Learning the Emergency Stop with The Clam

Learning the Emergency Stop with The Clam

April 02, 2024

Make Your Dog's Safety a Priority: Learn the Emergency Stop



An emergency stop is a vital skill for your dog to master. You can use it to keep your dog out of the path of speeding bicycles, runners, away from busy roads, and to stop them in their tracks whenever necessary.

And with this clever emergency stop training method, you’ll be surprised how fast your dog picks it up!

This article is brought to you by Tug-E-Nuff and one of their partner dog trainers, Helen Bannan of H&S Dog Training.

Is there a difference between an emergency stop and a stay?

Helen shares that an emergency stop differs from a stay, because it is taught at a distance. For an emergency stop you will teach your dog to either sit or lie down at a distance, on cue.

“This differs from a stay for a few reasons, not least because typically when you use it, your dog may be facing away from you, and will be farther away. We pair a hand signal with a verbal cue to make it easy for your dog to understand.”

Helen says “We have to consider the context we’ll use the cue in, so that we can teach it effectively.”

Do you need any foundation skills to teach an emergency stop?

None at all! The beauty of Helen’s clever training method is that the only thing you need to teach your dog is The Clam holds lots of yummy treats!

When would you use an emergency stop?

An emergency stop can literally be a lifesaver. If your dog is running towards another dog, a road, a cyclist or a frozen pond for example, you can stop them in their tracks instantly.

In these situations a recall could put your dog in further danger, as they may run in front of the thing you want to keep them safe from.

It’s a vital life skill for all dogs to learn.

Why use The Clam to teach an emergency stop at a distance?

Helen teaches her students to train an emergency stop using The Clam. She says “it’s a brilliant training aid for this exercise, because it’s more visible at a distance than a treat and you can throw it with more accuracy! Which are both essential to teaching an emergency stop at a distance.“

How to teach your dog an emergency stop (with The Clam!)

As with all training, begin by teaching this new skill in a distraction free environment so you can set your dog up for success from the start.

Step 1: Introduce The Clam and teach your dog how to get the treat out

Depending on your dog’s confidence levels, you may need to start with an open clam - show your dog that you’re putting a treat inside, and let them retrieve it! Next, close The Clam gently and let your dog use their nose to get to the treats.

This step is important, we want your dog’s desire to get The Clam to be high. Use extra smelly treats if necessary to amp up your dog’s motivation to work.

Step 2: Move The Clam around, lure your dog to follow it with their nose

You want to encourage your dog to follow The Clam with their nose, so lure The Clam in front of your dog and then open it up and let your dog enjoy the treat inside!

Once your dog is super keen on The Clam, it’s time to start training!

Step 3: Pop a treat inside The Clam, and tease your dog a little with it.

You want your dog to be eagerly following The Clam as you move it around slowly. Make sure your dog’s eyes are on The Clam, then shoot your arm up in the air and watch for your dog’s head to look up and their bum to hit the floor.

As soon as your dog sits, drop The Clam at your dog’s feet. Allow your dog to retrieve the treats.

This is the first stage of your emergency stop - introducing the hand signal.

Repeat this step a couple of times until your dog gets the hang of it.

Step 4: Do the same again, but toss The Clam behind your dog to reward.

We want your dog to retrieve the reward from behind them, which will stop your dog creeping forwards in anticipation of a treat! This will help you increase the duration of your stop when you progress your training.

Step 5: Now we want to add a little more distance.

Pretend to throw The Clam to divert your dog away from you, then when your dog looks back pop your arm in the air and cue ‘stop.’ When your dog sits, throw The Clam just behind them and let your dog retrieve their reward.

If your dog doesn’t fall for the fake throw, toss a treat away from you to create some distance.

Progressing your emergency stop cue

Once your dog can reliably follow the emergency stop cue in a distraction free environment at around 5-10 metres, you’re ready to progress.

Pack your Clam and some yummy treats, and head outside to practise in a new environment. Slowly increase the distance as your dog’s emergency stop skills get better, and soon enough you’ll be able to shoot your arm up in the air and get a fast response from your dog.

Troubleshooting problems when teaching an emergency stop:
  1. You need to reward your dog where they’ve stopped, which is why The Clam is perfect for this training exercise. If your dog has to return to you to receive their reward, then you’re rewarding them for something else entirely!
  2. Watch out for your dog creeping forwards towards you. For dogs who have a history of sitting in front of you, they may creep forwards to attempt to receive their reward. Ensure you toss the The Clam behind your dog to teach them the reward comes behind them.
  3. If your dog jumps up when you put The Clam in the air, wait patiently until they sit. Then reward as soon as their bum hits the floor!
  4. If your dog starts backing up as soon as you put The Clam in the air, they probably have a history of playing fetch! Wait for them to be still, then reward with The Clam.

Putting time into training this vital life skill is well worth the effort. With an emergency stop under your belt, you’ll feel confident that your dog can enjoy off-lead freedom without worry.

Kiwi Canine comment: Does this have to be done with a "Sit"?

It is not necessary to teach this skill with the sitting position. You could also choose a "Stand" or a "Down" and adjust the exercises accordingly.
Get The Clam here!