It’s the perfect day. The weather is warm and sunny. You don’t have to go to work and you’re outside playing fetch with your furry, four-legged pal. All of a sudden the ball hits a rock and goes flying into the street right in front of an oncoming car. You watch in slow motion as your dog follows in hot pursuit. What do you do?
You scream out “fall” and your dog hits the ground immediately just inches from the road while the car squashes the tennis ball.
If there were only one command you ever taught your dog, fall might be the best choice. It may not be a cute puppy trick or that useful on a daily basis, but when it’s needed, you’ll be thankful you took the time. Besides, it’s heaps of fun to teach.
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Teaching your pup the ‘fall’ command.
Teaching it should be treated more like a high-energy game than an actual training session. Here are a few pointers:
Act like a dog.
Think of how two dogs play together when they are jumping back and forth while staring at each other. One dog will bow their front quarters and head down with their butt up in the air and bark at the other. Most often, the other follows suit and drops into the same position before they both jump up and lunge at each other.
You are going to do the exact same thing only after jumping around and playing, say fall as you hit the deck. Your pooch might take a minute, but she should eventually drop down and imitate your stance. Hold the position for a few seconds then praise her or give her a treat and then start playing again. Repeat these steps again and again slowly building up the amount of time she stays in the down position.
Get your dog moving.
Once your pooch has started hitting the deck immediately as you are giving the fall command, you can move on to the next step. Try running around with your dog for a minute or two then quickly turning to face her and give the fall command. Hopefully, she should stop immediately and hit the deck just like before.
Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
If she does, go up to her and give her tons of praise and/or a treat. If not, go back to the previous step, because you have moved on too quickly for her. You don’t want her to leave the down position and come to you for the treat. The idea is that she doesn’t leave that position until you tell her to and it is easier to train her into doing that by walking up to her.
Don’t overwhelm your pup.
Remember to take it slow. Training sessions should only last 15 minutes or so. The first couple of times you work on this command, you might only get to the point where you dog is imitating you. Don’t push on to the next step until your dog has shown you she is ready.
Stop the game after a couple of successful falls. You always want to the end the training session on a high note when they have executed a command successfully. After a while, you can move onto harder situations.
Use a 25′ or 50′ leash and toss a tennis ball or other toy for her to fetch. Let her fetch it a couple of times then on the third or fourth time give the fall command while she is pursuing the toy. If she completely ignores you, give a small tug on the leash as she chases the toy. Not hard enough to jerk her neck or head back (you don’t want to injure your pooch) but enough so she feels a little pressure, which should remind her to listen.
Repeat these training sessions in harder scenarios until your little fluff ball is hitting the ground immediately when you say fall no matter what distractions are around.
When to use the fall command.
The fall command is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and should never be overused. The last thing you want is for your dog to be accustomed to it or begin ignoring it. It’s the type of command that once learned should always be obeyed no matter whether your dog is tired, distracted or over excited.
So only use the fall command during training sessions, emergency circumstances or other scenarios where it will be enforced. It’s similar to your mother calling you by your full name: You know it’s serious, and you better listen up. Your dog should equate fall the same way.
(In no way are these tips a substitute for professional advice you’d receive from a trainer or veterinarian. If your dog is having issues, please consult a professional)