ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Competition-Quality Sits

Just some miscellaneous ramblings from a competition obedience person...

As many folks have mentioned, there are two general types of sit:

Rock back sit - from a stand, rear end sinks to the ground while front legs "walk" back to meet rear. The movement/energy is down and back. While this can be a straight, tight sit, because of the direction of the motion, it can very easily go into a rolled over on one hip sit, or rolled back slouchy sit, or hind legs sticking out sit. This is the type of sit you get if you follow the "luring a sit" directions almost universally given (hold food right over dog's eyes and move back).

One of the main reasons this kind of sit is not desireable to handlers hoping to be competitive/score well is because the very precisely defined "heel position" the dog must remain in is measured from the *front* of the dog: the area from the head to shoulder of the dog should be in line with the handler's hip. In the heeling exercise, when the handler stops, the dog is supposed to sit. If the dog was in perfect heel position while walking, but then rocks backward into a sit when he stops, he is now out of position and will be scored.

Tuck sit - from a stand, the dog's front legs don't move and the rear legs are brought up to meet them. The movement/energy is up and forward. A dog sitting this way would be very unlikely to end up in a puppy/slouchy sit because the energy/weight is over the front legs. This keeps the dog in heel position, the dog is poised to move quickly into the next behavior, and besides, it just looks great!

I've found that the secret to luring a dog into a tuck sit is to think slightly up and forward with the lure, it's a "tall" sit, dog's neck very slightly stretched up and forward. I begin doing this with me facing the side of the dog - it's easiest to see and control what's going on. The type of luring that I would be doing here is a "food magnet" type of luring - the dog's mouth is almost in contact with the treat and I really have a lot of control of the dog's body because I am controlling the head. The dog would not be jumping up because the food is so close there's no need to jump and the dog would not be walking forward because my hand is only going forward a couple of inches. It is definitely a little harder to get the dog into a sit the first time this way as opposed to the move-the-lure-back way. You may well have to reward some approximations (head stretched up, or more importantly, any movement of the rear legs forward and tucking into a sit). I don't typically use a clicker here because I can release the treat directly into the dog's mouth and don't need a bridge, but a clicker would certainly work quite well.

Now here's where I go beyond what many people would need to do. Because I want a very precise tuck sit behavior, I lure this for a long time - not with the thought of teaching the dog to sit on cue, but just to pattern muscle memory through many repetitions. I don't particularly care if the dog even knows what he is doing - I just want his muscles to find out they can do this. And we're talking a *lot* of repetitions here. When my dog was easily popping into a tuck sit with the lure, I also did what Dawn Jecs refers to as "skip sits" (many other trainers do similar things). In this, you have several treats in your hand. You lure the dog into a sit, give a treat, and then quickly move your food lure a little down and forward (front legs of dog start to walk forward) and then back up and forward - the movement that will get the dog back into a tuck sit. Since you have moved only a tiny distance, the hind legs can just hop forward to get back into the sit. And that is what you really want with this sit - the front legs stop moving and the hind legs quickly hop/tuck up into a sit.

All of this so far was just about muscle memory. When my dog began *offering* perfect tuck sits on his own when goodies or clicker came out or when he wanted something, then I knew that I could start shaping the sit and putting it on cue, and I was pretty sure that the sit offered would be the right one. Side benefit: because I lure for a longish period of time, the luring hand motion by default becomes an effective signal cue.

So what did I do if I wanted a sit and I hadn't yet gotten the tuck sit on cue? I lured it. I ask for a sit and eye contact before meals, before going out the door, before many good things, but I always have a stash of treats around and I would just lure it when I really wanted a sit. As I did more repetitions, I would sometimes try the luring hand motion without the treat and the food bowl down/access to the back yard/etc would be the reward. And when he started *offering* a nice sit in these situations, I knew I was almost home free!

Probably more than you ever wanted to know...

Robin Nicholls
Southern California

copyright 1999 Robin Nicholls


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