That'll Do (Developing an “Off Button”)

Some time ago, I was talking with a herding friend and discussing how to best get our dogs to quit doing whatever they were doing, whenever we wanted them to stop. I mentioned that I thought it was much easier to develop an "off button" for a dog if you had raised it from a puppy.
It is my belief that this "off switch" can be most effectively encouraged when a dog's brain is still in the developmental stage. Additionally, if the dog is “contained” when you desire to implement the "off button," it is far faster and easier to catch them if they don't respond to your request. Early and consistent encouragement establishes who is in control, with the result being appropriate respect for your authority.
I have established this attitude with my pack of herding dogs and I have seen this "off button" used many times with my friend's dogs, as well. I start a young puppy immediately. To get the pup started, I tie them to a fence and let them to observe the older dogs practice working sheep. When the mature dogs have finished their practice, with leash in hand, the pup is instructed "that'll do," and we walk away from the sheep area for the rest of the day.
At to play-time, the same expression is used when it is time to quit, and then the quitting is enforced. The puppy, eventually, learns that the expression "that'll do" means it is quitting time, for now.
When calling the pup in from being out and about, (they are usually busy investigating their new territory and learning about their brand new world), reinforcing the respect you have developed, by telling the pup, “here,” and "that'll do", makes that phrase have a broader meaning to the puppy. Just what you were looking for.
Eventually, we will start these pups on sheep. Since they have already been exposed to the, now familiar, expression "that'll do," pulling them off the sheep will be significantly easier when they need that well-earned rest break. Sure, it's not easy at first. The pups really like sheep and the concept of "that's fun!” and “let's keep going," enters their heads. In the early stages, we don't want them coming off their sheep too easily, but at the same time, we don't want the sheep bouncing off of the fences either. A nice balance can be developed. We want them still desiring their sheep, but we also want them to back off whenever they are asked to.
That is the "off button" that I have been speaking about. Eventually, your dog will learn that the phrase "that'll do" means we are done for now, whether for the next few minutes or for the next week...we are done right now, walk away.
I throw a Chuck-it ball for my dogs to help keep them fit when they are not working sheep. I can drain their excess energy quite fast and do it with all of the dogs simultaneously. When I feel that they are getting tired, hot or out of breath, I just grab the ball and tell them "that'll do" and walk away. They don't want to quit chasing the ball, as they really love it, but I know better than they and watch out for their over-all health. This easy phrase works beautifully and they immediately start trotting off to head for the water.
In addition to learning the "off button" from me, other dogs that already know the command teach the young dog to stop doing whatever it is they are engaged in. When quitting playing with the Chuck-it, ALL of the dogs quit, and the pup sees them stopping and the respect that they afford me.
Hence, the phrase “that'll do” encompasses the concept of: stop, quit, refrain from the activity, respect your pack leader, recognize authority, key in, listen...and so much more. It's amazing how much just a couple small words can mean to your dog and how much easier your life will be by teaching them.
Stephanie Summers

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