The object of a send Away and Redirection Left and Right is, from the onset, to get your dog to go “forward” or “away” from you, with gusto and enthusiasm, in a reasonably straight line, normally to some form of target often at +/-25m or more distance which is sometimes invisible to the dog. Then, if required, to redirect the dog left and right, also to a target at an acceptable distance.  Why should we wish to do this?

Handlers of “Working” dogs such as for example, Search & Rescue Dogs, Sled Dogs, Gun Dogs, Sheepdogs, Police Dogs or Infantry Scouting dogs will often will often require their charges to leave them on command and go forward, then move to the left or right, for a variety of practical reasons.  Similarly, it is often advantageous for the average pet owner to be able to do the same, if only to direct their dog to a spot where they want the animal to go and look for something or merely to lie down for a while. 

The most common reason however for the average dog club member is that in certain obedience tests, dogs are required to master the send away to some form of target on the ground. It can either be a taped square area or a marked “spot” on the ground. Usually around 25mtrs away from the handler. There is no redirection in Obedience Tests but “extra commands” are heavily penalised. With the finished product, one Command only is permitted, for the dog to leave ones side and move forward to the target area.  A command “Down” is then allowed on the target.  In advanced Working Trials, there is the send away and redirection and targets are, more often than not, natural in nature such as a specific clump of grass, a rock, fence post, a small bush or tree.  The distance can also vary between 25-50mtrs. Extra Commands will not usually be penalised as long as the dog is responding to them. Thus, if we wish to compete successfully in Obedience or Working Trails, a good send away and in some cases redirection, are a must, but are these the only reasons for teaching these exercises?

Of course not.  The send away and redirection are extremely valuable tools that can be used practically to enhance other exercises. For example, during an article or missing person search, where you wish to insist on controlled coverage of a specific piece of ground by your dog in order to locate and find a person or certain number of articles against the clock.  Nowhere is teamwork more valuable than in this sort of exercise.  Whilst you don’t want to influence the dogs scenting activity, you will certainly want to “control” the dog to ensure all parts of the search area get covered. 

It will come as no surprise that getting your dog to leave you and move away in a straight line, would normally pose a far greater challenge than getting your dog to come to you where, in the early stages of training at least, it gets a nice reward.  What reward is there out there in front? That encapsulates your challenge.  Create an appropriate and strong enough motivation, in the form of a pleasant experience or attractive target for the dog to want “go” forward and “away” from you. Do this and the send away is literally a piece of cake.  Just chose a command (sound) that suits you; Forward, Go, Away seem to be the most popular.

One word of advice however…..I strongly recommend that you don’t even consider trying to start teaching the exercise until such time as your dog is capable of going down instantly “on command” from a reasonable distance. With this tool in the toolbox, the send away is a mere morning’s work to perfect.  As the old saying goes, “If you ain’t taught the “down” you’re gonna look a clown!!” It is also not rocket science that one needs a firm stay, so that if you leave the dog in order to position an attractive target some distance in front of the animal, the dog actually stays.  In short, the send away is not a beginner’s exercise, for the very simple reason that, unless you have reached a reasonably good standard of “control” i.e. the dog reliably responds to all the basic commands, you’re only going to go backwards, not forward!!

Remember the Theory of Training! Never attempt a stage in training a particular exercise until you have mastered the previous stage and certainly, don’t ever embark on a training stage where you are nervous of the outcome or there is a high risk of failure, particularly if you do not have the necessary control tools to guide the dog to success.  Failure at any stage of training, creates all sorts of new problems in the form of bad associations, whilst success creates nothing but new opportunities for speedy progression to the next one.

Of course, there are many views on the best method for teaching the send away. These range from using an object or article such as a mat or favourite “toy” with which the dog is familiar and which is visible, trusting that the dog will “hopefully” want to go it, to the use of a rope and pulley system or perhaps even the creation of a scent pattern by the handler to the target.  Often such targets are enhanced by the use of food in the hope that this will increase motivation. 

Then of course we have the “come with me to the spot” approach, where the handler leaves the dog, places the target, returns to the dog and then “runs” with the dog to the target, all the while giving the “forward command and good sound” and ultimately downing the dog on the desired spot and rewarding the animal with food or praise.   To me this is much akin to setting up a jump and then accompanying the animal over the jump time after time, whilst using the appropriate command, until hopefully, the penny drops!  If this works for you, and you are young and fit enough, go for it!   Personally I would rather save both time and energy and have the dog do all the work right from square one. I have also seen handlers introduce the send away to their dog by the creation of elaborate enclosed narrow straight pathways to the target, followed by enclosed pathways to the left and right all using barrier tape or various light fencing structures. To me, at best, these may be an option for certain problem dogs. 

The fact remains, that each dog has its own character and reacts differently to certain stimuli. Also, much depends on the motives of the handler. Some obedience people merely want to “box train” their dogs for B Test and then “unbox” and “spot train” them for C Test. On the other hand the Working Trial enthusiast will want greater flexibility, distance and variation during their training for send aways. Likewise with other practical working dogs on the job.

I believe that the “Send Way”, which so many people battle with, can in fact be the easiest exercise to train, if handlers just follow very simple principles. One of these, which is applicable before commencing training in any new conditioning process, is to make sure you have the right tools in your conditioning toolbox for the task ahead. For example, I have already stressed that, in my opinion, an outstanding “down” from a distance is a prerequisite tool for send away training, unless of course for practical purposes in handling a working dog, you require only a mere wait when the dog reaches your target area. However, in such cases, the dog still needs to stop and wait for the next command.

The essential second tool is the accurate identification for any particular dog, of the strongest and most “effective motivation” to move forward to a target area, from the very first time that the dog hears the sound “forward”. The danger with using favourite “comfort toys” and the like, is the possibility that if the dog is tempted to pick up the object and want to return to the handler, one could cause confusion for the dog via scolding.  Remember the prime objective is a send away and not a retrieve. For this reason, food may prove a more practical first time trigger. However, and I think this is worth stressing. Remember the objective is to get the dog to go to a specific target of your choice and go down or await the next command when it gets there.  It is NOT to get the dog to go forward to look for some food or to find a comfort toy.  Any use of food as an initial trigger/bribe to leave the handler and run forward must be dispensed with as soon as possible, and any food reward ONLY given after the dog has gone down on target and not before. The reason is quite simple. We do not want the dog to get into the habit of looking for food and once found, rewarding itself. We want the dog to click that it must down by a target of your choice in order to get a reward. Also remember, whenever one gives a treat during any training exercise, this must be accompanied by verbal praise (the good sound), given at the exact same time.  Only in this way can you speed up progress to a stage when praise alone is sufficient to reward the dog.

The third “desirable” tool for the toolbox is that by the time you start training send ways, your dog needs to understand and respond to the use of the “good” sound and the “bad” sound.  In other words, on hearing the good sound, the dog should feel encouraged to do what it is doing and conversely, by use of the bad sound, to stop doing what it is doing. In short you need good basic control using your voice.  Although not always needed, especially if the dog is strongly motivated to reach the “target” the timeous use of good and bad sounds can be of great assistance in timeously correcting deviations or giving praise/reassurance from a distance. Dogs who respond well to the good sound seldom, if ever, need treats.

Whilst I have experimented with and sometimes used other methods, the following one has never failed me in over 50yrs and I have always achieved an excellent consistent send away within a very short time. I must stress that, where required, I have ensured that I have had access to either an enlightened family member or competent fellow trainer, to whom my dog responds, to assist me. This can be called the fourth desirable tool.  In some rare cases, one may not ever have to use an “assistant” if the target is sufficiently motivatied and the down is strong. But I tend to use one at the onset wherever possible, if only to increase the chances of initial success during stage one. This also greatly speeds up the process and helps avoid any possible confusion in the dogs mind by the use of comfort toys or food.

One choses an obvious target such as a traffic cone and, whilst the dog is left in the stay, watching you, place the target in position.  Make it clear that you are doing something interesting by this target as the dog watches.  Any dog worth its salt wants to see what the boss has just been doing! That’s why they dig up your freshly planted shrubs for goodness sake!   Don’t be shy, and just put it a few meters away. Rather get right down to business and place it at least 20mtrs away, to increase the dog’s inquisitive drive.  Have your family member or assistant stand just on the far side of the cone (with a hidden food treat if absolutely necessary). Then return briskly to your dog and without too much delay, create a short ritual of lining your dog up and pointing its head in the right direction, but do not immediately release the dog just yet. Your “assistant” meanwhile, must make “nice encouraging “ sounds to the dog and just when you are sure that the dog is sufficiently excited and focused on the target area, release and say “forward” or whatever sound you have chosen, using a selected go forward hand signal at the same time.  If you and your assistant were on the ball, the dog would have been clearly straining to go forward by the time you released it.

As the dog is moving forward, give lavish praise all the time but, if in the unlikely event that the dog falters and wants to stop or turn back, use the bad sound and repeat “forward” whilst at the same time the assistant will call the dog using its name and the good sound.  As the dog reaches the target cone, both the handler and the assistant give the “down” command and once accomplished, much praise, and if necessary, food reward can be immediately given by the assistant, making sure the dog stays down.

Whilst the dog is down, the handler returns and praises the dog, eventually releasing for play and returning to the start position for another attempt. Mark my words, it will only take a couple of repetitions before the contribution of the assistant can be reduced significantly and not long after that, be dispensed with altogether, including any food reward if used. This is provided of course that the down is strong and the good sound is music to the dog’s ears.  During the initial stages of training always return to the dog on target, praise again and/or reward with a treat (if necessary) and release and play.

Thereafter, it is merely a case of using other suitable objects as a target and reducing its size and visibility and/or redesigning it to approximate to your requirements, be it a B Test open ended box, a C Test Spot or, even nothing at all! IE, the dog goes forward till downed!  One may even wish to introduce an exercise whereby you can send the dog away to an object, down the dog and then send the dog further forward to down by a second object, and then even a third. 

Personally, when I teach the send away, from  as early a stage as possible, I incorporate the Left and Right redirection, using two extra identical motivational targets AND the same assistant moving to stand  just to the left of the left target and then just to the right of the right target. The methodology is consistently the same as that used for the initial send away. Once the send away is mastered (this should only be a matter of a few sessions), then the dog is moved from the central send away target either left or right, with voice and left/right hand signals, to the target where the assistant is also encouraging the dog to move by standing just on the far side of each of the targets.

Once again, if one has all the necessary “control” tools in one’s toolbox, the left and right redirection can be accomplished in a surprisingly few quality sessions. Only once the forward, left and right have been mastered, should one attempt to “recall” the dog to ones starting position from their down positions. Using my wife as an assistant, my latest dog Jessie, a Border Collie, mastered the forward, left and right with 100% consistency, to three road cones, in  four 15 minute sessions spread over one day at the end of which, no assistance was necessary and no food required on target  even though she is very food driven. Just lots of timely praise.  This was not a once off, but has worked for me, using an assistant where necessary, over many years with many different breeds of dogs.

So if one wants to start teaching the send away, if you have the right control tools, then I can assure you, the only way is forward!

Original version : KUSA Gazette Sept 1990

Revised Jan 2017.    J.R.Cox


      (As)  L…………<…………<.…left……………….C………………right……………>…………>…………R (As)                                                                           

                                < 20mrs >                          ^                          <20mtrs>                                                                   





                  Handler points forward for send away.

         < Handler points Left for left  A  Handler points Right for right >                                                                           


(As)= Position of any assistant.

A = Start for handler and dog ready for send away. Handler remains here for Lft & Rt. Only Dog moves.

C= Centre cone for forward

L= Left for Left Command

R= Right Cone for Right command



John Robert Cox