Teaching the New Command Discrimination Exercise

Monday, January 01, 2018 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

Written by Connie Cleveland-Nolan

It’s final – the rule changes have been approved and it is time to start training. The most significant change is replacement of the Open Stay exercise with a new Command Discrimination exercise.

Just like any other exercise you’ve taught your dog, the place to start is by understanding the skills your dog will need to learn. Think about what your dog may already know that you can use to help him learn these new skills. I often tell my students that what has already been written on the chalkboard of their dog’s mind might be useful in a new situation.

Start is by separating your Goals from your Techniques.

Goals

This chart shows the four sequences your dog will need to learn. I created it to help make the goal of teaching the new Command Discrimination exercise clear for you. It depicts the change of position sequences that will be performed in the ring.

Order#

@ Heel

@ 15 Feet

@30 Feet

Open A

Order I

Sit to Stand

Stand to Down

Down to Sit

Order III & V

Sit to Stand

Stand to Sit

Sit to Down

Order II

Sit to Down

Down to Sit

Sit to Stand

Order IV & VI

Sit to Down

Down to Stand

Stand to Sit

The sequence performed in Open A and Open B, Order I, is the same as the Utility Signal exercise except you will stand your dog from a Sit rather than by standing him while heeling. The “Down to Sit” change of position performed in Order II is also performed in the Utility Signals exercise. Only the “Sit to Stand” is a new position. The sequences performed in Orders III and V (Stand, Sit, Down) and Order IV and VI (Down, Stand, Sit) are new, but only provide one challenging maneuver, that being down to stand.

Our biggest challenge will be increasing our distance from the dog. We do not want our dogs to be penalized for what the rule refers to as "walking forward." Our goal should be to teach our dogs to perform the change of positions with minimal or no forward movement.

Techniques

I moved to Greenville, South Carolina, thirty-one years ago to train service dogs for the physically handicapped. There were no manuals or instructions. I taught dogs to perform tasks such as opening and closing doors, turning light switches on and off, and pulling wheelchairs by breaking complicated tasks into smaller pieces. Once again, we are faced with a similar situation.

I created the following chart breaking down the positions that we need to teach our dogs. It also reflects the distance at which the positions will need to be performed.

I have also included the commands that I intend to use for teaching these skills. Although the rules allow us to use a verbal command and a signal, I have decided to use only a verbal command for the “Stand to Sit” because I don't want my dog to confuse it with the "Stand, Down, Sit" sequence used in the Utility Signal exercise.

Change of Position

Command

@ Heel

@ 15 Feet

@ 30 Feet

Sit to Stand

Signal & Verbal

X

X

Sit to Down

Signal & Verbal

X

X

Stand to Sit

Verbal Only

X

X

Stand to Down

Signal & Verbal

X

Down to Sit

Signal & Verbal

X

X

Down to Stand

Signal & Verbal

X

None of us know the best way to teach this new exercise, but let’s embrace the challenge and start training.

Sit to Stand:  The goal should be for your dog to stand in heel position, with little to no movement forward. Creating a habit of the dog not stepping forward when he stands will be the most conservative approach because that skill will create the likelihood that the dog will not walk forward when he performs this change of position at 30 feet (see the video link below).

Sit to Down:  When a dog lies down in heel position, he will naturally walk his feet forward. This could result in him moving out of heel position. The consensus of the judges I’ve spoken to about this “natural movement” is that it will not result in a points deduction, but this is an issue that will require some clarification.

Once again, our goal should be to teach this change of position with minimal forward movement.

Watch the video as I signal down on the left side of my dog's head. If you point straight down, you may be surprised to find out that your dog moves forward very little, and does not roll over on his hip. I would prefer that Nate stay in a sphinx like down because it will be easier for him to move into a sit or stand.

Stand to Sit:  I am going to use a verbal command for the stand to sit. If you want to use two syllables, try “you, Sit!” as using the dog's name may cause him to move toward you. I believe most of our dogs will sit similarly to how they sit on the go-out exercise.

Stand to Down & Down to Sit:  The technique I use to teach these changes of position are demonstrated in the second video in the tab titled Stand on a Platform in the Digital Obedience Guide Tricks that Transition to Obedience Exercises.

Placing a dog’s front feet on a platform shows him how to lie down without creeping forward. Additionally, it encourages him to back his front feet up into a sit. This is important to me because dogs that bring their rear end forward on the sit command sometimes start scooting forward when distance is increased.

I will not ask my dogs to stand from a sit when they are sitting behind a platform because it would encourage him to step forward onto the platform, and that forward movement could become walking when distance is increased, and the platform is removed.

Down to Stand:  The technique I use for the down to stand involves a platform. It also is demonstrated in the Stand on a Platform video. If I’m working with a dog that will lie down, keeping his feet on the platform, I believe he will stand up, keeping his feet on the platform and not moving forward.

A word of caution:

  • ·       STAY CLOSE as you begin working on these skills.
  • ·       Don’t be in a hurry, we have until May!
  • ·       Teach each change of position carefully before adding distance.
  • ·      Work on one position change at a time. For example, stand in front of your dog and casually point to the ground and say down, step back and give a stand signal. Praise and reward. Isolating the skill, “standing up from a down” followed by praise and a reward will make the skill clearer for your dog. You may be tempted to practice the down followed by the stand repeatedly (down/stand; down/stand; down/stand) but the skill you are teaching will not be as clear and the repetition will become tedious for your dog.

The Command Discrimination exercise was demonstrated at the AKC Obedience Classic. This video includes excerpts from the demonstration together with my explanation of the exercise as it was being performed

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