WEEK 1 - Orientation
WEEK 2 - Duration on Mat + Check-ins
WEEK 3 - Distraction on Mat + Movement and Mechanics
WEEK 4 - Distraction on Mat + Movement and Mechanics
WEEK 5: Hand Signals
WEEK 5.5: Verbal Cues
WEEK 6 & BEYOND: Training Set-ups
Stay, Hand Signal
The final hand signal is going to be the stay hand signal. This will be slightly different from the previous signals because we are simply pairing a behavior that is already established with this signal, and reinforcement so long as they hold position. Reward your dog once they place and then take 4 or 5 steps away and hold up your hand in a flat, vertical position. Drop a piece of food to your right hand side, pick up the piece of food, mark “good” and walk back to reinforce your dog with the piece of food you just dropped.
Now we’re going to move your dog into a down position using a hand signal and prompt. Be sure to reinforce your dog the very moment that they settle into a down position, before you stand up and proceed to present a similar pattern – this time with your dog in a down. Take four steps back, and hold up your hand in a flat, vertical position. Drop a piece of food to your right hand side, pick up the piece of food, mark “good” and walk back to reinforce your dog with the piece of food you just dropped. Give your dog 2 – 3 rewards followed by a release cue.
Troubleshooting: If you have dropped food on the ground and your dog gets up to go for it you are going to intercept their attempt to get the food by blocking them with your body. Pick up the leash and lead them back to the mat. If there is no food on the ground and your dog is popping out of position because they seem confused, and are following after you – you can simply pause for three seconds before repositioning them. If it was a one time fluke, proceed with the exercise. If it happens two or three times you are going to drop your criteria to help your regain focus and momentum in the training exercise. Hold off on using a stay hand signal and practice a simpler version of the same exercise. For example, pick up the leash and practice a food distraction exercise or work on taking 1-2 steps away. Always consider how environmental distractions could play into your dog’s behavior. For example, outside noises, a mail delivery, or a family member that’s just walked into the house or into the room in which you are training can all cause an unintended distraction. If you notice that an unintended distraction is influencing your dog’s focus in training you need to adjust your criteria accordingly, even if it means reverting back to duration exercises from week one of training.