Correcting During the Sit-Stay

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

In last month's article we explained how to introduce the remote trainer in the stationary exercises (sit, down or stand). We covered a procedure to teach the dog to sit on command to turn off low-level stimulation. Now we'll use the dog's understanding to correct moving during the long Sit.

The benefit of using a remote trainer for corrections in this exercise is very great. It gives you the ability to precisely time corrections, making it very clear to the dog exactly what his mistake was. Therefore, far fewer corrections are needed than with the traditional physical correction where the handler must walk back to the dog each time. Also, remote trainer corrections can be given while the handler is "out of sight" during the out of sight sits-and-downs. We can't emphasize enough how much easier it is for the dog to learn when corrections are timed precisely.

How to correct during the Sit-Stay

If the dog gets up or leaves. When the dog moves, immediately press the button as you say "sit." Release the button when he sits back down. By now he may have left the spot where he should be. But don't make a big deal of it--just take him back to where he should be, have him sit, and leave him again.

If he is so distracted that he doesn't sit at all, call him away from the distraction using low stimulation. Release the button when he turns toward you. Then take him back to where he should be.

Watch your dog! Remember, the remote trainer gives you precise timing, but only if you see the mistake happen and press the button the moment it occurs.

If the dog lies down. If you watch closely, you can usually tell that the dog is relaxing and is going to lie down before he actually does. When its clear that he's on the way down, but is still only part way there (preferably before the elbows are on the ground), immediately press the button (momentary is best). Say nothing. The stimulation may startle him into sitting right back up. If so, gently praise him. If not, go to him and sit him back up. Just remind him to "sit" and leave him again.

If he gets up and leaves in response to the correction, press the button as you say "Sit." Release the button as he sits down. Then go to him, take him back to where he should be, remind him with "Sit," and leave him again.

Note that dogs who haven't yet learned how to sit up from a down (which is used in Utility, and often not taught until then) may not figure out how to sit up after they have laid down during the sit-stay. So don't leave the stimulation on until the dog is back up--it's a problem he hasn't learned to solve. Pressing the button as he starts to lie down is usually enough for him to identify his mistake. He thought lying down would be more comfortable than sitting, but since it turned out to be less comfortable, he'll choose not to do it.

If he still lies down despite several correction sequences, increase the intensity level. Trying to lie down must be less comfortable for him than it is to remain sitting.

If the dog fidgets around. This error includes things like moving feet, rolling over onto one hip, inching forward, or sniffing the ground. Dogs often don't really understand that they're not supposed to fidget during the sit stay because of the inherent poor timing of the traditional walk-back-to-the-dog physical corrections. These corrections are so separated in time from the dog's motion that the puzzled dog never can identify why on earth his sit-stay has displeased you.

The fact that you're so often displeased with him during the sit-stay may subdue his attitude so much that he fidgets less, but that doesn't mean he understands the exerciseÉand his subdued attitude is apt to disappear once you arrive at the trial! The remote trainer makes it possible to communicate your expectations precisely and in a humane manner.

Because beginning dogs may not understand that fidgeting isn't part of "sit," and because of the importance of maintaining a good attitude in the competition obedience dog, it is best to "pre-train" the fidget correction. When you pre-train a correction before applying it in an exercise, you'll take the guesswork out of what will happen when you correct. The dog will know exactly why he was corrected and how to respond to the correction. He won't get up and move away from the spot, or get overly worried. The dog will be prepared for the correction even when his trainer is at a distance or out of sight.

To pre-train against fidgeting, stand close to the dog and then actually elicit the mistake, so you can apply low-level continuous stimulation the moment it occurs. This sequence lets the dog make the desired "connection" that even a minor move "turns on" the collar.

For example, you can leave a loop of leash around a front leg of the sitting dog, and tickle the leg with it until he moves a foot. Press the button as you repeat "sit. Praise him when you see him plant his foot more firmly to resist the leash pressure. (If he moves more than his foot, then he needs more practice resisting gentle pressure on his leash while sitting. This procedure is described in last month's article.)

For sniffing, try sprinkling cooked ground hamburger crumbs in the grass before you bring the dog up and leave him on a sit stay. The moment the nose touches the ground, press the button and repeat "sit." Praise him when you see him start to sniff then change his mind and raise his head back up.

Once you have introduced the correction to your dog, remember to watch him closely during the exercise, so your correction will be precisely timed. The moment you see a prohibited "minor move," press the low button the moment the dog moves. Say nothing--the dog "turned on" the collar by his own act. (If you miss your timing for a fidget, forget it, and vow to watch better next time.)

If he moves away in response to the correction, press the button as you command "sit" and hold it down until he is sitting again. If you need to, move forward to help him sit. But "pre-training" the correction for minor moves generally means the dog won't move away, since he understands how to avoid the correction.

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