Extract from Aunty Kaye’s Doggy Dictionary of Training and Behaviour
A “position” is a body posture such as “sit”, “drop” or “stand” commonly taught in basic obedience. There is no reason why you can’t teach other positions (such as roll over), or why you can’t teach teach your dog to distinguish between dropping into a “sphinx” position versus lying down resting on one thigh, or lying flat on one side.
As well as teaching your dog individual positions such as “sit”, “drop” or “stand” you can, as a separate training exercise, teach your dog to change from one position to another. To stand from a drop or drop from a stand is harder than standing or dropping from a sit.
Then you can put together a series of actions: for example sit-drop-sit or stand-drop-stand and reward the final action, not each action. You are now requiring your dog to do more to earn each reward. The number of position changes can be increased e.g. sit-drop-sit-stand–drop-stand. Then you can release your dog and reward every second sequence of position changes. Vary the position that is rewarded – don’t always reward the sit and neglect the stand.
This exercise usually includes sit, drop and stand, and is done:
- to overcome problems of the dog anticipating a down after every sit;
- as a way of extending the number of actions your dog does before getting a reward;
- doing a practice exercise to check on progress through various stages of the teaching process; (so you can spot a weak link – for example, you can test whether the dog really responds to voice alone by saying “stand” – if the dog stands, OK, if not follow through by giving the hand signal or lure hand movement – you’ll find that most dogs know “sit” better than they know “stand” because people use it more often. Position changes are a great way of “equalising” your dog’s response to each of these cues.
Stages of the teaching process include:
- holding food in your hand to lure the initial response;
- no longer holding food in your hand when you give a hand signal;
- introducing voice;
- having your dog respond to a hand signal or voice alone;
- distinguishing between several different signals;
- using intermittent rewards rather than rewarding every time;
- selectively rewarding better responses.
I would encourage you to do this as a brief “Kettle Exercise”. Even if you have very little time for training, you will be surprised how valuable this exercise is. It’s easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Put the kettle on in the morning and do a few position changes while you’re waiting for it to boil, then tell your dog to go and lie down while you drink your morning coffee!