Let me show you one of my favorite exercises to teach the dog the foundation skills for the stop whistle. I find it really difficult to interrupt a dog that’s deeply engrossed in hunting – weather it’s a hunt that I asked for or if we’re out on a walk and the dog disappears into the world of scents. I’m probably not the only person that feels that when the dog’s nose is turned on, the rest of the world and the dog’s hearing simply falls away…
The stop whistle with a treat distraction
In this exercise, I reinforce the stop whistle by giving Tod two great rewards in one: He gets to use his nose and he gets really tasty treats.
Tod is about nine months old in the video and he has quite a good grasp of the stop whistle in simpler situations. I still choose to begin with a stop without any distractions, just to get into the game. I then scatter some treats into a small hunt area and give him his “go ahead” cue.
In the beginning I wait for him to find all the treats and focus back on me before blowing the stop whistle. I continue to reward him offering to focus on me until I’m sure that he’s really understood that the stop whistle leads to new treats on the ground. At that point, I try the stop whistle a little bit earlier. I try to blow the whistle when all the treats have been taken, but while his nose is still to the ground (at this step you might find it beneficial to count the number of treats you scatter around and make sure that they have all been eaten, so that your dog doesn’t keep hunting and happens to find a treat after you have blown the stop whistle).
When I’ve reached the step where I can give the stop whistle while Tod’s nose is still at the ground, I stop rewarding voluntarily offered stops. At 2.04 in the video, you’ll see me not rewarding Tod for focusing back at me, but instead I blow the stop whistle as soon as he reverts back to sniffing.
Naturally, this is just the beginning of training the dog to interrupt a hunt with the stop whistle. You need to train this in many different ways and in different environments in order to train a solid response to the whistle.