The Companion Dog Excellent Title

Love Dog

In This Chapter

  • The Heel Free and Figure 8 exercises
  • The Drop on Recall exercise
  • The Retrieve on the Flat exercise
  • The Retrieve Over the High Jump exercise
  • The Broad Jump exercise
  • Out-of-Sight Stay exercises

After you obtain your Companion Dog title from the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Novice class, you’re eligible to enter the AKC’s Open class and compete for the Companion Dog Excellent title. The Novice class is tailor-made for the dog highest in pack behaviors, but the Open class is for the dog that also has many prey behaviors.

This chapter gets you up to speed on what’s required in the Open class and what the point system is, and it provides the details for how to achieve your goal.

The Open Class: What’s Expected from You and Buddy

The Open class consists of seven exercises, each with a specific point value (see Table 16-1). For a qualifying score, you and Buddy have to earn more than 50 percent of the available points for each exercise and a final score of at least 170 out of a possible 200. This class is ideal for the dog high in pack and prey behaviors.

Some Open class exercise trivia

The first obedience trials held under the auspices of the American Kennel Club (AKC) took place in 1936. The classes were the same as today, but the requirements varied somewhat. For example, the Open class included a Speak on Command exercise. But contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are instinctive barkers, and the exercise was subsequently eliminated.
The first obedience test was held in 1933 and consisted of what are now the Open class exercises. For the Retrieve on the Flat, the dumbbell weighed 2 pounds. The Retrieve Over High Jump was a 3-foot-6-inch obstacle, and the dumbbell weighed 8 to 10 ounces. The Broad Jump was 6 feet wide.

Table 16-1                                      The Open Class


Required Exercises
Available Points
Behavior/Drive
Exercise 1: Heel Free and Figure 8
40
Pack
Exercise 2: Drop on Recall
30
Pack
Exercise 3: Retrieve on the Flat
20
Prey
Exercise 4: Retrieve Over the High Jump
30
Prey
Exercise 5: Broad Jump
20
Prey
Exercise 6: Long Sit
30
Pack
Exercise 7: Long Down
30
Pack
Maximum Total Score
200
All the exercises for the Open class are done off leash, and the group exercises (the Long Sit and Long Down) are performed with the owners out of sight of the dogs for three and five minutes, respectively. For your dog, the Open class is the most exciting of the classes.
Note that some of the exercises require equipment. You can either buy the equipment or make it yourself. The specifications are contained in the AKC’s Obedience Regulations, which you can get by contacting the AKC at 5580 Centerview Drive, Suite 200, Raleigh, NC 27606-3390 (919-233-9767; www.akc.org).

The Heel Free and Figure 8

You’ve no doubt discovered that heeling isn’t as simple as it looks. You certainly need to keep practicing on a regular basis. Here’s some food for thought: Heeling is the only exercise that you and your dog do as a team; all the other exercises the dog does on his own. But many handlers have a hard time with heeling.
You and your dog do the Heel Free exactly the same way as it’s done in the Novice class and the only difference is the Figure 8, which is now done off leash (see Chapter The Companion Dog Title).

The Drop on Recall

The Drop on Recall uses a combination of the “Come” and “Down” commands. As your dog is coming to you, you tell him to lie down, and then you call him again. The exercise starts as a recall, but after you’ve called your dog, the judge indicates for you to give the “Down” command or signal and then for you to call again. The command sequence goes like this: “Buddy, come,” “Down,” “Buddy, come.” The dog has to remain in the Down position until called. The Front and Finish are also part of the exercise.
Being that Buddy’s competing in the Open class, by now he certainly knows the “Down” and “Come” commands. The only really new concept he has to learn is to stop immediately when the command is given.

Getting Buddy to obey Down on command

Your Sequence 1 goal is to teach Buddy to obey Down on command.
You need to test Buddy’s understanding of the command.
1. With Buddy sitting at Heel and without giving him any visual cues, such as pointing to the ground, bobbing your head, leaning over, or bending your knees, quietly say “Down.”

If he lies down, praise, count to five, and release.

2. If Buddy doesn’t respond to the command, or his response is unacceptable (not prompt enough, for example), slowly slide your left hand down the leash all the way to the snap and check straight down.

Keep your elbow locked and your arm at your side. Avoid checking across your body because that teaches Buddy to curl in front of you.

3. Stand up, count to five, praise, and release.
4. Repeat until your dog lies down on command at your side.

This is the review progression for this exercise. 

Use the following tips and tidbits to help:

– Many of you are blissfully unaware of your own body motions, and you may not be aware of the visual cues you’re giving your dog. Always make sure that you aren’t inadvertently moving some part of your body — even as much as a finger — and that you’re facing straight forward. Note that because visual cues are so important to success in training, it helps to have someone else watch you and then tell you what you’re doing. Better yet, occasionally videotape each other. Or stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself.

– The purpose of counting to five after a given response is so the dog focuses on what it is you want and doesn’t immediately start doing something else.

– When you’re trying to decide what’s an unacceptable response, keep in mind that your dog’s size and structure determine how he performs the Down exercise. Some dogs are structurally unable to lie down without first going into the sitting position. So long as they stop any forward progress when the command is given, your dog won’t be penalized for first assuming the sitting position and then lying down.

Getting Buddy to Down while he’s walking

Sequence 2’s goal? Get Buddy to respond to the “Down” command while he’s in motion. Buddy has to learn to respond promptly to the “Down” command even when he’s moving.
1. With Buddy sitting at Heel, say “Let’s go” and start to walk.

Don’t use the “Heel” command because this isn’t a heeling exercise.

2. After several steps, say “Down” as you come to a halt and not after you have stopped.

If you aren’t careful about the timing of the command, Buddy may confuse the “Down” command with the Automatic Sit.

3. Praise if he does it, count to five, and then release straight forward.

The release here is the beginning of teaching Buddy to move briskly forward from the Down position.

4. If he doesn’t drop, slowly slide your left hand down the leash to the snap and check straight down.
5. Praise, count to five, and release.

Getting Buddy to Down while you’re still walking

Sequence 3’s goal is to get Buddy to go down at your side from motion, while both of you are in motion and while you continue walking. Note: Before you try Sequence 3, review Sequences 1 and 2 in the preceding two sections.
1. Say “Let’s go” and start walking.
2. After walking several steps, say “Down” and continue walking to the end of the leash.
3. Turn to face Buddy, praise, count to five, and release backward.

When you release him, remember that you’re teaching him to come briskly to you after you’ve dropped him. (See Chapter The Companion Dog Title for info about releasing backward.)

4. If Buddy doesn’t drop, start again.
5. As you give the command, slowly slide your left hand down the leash to the snap and check straight down.
6. Go to the end of the leash, turn, praise, pause, and release.

When he responds reliably, go on to the next progression.

Getting Buddy to Down while he’s running

Sequence 4’s goal is to get Buddy to obey the “Down” command while he’s moving fast — and while you continue moving.
Before you try Sequence 4, review Sequences 1 and 3. Then visualize how your dog comes to you on a recall. It’s at that speed that he has to drop on command and without any unnecessary steps. Although you may not be able to run as quickly as he can, teach him to drop from a fast pace as you continue to the end of the leash.

Getting Buddy to stop and drop when coming toward you: The on-leash method

Sequence 5’s goal is to teach Buddy to stop and drop from in front. The leash is on for this exercise. When Buddy has mastered the drop from a fast pace, you’re ready to try the exercise with him coming toward you.
1. Leave him in a Sit-Stay position and go to the end of the leash — facing him.
2. Call with “Buddy, come.”
3. As he comes to you, take a step toward him on your right foot, keeping the left foot in place, and simultaneously signal by bringing your right arm straight up, and say “Down.”

Keep the upper part of your body straight. Stepping toward Buddy will cause him to stop his forward progress. You can use either arm to signal Buddy.

4. After he has dropped, bring your right foot back, lower your arm, praise, count to five, and release.

Use the release backward to teach him to come again quickly and enthusiastically after you’ve dropped him.

If Buddy doesn’t drop, review Sequence 1 with a check and Sequence 4; then try it again.

Warning!

After Buddy is coming toward you, don’t check him into a Down position or do anything else that he may perceive as unpleasant — it will slow down his recall. What’s important here is your dog’s view of what is unpleasant — not your view. If he doesn’t drop, or the drop is unacceptable, review Sequences 1 through 3.

Getting Buddy to stop and drop when coming toward you: The off-leash method

Sequence 6’s goal is to teach Buddy to stop and drop from in front — off leash.
Go through Sequence 5, only do it off leash. You may want to review Sequence 1 with a little check before you try this exercise. As Buddy responds, gradually increase the distance between you and him.
Maintain the step-command-signal sequence until he’s reliable. After that, first eliminate the step and then decide whether you prefer voice or signal. You’ll probably want him to respond to either.

Getting Buddy to ignore distractions

Sequence 7’s goal is to teach Buddy to ignore distractions.
Begin by having a distracter crouch about two feet from Buddy’s line of travel and where you intend to drop him. Call and give him the command or signal to drop.
He may do one of several things:
  • Anticipate the drop — that is, slow down or drop before you have given the command or signal
  • Drop after he’s gone past the distracter
  • Not drop at all
  • Avoid the distracter by arcing away from him or her
  • Not respond to the “Come” command
  • Actually do it correctly (not likely the first time you try this exercise)

Tip

Avoid having Buddy anticipate the drop by randomly alternating between Straight Recalls and Drop On Recalls.

Here’s what you do if Buddy does one of those preceding things:

If Buddy anticipates the drop: You need to show him exactly what you want him to do, that is, keep coming to you until you tell him to down. You show him as follows: Slowly go to him without saying anything, put the leash on the dead ring of the collar, and with a little tension on the collar, guide him to the spot where you were when you called him. (You go backward, Buddy goes forward.) Have Buddy sit in front, and then praise and release him backward. No extra command is given. Alternate on a random basis between Straight Recalls and Drop On Recalls to avoid anticipation.

If Buddy drops past the distracter or doesn’t drop at all: Slowly approach him without saying anything. Put two fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, through the collar, back to front, at the side of his neck. Take him to the spot where he should have dropped and reinforce the command from in front. Don’t repeat the command. Praise your dog, count to five, and enthusiastically release backward.

What Buddy is telling you is that he lacks the confidence to drop near the distracter. Your job is to show him that he can do it. His confidence will increase with each successive correct repetition.

If Buddy arcs away from the distracter or doesn’t respond to the “Come” command: Use two distracters, facing each other about eight feet apart, and teach Buddy to drop between the distracters.

Note that Buddy may also start to anticipate the Come from the Down. If he does, slowly approach your dog without saying anything. Then put two fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, through the collar, back to front, at the side of his neck, and take him back to the spot where he should have stayed and reinforce the Down from in front. Don’t repeat the command. Praise, count to five, and enthusiastically release backward.
As Buddy gains confidence and responds correctly, work your way through the different levels of distractions. Being that you’re competing in the Open class, you’ve already trained him to ignore these distractions for the Novice recall, so it won’t take him very long to figure out what you want.

Tip

At some point, you have to decide whether to use a signal or a command to drop your dog because you can’t use both. Experiment with Buddy to decide whether you need to use a signal or a command when in the ring. Buddy’s Personality Profile can help you with your decision (see Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind). If he’s weak in defense (fight) behaviors, you’ll be better off using the command rather than the signal. If he’s high in prey behaviors, you’ll be more successful with a signal.

The Retrieve on Flat

For this exercise, the judge tells you to throw the dumbbell and then send your dog, who’s expected to retrieve the dumbbell, present to front, give up the dumbbell on command, and then finish on command. Your command sequence is “Stay,” “Take it,” “Give,” and “Buddy, heel.” Buddy must do all the other parts of this exercise on his own.

Remember

Anytime you change the content or the complexity of an exercise, it becomes a new exercise for the dog, and you have to go back to the teaching progressions. If your dog was bred to do it, he should learn quickly. If he wasn’t bred to do it, it’ll take longer.

We cover the details of the “Retrieve” command in Chapter Retrieving. Note: Many dogs retrieve without being formally taught, and this kind of retrieving is called a play retrieve. If you’ve done distraction training, your dog will have shown you whether you can rely on his cooperation. Ask yourself, “Is he retrieving for me or for himself?” For greater reliability, teach him to retrieve for you.

You also may need to review the teaching progressions for the Front while your dog is holding the dumbbell. For your dog, a Front with the dumbbell isn’t the same exercise as a Front without a dumbbell. It becomes a new exercise. You need to review the Front progressions in Chapter The Companion Dog Title with Buddy carrying the dumbbell in his mouth.
How quickly Buddy will generalize the Front while carrying the dumbbell depends on the extent to which the exercise is in harmony with his instincts. Retrievers, for example, do it almost automatically, but other breeds may need a few repetitions.

The Retrieve Over the High Jump

The principal features of this exercise are that your dog jumps over the jump, picks up the dumbbell, and promptly returns with it over the jump. The judge’s commands are “Throw the dumbbell,” “Send your dog,” “Take it,” and “Finish.” Your commands to Buddy are “Stay,” “Jump,” “Give,” and “Buddy, heel.”
For this exercise, we introduce target training. As the name implies, you teach the dog to go to a target. After your dog has learned that, you can then place a jump or other obstacle between your dog and the target. In order to get to the target, the dog has to jump the obstacle. Target training gives the appearance of being a game. Yet it’s a highly effective way of teaching your dog a variety of complex exercises.

Target training

The principle is simple, and so is the execution. Place a target on the ground three feet in front of you and Buddy. We use the tops of 2-pound cottage cheese containers as targets. Put a treat on the target (see Figure 16-1) and send Buddy to the target.

Tip

Make the exercise fun and exciting for your dog by using several targets, with the objective that he goes where you tell him.

Figure 16-1: Placing the treat on the target.
The progressions are as follows:

Progression 1: Get your dog’s attention on the treat, go to the target, say “Out,” place the treat on the target, and let your dog pick up the treat. Repeat three times.

Progression 2: Start three feet from the target, say “Stay,” place the treat on the target, go back to your dog, and say “Out” as you motion with your left arm and hand in the direction of the target. Praise him when he gets there and call him back to you. Repeat three times.

Progression 3: Over the course of several sessions, increase the distance from the target to 50 feet in increments of 2 feet.

Progression 4: Have a helper place a treat and then send your dog.

This is an exciting exercise for your dog, especially if he’s high in prey behaviors. How many repetitions your dog will perform depends on his Personality Profile and the number of prey behaviors he has (see Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind).

Tip

Anytime you work with treats, make sure that your dog is hungry. Depending on the number of his prey behaviors, you may need to use something special, such as homemade liver treats. Experiment to find out what works best to keep your dog interested.

The sequences for teaching the Retrieve Over the High Jump

Most dogs have to jump an obstacle equal to the dog’s height at the withers. A short definition of withers is the highest part of the dog behind the neck, where the shoulder blades meet. Some breeds have to jump only three-fourths of their height at the withers. The AKC Obedience Regulations specify which breeds jump three-fourths of their height and which ones jump once their height.
Not all dogs are natural jumpers and jumping is an athletic activity, no matter the breed. Like any other athletic activity, it requires conditioning. Just because Buddy jumps on the furniture doesn’t mean he’ll automatically jump over the High Jump. You have to teach him and, for his safety, teach him correctly as we explain in the following sequences.

Getting Buddy used to the jump

Your Sequence 1 goal is to get Buddy accustomed to the jump:
1. Put your leash on the dead ring of Buddy’s training collar and walk him up to the jump, which is set at teaching height (the dog’s height at the elbows).
2. Touch the top board with your left hand and let him examine the jump.
3. Step over the jump and encourage him to follow.

You can use a treat to get him to go over. The command is “Buddy, jump.”

4. Repeat until he goes over the jump without hesitation.

Teaching Buddy to jump on his own

Sequence 2’s goal is to teach your dog to jump on his own:
1. Sit Buddy three feet from the center of the jump.
2. Tell him to “Stay,” step over the jump, and put his target three feet from the jump.
3. Facing your dog, place a treat on the target, stand up, and call him over the jump with “Buddy, jump.”

4. Repeat until Buddy is comfortable going over the jump — five to ten times per session.

Remember

Jumping repetitions aren’t necessarily only to teach Buddy the exercise but also to condition him physically. You need to look at any jumping exercise as an athletic endeavor on the part of your dog, which requires the same kind of conditioning that applies to human athletic endeavors.

Getting Buddy to jump by himself — and from different angles

The goal of Sequence 3 is to get your dog to jump by himself and from different angles:
1. Leave Buddy ten feet from the jump and go to the other side by stepping over the jump.
2. Focus his attention on the center of the top board, take three steps backward, pause, and say “Buddy, jump.”

Don’t tap the top board as you say “Jump” because it teaches your dog to jump on a visual cue rather than on the command.

After you see that he has committed himself to jump, back up to give him enough room to land.

3. Praise as he lands and release backward, giving him a treat.
Few people can throw the dumbbell so that it always lands in the right spot, and some people never get it there. So you may as well teach your dog to jump from different angles. Leave Buddy facing the right upright of the jump, ten feet away. Go to the other side by stepping over the jump, focus his attention on the center of the top board, take three steps backward, pause, and say “Buddy, jump.” Repeat the exercise by having Buddy face the left upright.

Getting Buddy to jump while holding the dumbbell

Sequence 4’s goal is to get your dog to jump while holding the dumbbell:
Have Buddy hold the dumbbell and follow the progressions in Sequence 3. Here, you’re teaching the Return Over the Jump part of the exercise.

Teaching Buddy the Motivational Retrieve

Sequence 5’s goal is to teach your dog the Motivational Retrieve.
1. With Buddy at heel, put two fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, through your dog’s collar at the side of his neck, back to front.
2. Hold the dumbbell in your right hand and get him excited about retrieving the dumbbell.
3. From ten feet, say “Buddy, jump” and briskly approach the jump.

4. Two feet before you get to the jump, throw the dumbbell and let go of your dog.

5. Continue to approach the jump and, as he picks up the dumbbell and turns around to look at you, focus his attention on the center of the jump.

As he commits himself to jump, back up to give him enough room to land.

6. Praise, take the dumbbell, and release.
7. Repeat until your dog jumps, retrieves, and returns reliably.
Also practice this sequence with “bad” throws so your dog learns to come back over the jump from different angles. Picture a 45-degree line going away from you from each upright and condition Buddy to return over the jump from anywhere within that area.

Getting Buddy to wait

The Sequence 6 goal is to teach Buddy to wait:
1. Position yourself facing the center of the jump, at least eight feet from the jump, and tell Buddy “Stay.”
2. Put two fingers of your left hand through his collar and throw the dumbbell.
3. Very gingerly let go of the collar, count to five, and say “Buddy, jump.”
4. After he jumps, quietly follow him, and after he picks up and turns to face you, focus his attention on the center of the jump.
5. As he commits himself to return, back up so he has enough room to land, take the dumbbell, and release.
6. Repeat until he stays without two fingers in the collar and returns without any help from you, and throw the dumbbell at least eight feet beyond the jump.
Remember

For the Retrieve Over High Jump, you’re required to stand at least eight feet from the jump and throw the dumbbell at least eight feet beyond the jump. And be sure to practice some “bad” throws, too (see Sequence 5).

Raising the jump

Sequence 7’s goal is to raise the jump:
Begin raising the jump in two- or four-inch increments, depending on the size of your dog. If the height of the jump becomes an issue, condition your dog at a lower height.

How high is high enough?

How high your dog has to jump depends on his breed. Some breeds jump once their height at the withers and some three-fourths their height. The AKC Obedience Regulations specify the height each breed has to jump. The jump height is set at the nearest multiple of two inches. For example, Landseer Newfoundlands have to jump three-fourths of their height at the withers. Or a 271⁄2-inch-tall dog has to jump 20 inches.

Remember

Difficulties with jumping are never disciplinary in nature — your dog is trying to tell you something. Your dog’s structure may be such that he’s unable to do what you ask, or he may experience pain for any number of reasons.

Getting Buddy to ignore distractions

The goal of Sequence 8 is to teach Buddy to ignore distractions:
Follow the distraction training progressions in Chapter Retrieving. In addition, have a distracter stand close to an upright while the dog is jumping and, after he’s successful, have the distracter try to get your dog to go around the jump on the return by talking to him or enticing him with food. Your helper doesn’t, of course, use the dog’s name.
Anytime your dog goes around the jump on the return, slowly approach him and put two fingers of your left hand (palm facing you) through the collar at the side of his neck, back to front. Take him back to where he picked up the dumbbell, say “Stay” (he can Stand, Sit, or Lie Down), go over the jump yourself to the other side, focus his attention on the top board, step back, and tell him “Jump.” Praise as he lands and then release. Then try it again.
Buddy may also try to go around the jump on the way out. If so, slowly approach him. If he has already picked up the dumbbell, take it out of his mouth and put it back where he picked it up. Now return with Buddy to the starting point and send him again.

Warning!

Don’t say “No” under any circumstance or do anything else that may discourage your dog. You want to put Buddy in a position where he can figure out for himself the desired response. Instead of doing anything that might discourage him, you want to help him by literally showing him exactly what to do, which may include physical guidance. The hardest part for you will be to keep your mouth shut and remain patient.

Remember

You know how many repetitions it takes for your dog to learn, so don’t get impatient. You want him to keep on trying until he has figured it out, which is called the “Aha” response. Translated, it means “Aha! Now I know what you want.” It’s a powerful response because the dog has figured it out by himself, albeit with your help, instead of being told what to do. As a result, he responds with great reliability and enthusiasm.

The Broad Jump

For the Broad Jump, your dog is required to jump a distance equal to twice the height of the High Jump. Depending on the distance, it can be two, three, or four boards. It starts with you lining your dog up in front of and at least eight feet from the jump. The judge then says, “Leave your dog.” You say “Stay” and go to a position facing the right side of the jump, with your toes about two feet from the jump, anywhere between the first and last board.
The judge then says, “Send your dog.” You say “Buddy, over.” As your dog jumps, you execute a right-angle turn in place. The dog must sit and finish as in the Novice class’s Recall (see Chapter The Companion Dog Title).

Getting Buddy used to the jump

Sequence 1’s goal is to get your dog used to the jump:
1. Set up the jump at twice the height of your dog at the elbows.

With a small dog, this means only one board.

2. Put a target eight feet from the center of the jump.
3. Walk Buddy up to the jump and let him examine it.
4. Position yourself and your dog eight feet from the center of the jump.
5. Show him a treat and use it to lure him over the jump with the command “Over.”

At this point, it doesn’t matter how he gets to the other side, just so he goes from one side to the other.

6. Place the treat on the target and let him have it.
7. Praise and release.

8. Repeat this sequence several times.

Getting Buddy to jump on command

Sequence 2’s goal is to teach Buddy to jump on command:
1. Put your dog in a Sit-Stay eight feet from the center of the jump.
2. Walk over the jump and place a treat on the target.
3. Face your dog and attract his attention to the treat by tapping the target.
4. Call him over the jump with “Buddy, over.”
5. Repeat until he jumps without hesitation on your command.

Getting Buddy to make the turn

The goal of Sequence 3 is to teach your dog to make the turn:
1. Start as in Sequence 2, but now stand at a right angle to the jump one step away from the target and call your dog over the jump.
2. As you give the command, take a step with your right foot toward the target and with your right arm point to it.
3. When Buddy picks up the treat, bring your right foot back, praise, and release.
4. When Buddy responds reliably, take two steps backward from the target, and then three, and so on, until you can send him over the jump with you standing about five feet from the target.

Remember

Whenever you leave him, you’re still stepping over the jump.

5. Now that you can send him over the jump with you standing about five feet from the target, begin moving in the direction where you’ll ultimately stand when you send him over the jump.
6. Stand about five feet from the target, take one step to your right, and then send Buddy over the jump.

Remember, the Step and Point toward the target.

7. As soon as he picks up the treat, call him with “Come,” turn to face him, and have him sit in front.
8. Set up again.
9. Take another step to right, send him over the jump, and so on.

10. Repeat this sequence, one step to the right at a time, until you’re standing facing the board(s), with your toes about two feet from the jump.

11. Finally, with target and treat in place, go directly to your position facing the right side of the jump, with your toes about two feet from the jump, anywhere between the first and last board, and send him over the jump.

Keep using the Step and Point for the first few repetitions. When Buddy jumps reliably, stand still when you send him. For the final product, you can use either the command “Buddy, over,” or give a signal with either your right or left arm. 

As Buddy becomes proficient with this exercise, eliminate the “Come” command and introduce the Finish. For most of your repetitions, you want him to sit in front. For the Finish, you want to keep him guessing, so do it infrequently. When you don’t want him to finish, release him backwards.

Tip

Dogs learn very quickly what the end product is supposed to look like, and they begin taking shortcuts. For example, to get to you more quickly, Buddy may start to jump at an angle in your direction. You can prevent this from happening by keeping the target and treat in place for most of your practices.

Getting Buddy to ignore distractions

Sequence 4’s goal is to work on Buddy to ignore distractions:
Practice with a distracter about two feet from the target and work your way through first, second, and third degree distractions. Remember to stop the session after the first correct response. That’s the one you want Buddy to remember. Resist the temptation to do the exercise just one more time. Your dog just may become creative, in which case you may be there for a long time until you get another correct response.

Out-of-Sight Stays

The last two exercises in the Open class are the three-minute Sit-Stay and the five-minute Down-Stay. Any of the Stay exercises are boring to practice, but are nerve-racking when you’re in competition. So you do need to practice them and under various conditions, including in the rain.
As an introduction to Out-of-Sight Stays, follow these steps:
1. Leave Buddy in a Sit-Stay and go six feet in front of him.
2. Pause for ten seconds, walk past him, and stand six feet behind him with your back to him.

3. Practice with distractions and have your helper tell you when Buddy moves and you have to reinforce the Stay.

At this stage, that scenario will be highly unlikely. When you’re ready to go out of sight, gradually increase the length of time you leave Buddy.

4. Begin with ten seconds and, over the course of several sessions work up to the three minutes for the Sit-Stay and five minutes for the Down-Stay.

If you experience difficulties, such as if Buddy’s breaking the stays, shorten your time and rebuild the exercise. Nine out of ten times, the problem is your dog’s lack of confidence, and that’s what you need to work on.

by Jack and Wendy Volhard

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