Our New Year started with a two-hour workshop to discuss and practice the Command Discrimination exercise. It was a fun evening shared among 50 participants, a rally judge and five obedience judges.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the following points were clear:
- Our dogs only need to know 6 different changes of position.
Make a list of the position changes: Sit to Stand; Sit to Down; Stand to Sit; Stand to Down; Down to Sit; and Down to Stand. How many does your dog know? You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that he knows most of them already!
- We need to establish standards for how our dogs perform the positions.
For example, from a down to a sit, will you require your dog to push his front feet up into a sit, or allow him to scoot forward into a sit? From a sit to a stand, will you require him to step back into a stand or allow him to step forward into a stand?
- Each position change should be taught separately.
Our dogs will learn more quickly if we teach the changes of position one at a time. Work on one position change several times in a row. Then, "change subjects" and work on a different position change. Do not be in a hurry to add distance.
Add distance only when your dog can perform a position change consistently with you standing near him. When your dog becomes proficient with you standing nearby, gradually increase the distance you stand from him.
- Avoid practicing the Command Discrimination exercise until our dogs have mastered each individual position change.
This exercise will be easier to teach once your dog knows each position change. There is no reason to chain the position changes into a sequence during the learning phase.
- There is more than one technique for teaching the changes of positions.
Teaching a new exercise to a seasoned dog can be frustrating. Don’t be discouraged, you may find that what is written on the chalkboard of your dog’s mind becomes useful in new situations. There is more than one technique. Be patient and flexible; experiment with several techniques until you find the one that works best for your dog.
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