Obedience Training: Reinforce Position Holding

Once you have taught the concepts of position holding for time, position, and distance, you are ready to introduce the corrective NO.

Slowly increase the target time goal. Increase by five-second intervals until you can consistently achieve twenty- to thirty-second sits. If your dog breaks the position, leash, correct with NO, and reposition your dog. Repeat this until your target time goal has been achieved. If your dog begins to repeatedly fail the SIT exercise, lower the target time goal by several seconds and repeat until your dog improves.

If your dog feels that the treat signals the end of the position-holding exercise, brace him on his shoulders with the palm of your left hand while he is eating the treat. Make sure he does not get up and praise. After he relaxes in the position, release him with BREAK. Alternately, when your dog gets up quickly, correct with NO and re-command with SIT. Praise and release.

Increase the distance you walk away from your dog. Walk around your dog in a circle. Change the circle direction and walk in the opposite direction. If your dog gets up and walks away, take the leash and move your dog back to the initial position, correct with NO, and re-command SIT. Repositioning your dog in the initial position is important; otherwise your dog’s respect of the position-holding rules will degrade.

When practicing SIT and DOWN position holding, don’t wait until your dog fails by breaking the command. Practice short durations and release your dog with a BREAK command before he gets up on his own. Let your dog know there is an end to the exercise. Give your dog a BREAK command before he breaks the command by himself. Start with short time intervals (five seconds, ten seconds, fifteen seconds) and increase to thirty seconds and one minute.

Position holding is the pathway to building patience. Since you began the teaching process with HEEL, that is the command most frequently practiced. Make sure to take at least a third of each practice workout for position holding. Most dogs are conditioned through the workout process to think each command lasts between three and five seconds. Practicing position holding is an opportunity to show your dog that sometimes commands last longer.

Test Position Holding

Leash tension. Command your dog to SIT. Step a few feet away from your dog. Place some light tension on the leash. Praise your dog with “good SIT” as long as your dog resists the tension on the leash. Only apply tension for a few moments. If your dog breaks the SIT, correct with NO and re-command SIT. Return the tension to the leash.

As your dog improves by actively resisting, increase tension from all points around your dog. Do not pull or tug with short or choppy movements. Slowly increase the tension, and praise. Keep the duration you place tension on the leash only three or four seconds.

Fake heel. While you are at your dog’s side, step forward without giving any verbal command or signal. Your dog should remain in a SIT because you did not give either HEEL or BREAK commands. Step away slowly and only a short distance before returning to his side. Increase the speed and distance to test how well he can resist body movement and remain in the SIT.

The 20/20 exercise. Have your dog SIT for twenty complete seconds, and release with BREAK. Command the dog directly into DOWN and have him hold the DOWN for twenty full seconds. Release with BREAK. Repeating the SIT, BREAK, DOWN, BREAK exercise three times is one series of the 20/20 exercise.