as his head.

Now for the Drop on Command. Whether he is coming, going or just standing still, we want him to lie down where and when we tell him. In a working dog this is without a doubt the most useful and essential of all exercises. As I mentioned earlier it is the only exercise I, in common with the great majority who train sheepdogs, bother to teach a young dog before taking him among sheep.

Start by making the dog lie down beside you on a lead. Step in front of him, call him up, make a fuss of him and suddenly, but quietly, make him go down again. Practice this until the dog will get up and down quickly and happily — almost as a game. Next remove the lead and praise the dog as though you had finished the exercise. As he makes to rush off drop him quickly, call him back and make a fuss of him again. Allow the distance between you and the dog to increase until he will drop quickly any time you tell him. A dog taught to do this will almost certainly go down instantly on the Send Away.

Nothing in the rules says anything about the dog being sent to a ‘box’ in the obedience ring. Those of you, however, who have watched competitions will have noticed that this practice is almost universal. And as the rules say nothing about it judges are quite in order using the device.

For the benefit of the uninitiated the ‘box’ is about a metre square marked out with wooden slats, tape stuck to the floor or anything else the judge (not the competitor) fancies. Instead of the dog being sent to an imaginary point ‘in direction indicated by judge’ he is sent to this ‘box’ clearly marked on the floor. One result is that we now have enthusiasts ‘box training’ their dogs. Trainers of performing dogs use this principle and each dog has his own mark which he returns to between tricks. This usually takes the form of a stool or box but may be a mat on the floor. What it is does not matter and a ‘box’ as used in the obedience ring would be ideal. What matters is the fact that it is much easier to teach a dog to go to a visible mark than to an unmarked position.

So this practice can be put to some useful purpose. But obedience enthusiasts get very hot under the collar when I compare obedience competitions to circus tricks! As I said earlier the Send Away is of little practical use. A sheepdog will go out to look for sheep without being taught the Send Away and the same applies to a gundog looking for game. To a policeman it could on occasion be more helpful if he could send his dog to a particular strategic spot. But not if he has to run along and place a box so that the dog knows where to go!

So far as training is concerned I would be reluctant to ‘box train’ any dog. It would almost certainly get quicker results for obedience classes but if you want a reliable, obedient dog I would advise teaching the dog to go in the direction indicated; and if there happens to be a box there to lie down in it when you tell him so much the better. Don’t forget that judges don’t have to use this method and you might well meet one who shares my views on the subject. Also this is not done in working trials and ‘box training’ could spoil a dog for the Send Away and redirection in Trials.

The old Junior Stakes included ‘Drop on Recall’ and I think it is a great pity that this exercise is not now included in any of the Obedience or Working Trial Tests. It is without doubt one of the most useful of all exercises and I am therefore including advice on how to teach it. Many road accidents are caused by dogs rushing across a road to their owners. Most of these could be avoided (many have been) by teaching the dog to drop instantly as he approaches his handler. It is usually much more difficult to do this than to teach a dog to drop on the send away.

In the initial stages it may tend to slow a dog up a bit on the recall but once he knows what is expected of him he should soon regain his speed. So far you have been concentrating on one thing — getting the dog to lie down quickly. Now you command him to come to you and, when his mind and body are obeying that command, you suddenly change your mind and tell him to stop. It is not, therefore, surprising that he may not do so. That is why I never call the dog to me until he will drop instantly when he has not been called. If the dog does not drop immediately, go straight up to him quietly and quickly, take him back to where he should have dropped and put him down firmly. Then try again.

It is seldom indeed that a dog taught first to Drop on Command proves difficult on the Drop on Recall. If you go on monotonously trying to teach the dog to lie down when he is coming to you, you will probably end up with one which, instead of dropping, creeps miserably forwards into a lying position. By cursing him for creeping forward you will almost certainly slow him up on the recall, so that you end up with a bad recall besides a bad drop.

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