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Sit Assume stay or Add stay ?

Stay is ADDED

first published September 2018
– outline

We can choose to regard any positioning behaviour to include, or assume, a held position, or regard it as just positioning and the dog is free to move unless a stay cue is added.

This is applicable to the usual suspects: Sit, down, bow; Targets: platforms, mats, nose touch; Heel positions

Once we see the vast amount of behaviours it can affect we need to be pre-planning our training protocols to suit the future for that dog.

This project is an opportunity for trainers from both preferences to explain their reason for that choice, the application and any disadvantages.

Stay is ADDED

Author: KL

For the purpose of this article, a cue to “stay” is the same as a cue to “wait”. Which one you use is a personal preference. It means “hold that position and food will come to you”. Conversely it means “food will come to you, which encourages the dog to hold the position”.

Guidelines for training along this avenue:

1. Feed out of position

You will avoid feeding in position unless you have added the “stay” cue. Markers release the dog to collect the reinforcer.

2. Teach a stay there

You will need to teach the dog what holding the position means, and how to maintain that position comfortably. If they are adopting the position with some poise and tension ready for the marker-release, this may mean you can see a visible relax in the position as they settle to wait.

3. Stop on the move

You can use the stay cue whilst the dog is moving to indicate a hold position. This is particularly useful for stopping the dog in a standing position.

4. Markers are releasers

It will mean that every marker used will condition the dog to move to a position to observe the reinforcer collection and prepare for delivery. This is particularly noticeable in teaching heelwork, where a marker releases the dog and they move out of the heel position, or leave the target mat or platform.
Set the standard of a consistent response to the marker, it is not fair to vary it.

5. Add stay for a base

If you are shaping a behaviour that requires a holding of a base position, such as a paw tap when the dog is in a sit position, then for the first several marks, you will need a stay cue to be able to feed in position. Mark-Stay then feed.
This means you will not have to keep re-cueing the sit, and then shaping the paw.

6. Alert and poised

The power of the mark-release seems to be the held poise and anticipation of action. Often this encourages faster responses and faster behaviours as the dog’s arousal level increases with some chasing or catching of treats.

If a novice dog is learning the motor pattern of a drop to down with the cantilever action we need the dog to hold the tension in the movement and not collapse to the floor. Here the marker will release the dog to a standing position in preparation for the next cue to drop-down.

A sit is not just a butt-park, but a controlled positioned movement in preparation for another movement.

7. Shaping has a good flow

Shaping is very free flowing with the dog often cycling through sit or down to explore the goal behaviours and self-releasing to try other behaviours. There is never a necessity to add a “free” or “break” cue to the session.

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