Teaching the Stationary Stand ~ Part Two: The Stand/Stay

Thursday, December 01, 2016 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

The next step after teaching your dog how to perform a kickback stand (see November, 2016 F&F issue, Part One:) is to teach your dog to stand and stay in place until released.  No doubt about it: this is the more difficult feature of the Stationary Stand Exercises.  

Some trainers only teach the stand/stay AFTER the dog understands a sit/stay.  I do not.  I distinguish between the two and separate them in my training, but I will teach a stand/stay often before even beginning a sit/stay.  

(Author's note: I DO teach a sit/'wait' first, long before a 'stay',  so that I can begin leaving my pup in order to do recalls and the like.  'Wait' means don't move but be ready, as something is going to happen; 'stay' means don't move until I return to release you.  I train alone.  By 3.5 to 4 months of age my puppy will be learning to 'wait' so that our progress is not hindered due to the lack of any secondary help to 'hold' my pup as I leave.  Needs must:-)

I always begin by teaching my dog to stand and stay while I am still very, very close--close enough that should my dog decide to move any one of his four feet, I am on it immediately!  Being close and being on top of any movement is critical.  It is in these beginning stages that the idea of moving even one paw is discouraged and ultimately understood.  Believe me, it's far too late to teach a dog to not move a foot when you're already 20 feet away.   Stay close initially.  Build your dog's understanding and his confidence!

Teaching a stand/stay, step by step:

1.  With the dog in a stand position and myself in heel position, I will turn towards the right side of my dog and manually position each foot, saying the word 'stay' as I place each foot on the ground.  I do this in order to clarify that I want each foot to remain in place.  Picking up and then placing each foot while saying 'stay' ultimately makes it more clear for the dog. I am showing my dog exactly what I am referring to.  I am being precise and definite. I will also be repeating the 'stay' command four times.  (Note: it's not necessary to stack the dog, per se. Simply place the foot back in a comfortable position.)

2.  Once I've placed each foot, I then stand up and return to heel position.  

3.  Next I put some pressure on the withers, lightly pressing downward as I again remind my pup to 'stay'.  

4.  I then stand back up.

5.  After a short count of 3-5, I release my pup with praise and reward.

Once my dog is comfortable with this, I go to the next stage: 

1.  I repeat steps 1 thru 4 above, then give my dog a signal and verbal 'stay' command (as I would in a formal exercise).  

2.  I would then place my left hand on my dog's brisket (the front of his chest) as I step forward out of heel position--one stride only!--and turn to face my dog.  Hand is still on his chest!!  My job is to teach my dog while showing him how to succeed.  Initially I will try my darnedest to not allow him to make any mistakes.

3. With my hand still on my dog's brisket, I will take the leash and gently pull forward until there is light tension on the leash.  Be  mindful that the leash is pulling straight forward under the dog's chin.  Do NOT pull upwards, as the dog will want to sit.  Nor should you pull to one side or the other, as this will throw the dog off balance.  

4.  Once I 'feel' through the leash that my dog is bracing (and this may take a few training sessions), I will lift my left hand back and away slightly from the chest while still keep the tension on the leash!  This will give my dog the opportunity to move a foot...or not.  

5.  Should my dog move a foot the response is straightforward: I simply lightly tap the offending appendage with one finger to indicate to my dog that this is what I am referring to as I say 'uh-oh' and place the foot back where it was.  I then remind him to 'stay' and resume the tension on the leash.

I believe it's important that I let my dog know WHY I am saying 'uh-oh' by tapping the foot that moved and replacing it.  I am being clear and definite.  There is no gray area.  I am letting my dog know precisely what he has done that is not desirable.  And because my dog desperately wants to please me (just as yours does you!), he will learn quickly and easily without being traumatized! 

6.  Once my dog is standing and staying in place without any signs of wanting to move any of his feet, I then take my left hand entirely away from his chest. I am still close and the tension on the leash is still maintained, however.  But now I am standing upright.

7.  While still close (I need to stay on top of any potential movement, so I must continue to be near enough to right any movement my dog might make.  Again, timing and proximity are important),  I can now begin stepping to the left, then to the right, making the arc larger as my dog continues to progress with his understanding that he must not move even though I do. This step is also a precursor to my being able to walk around and behind him and so return to heel position--an action that is required in the Novice Stand for Exam.  

8.  Once I am able to walk all the way around my dog in both directions (!), I will  drop the leash and go out the requisite distance for the particular exercise I am working on. 

Once my dog understands how to succeed on a short leash, I can then go to a 6 foot leash and ultimately to a 23 foot retractable lead, especially when teaching the stand/stay for the Utility Signal Exercise where the handler will be 40 to 50 feet away.   Often parting any distance 'makes the heart grow fonder,' and a dog will move toward his handler for security purposes.  Using a retractable lead in conjunction with the tension--which the dog fully understands by now!--is a marvelous approach to offsetting any future movement. 



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