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Kay Laurence | Learning About Dogs | Moving into positions

Fitness Foundation Course


Lesson 4: Moving into positions


November 2018

-Manoeuvring Around the Positions

In these exercises we are looking for simple action done well – well in the sense the fine muscles are working rather than gravity and momentum. Once these muscle stop working as well – for a variety of reasons we will often see the dog rock from side to side as they walk slowly (and people as well), and when they sit it is more of a plop down rather than controlled action. The same can be seen when trying to stand up from the sit, it takes momentum with the head pulling forwards and downwards to raise the hips. Think how much harder it is for you to rise from a chair and NOT tip forwards?

We want to examine how they complete these actions naturally and ensure:

  1. They know how to do it in a controlled and balanced way
  2. They get treats for doing it this way
  3. They develop more fitness from practising doing it this way regularly.

Stretching in other positions

If you’d like to continue watch Feebee from this point:


You are already developing good hands with the balance, stretching and resistance exercises we shall now go on to stretching the spine in this standing position, BEFORE doing it in the sit.

We want to get long, straight open vertebrae. The key to this is where you place the lure.

If you can sit straight whilst you read this and tuck your chin into your sternum, there should be an equal sensation of stretching down your back around your shoulder blades. Now turn your head slightly to your left and do the same tucked action and you can feel one side is pulled more than the other – we want to avoid this.

The more the dog can arch their back for this the better, but only take the dog as far as is comfortable, no somersaults please.

Once they are familiar with the movement when standing then we can mimic the same action in the sit. This sit must be balanced.

Look for the feet placement, the alignment. You can begin the stretch with a lure to pull the dog upward and forward whilst still sitting, but not leaving the sit and then go for the chin under. This will not reach as far as it did in the stand. You may well need your other hand to steady the sit position.

Again this needs to be with a straight spine, if you see the head twisting or legs moving out, then reduce the amount you are asking for. Straight with less is better than tucked under and crooked.

Once the straight is achieved you can ask for straight over the leg, but no tilted heads or legs popping out.

From the video complete some pelvis exercises with the drop and rock into the hip roll, with returning to upright, and then roll over to the other side.

Also the standing, “sniff my butt” curls of their spine. Remember their head should turn downward, slightly lower than their spine.

These should not be difficult for the dog, but it may be for you to get your hands in the right places at the right time. All dogs can clean, sniff and chew their own butt, except they usually rely on being in a sit or down to prevent that butt from slipping away. For these stretches Spare Hand’s job is to keep the butt still!

Sit to Standing to Sit

The skill for this is centred around luring.

Begin with the dog in the sit and lure them to walk forward into a standing position. Your spare hand is there to stop the back feet taking a step forwards. This action is all about pushing forward out of the sit, keeping a level head and the back legs working to push the dog forwards and straighten at the same time (lots for the knees here).

When most dogs sit they space their back feet wider than if standing, so there will be an inclination to adjust their back feet. I would like them to hold position because as soon as they have followed the food to the stand, taken that piece, you are going to lure a reverse action – the walk back into the sit.

This is going to be achieved easier if their back feet are in the same position as when they left the sit.

This should be a slow action. You will need to see a side view.

Whilst they are enjoying their sit, you can also ask for some resistance to the shoulder pressure and the hip pressure. Make sure their tails are nicely balanced as well.

This video from Mary and Penelope shows progress over several weeks:

Standing to Bow

Bowing is an excellent exercise for opening the spine in a lovely “S” bend shape.

This will need to be lured, the lure action is under the chest in a diagonal action to their back feet. If unfamiliar just go for a front end dip. Their back feet will usually spread as for a sit, not a stand or down.

Two points to avoid with the bow:

1. The dog must always rest onto their elbows. When the dogs self-stretch they often walk their front feet forward one at a time and do not hold position. The elbows are often straight and non-supporting.

2. Gain duration, support the hips and feed often whilst in the bow position. This will open the pelvis and stretch the muscles up the back of the dog’s back legs. (Think toe-touching exercises for us).

If the dog is getting mixed up between downs and bows, walk them backwards a couple of steps before luring the bow and this will widen the back feet further apart.

Combining Walking and Standing

Notice when she comes to stop on the platform the front feet stop first – delayed message to the back feet, but when she stops on the cup the front feet are the last movements to find balance.


If these fine movements are not forthcoming straight away, just train small steps with a dip to step forward and a raise to stop. The anticipation of knowing a stop is coming just after starting will reduce the momentum of those first strides.

At this point I would introduce the clicker, not for stopping, but for stopping and then balancing. Often it is just a question of setting up the environment – cup, training, and letting the dog stop and hold the position until they relax out of it.

I do not think it essential that all feet are correctly aligned as a manually placed stand, but that the dog looks “balanced”, and this mostly come out of the topline. Judge the moment to click / feed on your top lines.

Connect and Share

sounds like a biscuit …….


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