When people consider how to teach a dog to stand, they usually envision the action of standing up. They focus on getting the dog up on their feet from a sit or a down. But that’s the hard way to start, especially since by the time most people get to training stand, they have reinforced the dog a billion times for sitting or lying down. But most dogs also stand, right? Unless a dog is very old or has a physical problem, she probably stands frequently. We don’t have to start by reinforcing the transition from sitting to standing. We can start by giving her treats while she is already standing! It’s a great way to jump-start a nice stand on cue.
But if you want to see how well it can work for a much less experienced person, check out my video below.
Methods for Training Stand
The positive reinforcement-based method one sees most often in “how-to” videos about stand is easy but has a real problem. It’s a luring method. It consists of holding a treat in front of a sitting dog’s nose and pulling it forward until the dog stands up and takes a step or two to catch up with the treat.
Most dogs will do this, but the problem is that you are teaching the dog to walk forward, not to stay in position and stand. This is extremely undesirable if you are teaching competition behaviors. Even if you are just teaching it for fun, or teaching it as part of a physical rehab program, like I am, having the dog move forward every time can be a nuisance. Another problem that comes along is that you can easily reward motion, so that’s what you get. It’s often not clear to the dog when to stop moving. You get “the creep.”
What obedience people like, and so do I, is the so-called kickback stand. Kickback means the front feet stay put and the rear feet kind of snap out and into position. It’s very cool and snappy looking. See more on that below.
The kickback stand can be started by luring, but it’s a little tricky. Sue Ailsby describes the process, and it consists of moving the treat backward along the dog’s jawline until she can’t reach it without standing up. You can read about it in the old Training Levels online. It’s about 3/4 of the way down this page: Training Level TWO.
Agility great Susan Garrett teaches a stand with hand targeting, and it’s quite fun. It’s a little more active than some people might want, though: Train Your Dog to Stand On Cue!
You can also shape a stand, or capture one. I love capturing behavior, and it turns out that it’s easy to capture a stand, as long as you capture the right thing. Just capture “standing around” first, not “standing up.” That’s what my video covers.
Check out the sequential stills of Clara’s “kickback” stand in progress and see that her two front feet stay planted, and her head stays very close to the same position. Can you tell that luring her head forward would not have gotten the same behavior?
Capturing a Stand
So here’s how I did it. The video includes my very first session. I had never taught this to Clara before.
Catch your dog standing still. Start to rapid-fire treats into her mouth. You can click or not. I used a mouth click. If the dog moves any foot out of position, stop. As soon as she stands still again, start up the rapid-fire.
I did two short sessions of this over two days, heavily reinforcing Clara for standing still. Immediately following the second session, I stopped treating and waited. You can also see this in the video. Since stand had stopped paying off, she offered a sit. Still I waited, just looking at her. “What, no treat for sitting?” asked Clara. “I guess I’ll try the thing I recently got 50 treats for.” And she stood up. Rapid-fire treats recommenced.
So that’s how we started getting the action of standing up, after Clara had already gotten lots of reinforcement for duration standing.
If your dog is less accustomed to taking the initiative in training sessions and offering behavior, this process may not go so quickly. But as my teacher says, dogs notice exactly where they were and what they were doing when they got a treat. If you treat your dog enough in a standing position, then move her out of that position, she’ll eventually move into it again.
After we did this a few times, I started cueing Clara to sit and gave her one little treat when she did. That made it clear to her that that was the starting position and made it easy for us to alternate back and forth between sit and stand. Then when she stood up, I gave her multiple treats.
The way I got the kickback stand was to have her standing right in front of me. She had nowhere to go but backward. If Clara weren’t comfortable being that close to me, I would have chosen another way. For instance, I could have used a front foot target, as Marge Rogers does in this video. (She’s teaching sit, but it’s the same concept: keep the front feet locked down.)
Finally, after Clara had several days of practice, I cued her to lie down instead of sit, then waited. (This part is not shown on the video.) She moved into a sit. No treat, and I cued her to lie down again. A couple of these, and she figured I wanted her to move into a stand from lying down, without an intermediate sit. Also not shown in the video is generalizing the stand to different positions, such as when she’s at my side.
Note: A kickback stand is a physical skill. It can take a while, especially for dogs who lack rear end strength or awareness. Their first attempts are not likely to be pretty. My dogs worked it out over time without any additional intervention from me (I taught Zani a kickback stand as well). It may be different for your dogs, and you may need some advice from a trainer. My focus in this video and blog is to show you how to get started by reinforcing a dog for standing still. Where you go with it is up to you!
My purpose in teaching Clara to stand on cue is that we are working on some rear end strengthening rehab work (under the supervision of a qualified vet) in the wake of her bout with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Standing repeatedly from a sit or down is one of those exercises, and so is a duration stand while I manipulate her legs. I have recorded all her exercise sessions and hope to put them together into a blog in the future.
In the meantime, I hope this method of Sue Ailsby’s is fun and helpful for some other folks.
Copyright Eileen Anderson 2015