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Command Discrimination - One Year Later
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Command Discrimination - One Year Later

All videos are located at the bottom of this page.

A year ago I held my first webinar about the Command Discrimination exercise. At that time, obedience competitors were trying to determine how the exercise should be taught, handled, and judged. At that time, many of us were teaching the exercise to dogs that already had CDX and UD titles.

Now, one year later, we have a lot more information about the difficulties and pitfalls.

There are six position changes. Be intentional about each position change and the order that you teach them. Trying to work on six at once is not effective or efficient. 

Stand to Sit

Sit to Down 

Down to Sit

Stand to Down

Sit to Stand 

Down to Stand

Consider the following 10 tips and 3 videos before teaching the exercise.

  1. Stand to Sit and Sit to Down are probably the first two “commands” that you taught your dog. When he was standing, you taught him to sit. With your dog in a sitting position, you showed him how to lie down. Neither of these are needed until Open B. You do not need to do any further work on these until you are confident that you can perform the Stand to Down and the Down to Sit.

  2. Stand to Down Down to Sit - Both of these position changes require you to have a clear vision of how you want your dog to maneuver his body so he does not creep forward. If you teach your dog to stand on a platform, and then lie down without moving his front feet, you will prevent forward motion. Likewise, once down, if you teach your dog to sit up by moving his front feet off the platform, you will avoid movement forward.

    (Standing on a platform is one of the tricks taught in the Digital Obedience Guide, Tricks that Transition to Obedience Exercises.)

  3. Sit to Stand - at your side - You need to perform this position change in Novice. Start teaching your dog how to stand up, next to you, without walking forward. This will prove useful on the Novice Stand for Exam. In Open B, standing up without stepping forward becomes important when you are commanding your dog to stand up when 30 feet in front of him.

    Carefully consider tips 1, 2 and 3. Focus on Stand to Down and Down to Sit until you are comfortable with those two position changes. Conveniently, you need these two position changes for Command Discrimination in Open A and for the Signal Exercise in Utility...

  4. Down to Stand and Sit to Stand (from in front) - I cannot overemphasize that you should not work on teaching your dog to stand up, when you are in front of him, until he is proficient at Down to Sit. Standing up from a down is simple and natural. If you work on this position change before your dog comfortably performs the Down to Sit, you will struggle to get your dog to sit up without standing first. Avoid that confusion by working on the Down to Sit first!

  5. Pick one location to work on standing up. Do 4-5 repetitions of Down to Stand. Then, in the same location, practice Sit to Stand. Remaining in one location will make it very clear to your dog that you are practicing standing up! Consider using a dowel to prevent forward motion as demonstrated in the video below titled Command Discrimination- Learning to Stand Up.
      
  6. Although you are allowed to use a verbal and signal command on each position change, that may not be the best strategy. Instead, consider the following;

    Emphasize the signal on the position changes related to Open and Utility. That includes the Stand to Down and the Down to Sit. Additionally, use your drop signal on the Sit to Down at 30 feet. This is similar to the drop signal needed in Utility and potentially on the Drop on Recall.

    Emphasize the verbal on the remaining position changes. Emphasizing the verbal and using an inconspicuous signal will minimize the chance that your dog will confuse a command to stand up with a sit or a come signal.

  7. Use your reward marker (clicker or word) when practicing your position changes. This will allow you to communicate to your dog exactly what position change you desire and how you want it executed. * For example, when practicing the Stand to Down, your reward marker should be given at the moment your dog’s elbows hit the ground. Watch the video titled “Teaching Your Dog to Stand Up in Front of You,” for the timing of my reward marker.

  8. Spend more time working on individual position changes than you do assembling the finished exercise. Problems quickly develop when trying to do several position changes in a row. When you watch the video “Teaching Your Dog to Stand Up in Front of You,” notice that I “beg” my dog into the starting position by pointing to the ground and saying down. Then I give a formal “Stand Up” command. I want it to be clear to the dog that we are not practicing on lying down, we are practicing standing up.

  9. If you are working on a sequence of position changes, and your dog fails a command, help your dog perform correctly. For example, if the sequence is Stand-Down-Sit, and your dog fails to drop, walk toward him as you hold your signal or repeat your command. Then release your dog and start again. Do not try to do the Sit command after correcting the Down. There are two reasons for this; first, you may inadvertently teach him that you are willing to give multiple commands. Secondly, the pressure of having you walk in and repeat the command may be upsetting enough that he refuses to sit up. It is never helpful to fail two position changes in a row.
     
  10. Be intentional when practicing this exercise. Be familiar with the four orders that you are required to perform. The following chart has been designed to help you.

VIDEOS
Command Discrimination: Getting Started
Teaching Your Dog to Stand Up in Front of You
Command Discrimination: All the Sequences


Open A & Open B Change of Position Sequences

Order #

@ Heel

@ 15 feet

@ 30 feet

Open A
Order I

Stand

Down

Sit

Order III
Order V

Stand

Sit

Down

Order II

Down

Sit

Stand

Order IV
Order VI

Down

Stand

Sit

 
If you examine the chart, you will see that your dog needs to know the following…

Change of Position

Suggested Command

@ Heel

@ 15 feet

@ 30 feet

Sit to Stand

Emphasize verbal

X

 

X

Sit to Down

Emphasize signal

X

 

X

Stand to Sit

Emphasize verbal

 

X

X

Stand to Down

Emphasize signal

 

X

 

Down to Stand

Emphasize verbal

 

X

 

Down to Sit

Emphasize signal

 

X

X


*For a detailed discussion on Reward Markers - Read:
Make Training Fun
Improve Attitude with Reward Markers 

Additionally - see the Webinar titled
Command Discrimination: Maintain the Momentum