Fitness Foundation Course

Lesson 3: All Things Standing

November 2018

– introduction

We are going to work on Good Standing and look in detail at the aspects of what makes a “good stand”.

For humans we wrap this in the term good posture, and if you are sitting at the computer, I hope the words “good posture” have just made you sit up straight? This usually means an awareness of using your back muscle to pull the shoulders blades down, moving your shoulders backwards and holding that position. Our Good Stand is best achieved with feet apart the width of your shoulders. If you really want to go for the good-feel, then fists-hands on your hips bones a la “super hero”…. and hold for 5 minutes!

This poise is no accident. The opening of the central core, the engagement of maintaining muscles, enable the body to find its best form. The feeling that comes from standing “in best form” should be pleasurable, and this encourages our bodies to find “best form”, more often.

Just because a dog can stand still does not mean they are “stand fit”. Many dogs that enjoy running across the fields are not “trot fit”. This specific type of fitness will need to be learned and have physical conditioning. 

We are going to do the teach the dogs what a Good Stand feels like then teach them to learn how to find it.

Seeing a Good Stand

To be able to recognise a good stand there are certain points we want to be able to tick off the check list. This good stand is not necessarily the same as a show stand which is trying to emphasise the best points in your dog and perhaps cover other points. This is a craft on its own.

What is a good stand is individual to each dog.

The structures relate to the functionality we have selected for the different breeds. I know some of you have mixed breeds, as is Feebee, and their structures can be  ….. different, and occasionally put the dog into conflict. But this is just as likely to happen with pedigree dogs as well. We have all adapted to learn to function with what we have, so do the dogs. Our job is to teach them to function as best they can.

Firstly what is happening at the front end. This video is to show you how different the structures are. Even in the show ring only the same breeds are compared to each other, when they are compared to other breeds they are compared against the description/standard for that breed.  

Seeing a Good Stand

Dog holidng stand positiong with lines of balance
Dog holidng stand positiong with lines of balance
Dog holidng stand positiong with lines of balance

You can draw your own lines on Time, we would like the toes of the back feet  being under the base of the tail.

The Top Line

Dog holding stand positiong showing top line
Dog holding stand positiong showing top line
Dog holding stand positiong showing top line

For the top line we are looking for a smooth line without dips and humps.

Check list

Dog holdingcheck list of balance points

Level topline: Starting from a horizontal muzzle and top of skull, this should be smooth and even into a relaxed tail.

Elbows under the shoulder

Back feet wider than front feet and back toes under the base of the tail.


To be able to develop an eye for a balanced dog, take snaps shots when your dog is standing and then study it and draw the lines.

Do you think another dog can recognise a dog that is standing as a super hero? Would this be important?

Putting the dog in a Good Stand

We will be doing a lot of handling the dogs for the exercises and using your hands well is an important element.

I like my hands to give information as well are receive it. When hands are in contact with the dog you can feel the muscles beginning to function and which muscles are responding and their texture, or fitness.

Dogs find their balance best when walking forwards into a standing position (use can use a lure) rather than pushing their rear feet out backwards. If they have sat, then walk them forwards out of the stand. The natural form of coming to a relaxed and balance stop will be the back feet stopping first, then the front feet adjust to find their balance. Remember to balance the rear first, then the front.

We shall be using hand-language to cue the dog to respond. You can develop your own language but you need to be able to communicate:

This part of your body
Move this part now
Do not move this part

I like to slide my hands towards the “this” goal – such as a front leg, and when my hand has arrived it changes. A flat hand indicates a move, and a “spider-hand (just the finger tips) indicates a don’t move.

Most of our hand contact has indicated a move away signal, so teach the dog to hold position may be new for some dogs.

You will see in the video I work with the dogs on a table, but you can sit on the floor. I use a tongue-click to mark the desired responses, which allows both hands to be clicker-free, and I always collect the food and feed in position. This is conditioned to the tongue-click. You may need to teach this first.

Helen compiled a video of handling and the exercises. This Lesson we shall only work in the stand, so you need not go beyond 9 mins when we move onto the sit.

Firstly build your hand-language vocabulary. Learn to place each leg where you would like it, teach the dog to maintain that position, and stand back to take a view of the key points.


When placing the feet to the ideal balance spots, you should adjust them from the higher part of the limbs not the lower. The front leg should be moved from the upper arm, the rear leg from the thigh.

Feel for resistance and re-adjustment and listen to the dog’s body. We are not looking for perfect positioning yet, but we are looking to learn how to position and where to position.

Key Exercises

There are three key exercises to developing the fitness in this position:

1. Balance

We are going to ask the dog to balance on three legs. You will lift each leg individually as shown in the video, seeking a relaxed leg that is not weight bearing on your hand.

Initially the balance is held for 5 seconds, building to 20 seconds (and do not be tempted to trim nails in this exercise …. RELAXED!) If this exercise is progressing well you can develop the two-leg balance on the diagonal.
Over the next few weeks you will feel the dogs able to read your hands in preparation for this move and an increase in their ability to hold the position for longer. I think you should also be doing the work on yourself as well!


Each leg will need a stretch from their upper limb, upper arm and thigh, and the direction of the stretch is always towards the centreline of the body. I am sure you have seen the dogs stretch when first getting up? This is the action we are trying to mimic, but with the other three legs learning to hold position as well.

Add the chin to chest stretch when standing, you may need to use a treat for this with a support hand under the dog to stop them presuming you want a down position.


Begin to use your hands to build a resistance against very light pressure. Use a specific, sliding pattern of touch to indicate to the dog what is going to happen, and I use a specific hand shape – rather like a spidery finger tips to prepare the dog to resist the pressure.

Under your fingers tips you will feel the muscles tighten up.

Initially mark and reward this tightening response. Once this is reliable build up to 5 seconds duration of resistance and over several training sessions build up to 20 seconds.

The points of pressure will be:

At the dog’s front left shoulder, with the direction of pressure diagonally across the dog to the right rear foot.

Then at the dog’s right shoulder, with the direction of pressure diagonally to the opposite corner.

At the dog’s left / right hip, diagonally towards the opposite corner each time.

Connect and Share

sounds like a biscuit …….


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