What is “Emergency Stop?”

Emergency stop is just that, a command you can reserve for high-intensity situations. It’s not something you should use for the day-to-day trouble your dog gets into like snatching up the baby’s dropped broccoli.

The key word in the cue is “emergency,” says Schade.  “The biggest mistake one can make is allowing the emergency cue to become the equivalent of ‘verbal wallpaper,’ which is something you say so frequently that your dog tunes it out and doesn’t respond.”

Teaching Emergency StopChoosing a Special Emergency Stop Word

With this command you need an immediate, reflexive response to your cue, says Schade. “I like ‘Wait’ better than ‘Stop’ since most dogs have probably heard the word ‘Stop’ a few thousand times since puppyhood!”

Teaching Emergency Stop

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a recall, where you want your dog to “Come” running back to you. This is where you want him to stay put, or as Schade explains it: an abrupt cessation of movement.

Here are a few easy steps to teaching emergency stop:

  1. Say the cue word in a conversational tone when your dog is close to you.
  2. When he stops what he’s doing and turns to look at you, give him tons of praise and a small meaty treat.
  3. Practice it in a distraction-free environment until your dog can stop what he’s doing and look to you consistently in a variety of rooms and situations.
  4. Then try working on it outside…say it as your dog is moving away from you. When your dog halts, you can either go to him to give him a treat, or you add a second step to the process; incorporating your already-fine-tuned recall. (Your dog has a fine-tuned recall, yes?)
  5. Envision the scenarios in which you’ll be using the word. If you live near a busy road and your dog runs toward traffic, you’ll want to be able to stop him in his tracks, “Wait!” and then encourage him to come back to you, “Here, Fido!”
Practicing Emergency Stop

This is a tough one since you want your dog to react to your command, but to respect the urgency of it as well. “Practice your emergency stop  frequently enough so that it stays fresh, but not so much that it becomes ‘ho hum, this again?’” says Schade.

It’s probably good to review every week or two, but not every day like you might with your dog’s tricks.

That said, practicing emergency stop should be just as happy an occasion as practicing roll over. According to Schade, “Just because the emergency stop is used in stressful situations doesn’t mean that you have to mimic the tension when you practice. Use an upbeat happy tone of voice, and make it as fun and rewarding for your dog as possible!”