Your hunting dog will learn dozens of commands over the course of his hunting years. Some will be quite basic and others much more advanced. It is safe to say that there is one command that is possibly the most important – Whoa. It is the command that has the power to stop everything, and if your dog cannot grasp it, it can be tragic. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but it is quite true.
In the most basic terms, “Whoa” is a command that tells the dog to immediately stop and stay. To a non-hunting house pet, the term “whoa” is similar to “stay,” but it should also stop any behavior that is currently happening. When the well-trained dog hears “Whoa,” he will stop in his tracks and wait there for further instruction. This command allows the trainer to stop everything and retrace steps, correct errors, or make adjustments.
The most pivotal reason that “whoa” holds the importance it does is because of your dog’s safety. Your hunting dog is excited, even thrilled, to be hunting at your side. Your dog may be so thrilled, in fact, that he does not notice the rattlesnake, skunk, or porcupine. As the human, you have to be able to alert your dog to the danger and immediately stop him. Other dangers that you might encounter on your hunt are swiftly moving rivers or thin ice atop lakes and ponds. Beyond that, your dog’s excitement can carry him across roads where vehicles are not alert to your dog’s presence. It is crucial that you see the entire situation ahead of you and can stop your dog in his tracks. The dog’s mastery of the “whoa” command could save his life.
There are various ways to train the “whoa” command. One method uses a sling of sorts that allows the trainer to lift the dog into the air, removing him from his comfort zone. There is also the table method that places the dog atop a table for training. The barrel method is similar to this, but takes place on a barrel turned on its side. The barrel will roll if the dog moves, so this is an effective way to teach the dog to hold still. There is also the walking method where the training takes place as you are in forward motion. Regardless of your method, teaching the “whoa” command is a very important element in your dog’s training.