Distance in Down, turns

Prompt your dog to place squarely on the mat mark and reinforce. Proceed to prompt your dog to move into a down position, mark and reinforce. Straighten your legs and back, mark and bend over to reinforce. Stand straight turn 90 – 180 degrees to your right, mark and turn back to your dog to reinforce. Turn 90 – 180 degrees to your left, mark and turn back to your dog to reinforce. Stand straight turn 90 – 180 degrees to your right, mark and turn back to your dog to reinforce. Stand straight turn 90 – 180 degrees to your left, mark and turn back to your dog to reinforce. Give your dog a release cue and a single reward for moving out of position. Notice that your rate of reinforcement is naturally starting to slow down as we begin to add criteria. If your dog struggles with any element of this exercise, just go back to a more basic version of the same exercise, like a bungee step. If your dog is still popping out of position before a release cue you can even go back to a simple duration exercise that involves no movement for one or two sets to help your dog refocus and build confidence.

Work on half steps and 90 – 180 degree turns for at least one or two sessions a day for 3 days. If after that point, your dog is doing well you can begin to add more steps. You can proceed with the same pattern, but vary the number of steps – sometimes more, sometimes less. For example, you can do 4 steps and then do 1 step, then 2 steps and then do 6 steps. You will always walk to the farthest point, immediately mark your dog for holding position, and return to your dog to deliver reinforcement. There should be no pause, not yet. Meaning, don’t walk away from your dog and then wait for 5 seconds. We will discuss combining different elements of criteria as we progress in training, but at this stage it’s important that the distance be worked on in isolation. It’s ok to angle away from your dog, but make sure that you stay within their peripheral vision, don’t attempt to walk behind them. At least, not yet. It’s also important to remain in their line of sight, don’t walk into another room. Make sure that you are always returning to your dog to reinforce, and giving them a release cue when you are right by their side. Many people are tempted to walk away from their dog, and give them a release cue at a distance so that the dog runs to them for the reward. While this might seem like a great way to practice a place stay with distance and “come” in a single exercise – this will ultimately lead to a weak stay – doing this will lead to a dog that will frequently jump the gun and run to you before you’ve even given them the cue. If you want to train and maintain a strong stay – you need to reinforce in position and give them a release cue when you are standing next to them.

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