In Novice and in the Utility obedience classes, the dog is required to stand in place until released by the handler. In Novice there is the 'Stand for Exam' exercise, wherein the dog must stand in place and be superficially touched by a judge. In Utility there are two exercises where the dog must stand in place and not move: the Moving Stand for Exam and the Signal Stand Exercise. A stationary stand/stay is also required in the Preferred Novice and Preferred Utility, so having a dog that understands the precepts of a stand/stay is essential.
Here is how I teach my dogs to stand and stay and not move even so much as a toenail:
Firstly, I teach my dog the concept of a kickback 'stand'. A kickback stand requires that the dog's front legs remain in place as the dog uses his rear legs only to move into a stand position. If my dog moves forward with his front legs when standing, I know he is not performing a 'kickback stand', but rather is stepping forward into the stand.
Why, you ask, is a kickback more desirable? Mainly because it's more clear-cut. It is not vague nor formless nor an accident, but very definite. My dog is making a explicit effort to stand. He is not simply blundering into it. This results in greater clarity for the dog. My dog will have a much stronger understanding of what 'stand' means.
Too, when I tell my dog to 'Stand', I do not want him to step out of heel position. By executing a kickback stand I'm more assured my dog will remain in place.
Here's how it's done:
I begin with my dog sitting in heel position. Initially I will have a soft treat under my thumb on the palm of my signal hand. For me, this is my right hand.
With thumb tucked and palm open, I bring my hand across my body and direct it to the muzzle of my dog as I say 'Stand'. At the same time and while the dog is engrossed with the treat, my left hand reaches over to the outside of the dog and lightly under his belly and assists (lifts) the dog into a stand position. Treat and praise!
With thumb tucked and palm open, I bring my hand across my body and direct it to the muzzle of my dog as I say 'Stand'. At the same time I SLIDE (!) my left foot between my dog's front feet and back feet and beneath his underbelly. This generally results in the dog kicking his rear legs backwards and out of the way and hence into a stand. I immediately release the treat and praise copiously!
(When using this method, I like to have some sort of barrier on my dog's left side so that he remains parallel and in heel position and doesn't learn to throw his butt out and away from my sliding foot. I want him to kick straight back.)
It's very important that your signal hand freezes in position while giving the stand command so that you are not accidentally moving it and subsequently pulling your dog forward and into a stand rather than having him 'kickback'. Many handlers want to move the hand forward in front of the dog and/or permit the dog to push it forward so as to get the treat. As I like to tell my students, "It's all in the wrist."
A telltale sign that your dog is not doing a kickback stand is if your dog's front legs move out of place. If so, then he is not executing a kickback stand. If you are unsure or simply want to prevent that possibility, then put something in front of the dog's front feet while your dog is still in a sit. You can use something as small as a chalk line or leash for a demarcation, or as big as a Broad Jump hurdle. Give the stand signal and command, then check the front feet. Are they still in place? Wonderful! If not, then the dog has not performed a kickback stand.
For small dogs, I recommend using a raised platform to preserve your own back. A grooming table is excellent.
As soon as I notice that my dog is responding (as in 'is getting the idea'!) to the hand signal and/or verbal, I remove the treat from my hand. Instead of 'luring' my dog into a stand, I will now only reward him once he performs the skill. For a more detailed explanation of the difference between a 'lure', a 'bribe', and a 'reward', refer to Chapter 4 "Praise" in my book, Attitude + Attention=Teamwork!.
Next issue we will look at a step by step approach to teaching the 'stay' for the stand exercise. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!