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post #1 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-23-2008, 02:04 AM Thread Starter
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The concept of "stay"

I posted on another thread about stays, and how we used to practice stays in class situations under really high distraction levels. I thought about this some more and realized that our dogs back then were calm, accepting, reliable and that I don't see that nearly as much these days in class situations. It seems as though people have become more nervous about pushing their dogs to accept certain training situations that were common back in the "day" (I'm talking 15-20 years ago).

I can remember lining up a large group of dogs for a down stay in an intermediate training class. There were goldens, akitas, aussies, labs, chows, shepherds - all medium to large dogs back then. This was off-leash - once you were out of novice, you just didn't do on-leash stays anymore because dogs were really taught to STAY in novice training. And once the handlers all walked across the ring (or went out of sight, depending on what they were working on) I would have my Australian shepherd do a recall from one end of the dogs to the other - jumping over each dog as she came down the line. I didn't think of it as impressive or unusual in any way. It was just one of those things we did to proof our dogs back then, and everyone accepted it (as did all the dogs).

We did close stays, where the dogs were only a foot apart. We did circle stays, where the dogs were so close that their rumps touched. We bounced balls through the line of dogs and no dog was allowed to break. We walked along the line of dogs and dropped treats a foot or so in front of them - and the dogs didn't break. We really WORKED on stays and it showed.

Now when I teach a class, I find that sometimes it's hard to bring those high distractions into class. I still do it, to a certain extent, but the problem is that dogs who are learning at an intermediate level (which to me means they're past CD level and working on open obedience - off-leash heeling, jumps, retrieves) don't seem to have that solid stay that they should have at that level. And handlers are not nearly as devoted to the training - they don't want to "stress" Fido, they worry about fear levels, they want it all to be fun. I don't think stays are particularly fun unless you have a lazy dog that likes to stay in one place. They're just something that a dog needs to learn.

I also think that a lot of dogs don't have a very strong leadership (this is NOT in reference to the other post - I think Kathy is a pretty strong, devoted handler). People tend to think of their dogs as little people instead of dogs. They let them get away with things that erode the dog's respect for them - which, from the dog's point of view, means that the person doesn't have the right to insist that they stay for any length of time. I love my dogs (too much, maybe), but I fully acknowledge that they ARE dogs and that (for their good as well as mine) they need to learn certain behaviors.

I also love positive training and I'm a huge fan of rewards and motivators. But I see where people teach their dogs to become too dependent on the treat or toy and when that reward is not forthcoming in a quick manner, the dog loses interest. This carries over to the stays in a huge way - expect the dog to hold the stay beyond a certain level and the dog loses interest and then breaks the stay. When it's a training error (and it usually is) it's hard to blame the dog and expect a handler to correct that dog when the dog doesn't understand. And that's when the stays really fall apart. There's no solid basis because the dog was never taught behaviors in small, logical increments, with properly timed rewards and gradual increases in expectations on the part of the handler.

Any discussion on this? Agree, disagree, questions? *L* Sorry for the rambling, was just typing straight out of my head so I hope it all makes sense.

Melanie and the gang in Alaska

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post #2 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-23-2008, 11:32 PM
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Re: The concept of "stay"

I agree with you, but I think in many instances it is also because handlers are no longer willing to correct the dogs for mistakes. Years ago (and I'm talking 22-25 years) when I was doing my first OB dogs I felt much more comfortable leaving them on a long sit/down. Now, I'll never do a CDX because I don't trust the other dogs to stay put and not bother or harass my dogs.

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post #3 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-24-2008, 12:10 PM
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Re: The concept of "stay"

I strongly, strongly agree with you!!

Stay is one of those things the dog has no choice to do or not and even when you always teach in a positive way, once the dog has learnt then he knows that they have to remain that way, period. I can't compare one dog or another since 99,9% of the dogs I know that don't belong to a trainer or to someone who does Schutzhund or are not trained at all or I receive a "He used to obey, but once the training finished I never took it outside again and he doesn't respond anymore". So if the dogs barely remember how to sit, the less you can ask is a long stay. (Good way to throw away the training money, BTW)

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Originally Posted By: IliamnasQuest People tend to think of their dogs as little people instead of dogs. They let them get away with things that erode the dog's respect for them - which, from the dog's point of view, means that the person doesn't have the right to insist that they stay for any length of time.
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post #4 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-24-2008, 02:59 PM
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Re: The concept of "stay"

How do you teach a stay? I am trying this with Goofy, but he keeps following me the minute I leave him.
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post #5 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-24-2008, 04:07 PM
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Re: The concept of "stay"

Here’s how I teach the Stay. I have a ton of teeny tiny VERY yummy treats. I have the dog in a sit and I stand so that I am facing the dog, our toes almost touching. Dog is on leash.

Phase 1

I say STAY and I take a step back with my right foot – ONLY that foot. I IMMEDIATELY step forward with that foot, returning to the original starting position and, as long as the dog didn’t move (and there really wasn’t time for them TO move) I say GOOD STAY!! And reward.

I will repeat this, switching which foot I step back with, for about 10 repetitions. Take a break and then do this again for another 10 reps. If it’s a young puppy that all I do for the day. If it’s older dog I will do another one or two sets of reps – depending on the dog.

I will repeat this training for 2-3 days – just like I described.

If the dog does happen to move I will mark the behavior by saying ACK and return the dog to the sitting position before trying again.

Phase 2

I say STAY and I take a step back with my right foot and then with my left foot. I hesitate for a second then step back up to the dog and reward.

I will change up which foot I start with, just so the dog doesn’t think it ONLY means stay if I start with my right foot.

Again – there’s no time involved with this phase. You step back and then step forward RIGHT AWAY.

If the dog does happen to move I will mark the behavior by saying ACK and return the dog to the sitting position before trying again.

Do the same number of reps as Phase 1.


Phase 3

Add time. I say STAY and I take a step back with my right foot and then with my left foot. I count to one in my mind and then step back up to the dog.

Phase 4

Add a step. I say STAY and I take a step back with my right foot, then with my left foot and then again with my right. I do not hesitate but walk right back up to the dog.

The rest of the phases follow 3 & 4. Add time, then add steps.

I also change it up a lot. I’ll takes 4 steps back, wait to the count of five, step back in and reward then take a single step back and return immediately and reward. It keep the dog focused on you – they never know when the treat will appear!

The #1 mistake people make is trying to go too far or make the dog stay too long before they are ready.
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post #6 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-24-2008, 04:11 PM
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Re: The concept of "stay"

Melanie,

I completely agree with you. I remember being in classes like you described. The exercises we did I would NEVER think a basic pet owner today could accomplish with their dog.

I think the average joe pet owner has become very lax in training their dogs.
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post #7 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-24-2008, 04:37 PM
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Re: The concept of "stay"

I do it pretty much the way Lauri does, except that I get a lot more distance from the dog before I even start working on duration. And when I do start with duration, I move closer to the dog at first, so that I'm only doing one thing at a time before eventually combining distance and duration. After that, you can start working with distractions (the 3rd "D"), but you want the distance to be close, and the duration short initially. In the class I learned this technique, they referred to it as the "bungee stay" exercise because you take a step away from the dog and then immediately spring back, like a bungee.

I don't usually stay at each level for a few days though, often it's only one or two training sessions if the dog "gets it" and isn't breaking the stay at all. As long as I only increase the difficulty in small incremental steps I've found that smart dogs like GSDs grasp the concept very quickly. But it should be tailored to the particular dog you're working with. Some dogs may master the single step back in one training session and be ready for more of a challenge immediately, some dogs may need a lot more time at each step before progressing.

Incremental steps I use are one step back, return and reward, one step to the side, return and reward, one step to the other side, return and reward. Then two steps, then three steps, etc, work up to the length of a room. Picture a half circle in front of the dog, and use it all, stepping straight back, to the right, and to the left. Work slowly up to being able to walk in a circle around the dog, then return to the front position and reward. Once you can take 10 or 12 steps back, still facing the dog, try taking one or two steps away with your back to the dog. Work up to walking away from the dog the length of the room with your back to him before returning to reward. Step briefly around a corner so you're out of sight for a second before returning and rewarding. Be creative!

With duration, start with a couple of seconds and work up to longer time, but then mix it up so he doesn't know if it will be a 3 second sit, a 10 second sit, or a 30 second sit. You don't want to be too predictable, or he'll anticipate, and self-release. Only do this when he CAN hold a 30 second sit without releasing.

I also tie a sit until released to eat to mealtimes, gradually increasing the difficulty level to where I can put the dog in a down with the bowl on the floor right in front of their nose, and they'll hold the stay and not eat, even if I'm briefly out of sight. But it takes a long time to build up to that level of challenge.

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post #8 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-24-2008, 08:21 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The concept of "stay"

I'm glad to see some people understood my ramblings, and even agree! *L* It was just one of those things I was pondering on, thinking about training classes and how everything seems so different today. And way back then, if you were going to obedience trials, the classes were huge compared to these days. I remember showing Dawson to his CD (first obedience title for both him AND me) and having classes of over 35 dogs in NOVICE A (Novice B class was even bigger). But when I trialed Khana last year there were less than ten dogs in Novice B. It seems that most of the obedience trial classes are less than ten dogs anymore, up here anyhow.

And back in those days it was just accepted that your dog would qualify in novice. I never really even considered the possiblity of a failure - my instructor didn't see any reason for us to fail and so I didn't either. It was more a matter of scores - how high COULD we get (I was in the mid 190's with my novice dog - a GSD, of course - and he was a year old). I put eight CD's on dogs before I ever had an NQ in novice. Even with the CDX, Dawson only took six times to finish the title (for those who don't know, a title takes three qualifying scores).

I know that my focus in obedience has really changed. I was very competitive at first and I really wanted to train for competition. But there came a point where I settled into a more companionable relationship with my dogs and competition dropped way down the list with me - which then affected my training, because I wasn't training daily or with the intensity I did back when I wanted to compete all the time.

But even with that lower intensity of training, there were certain things (and still are) that stayed vitally important. And the "stay" is one of those. I see the stay, walking on a loose leash and the recall as three behaviors that are really important in a companion dog - even if you never plan to compete. If everyone would teach their dogs those three behaviors they would have much better relationships. I actually don't think that sit is that important anymore and in fact don't even bother to put it on cue until my dogs are older (Tazer learned it this summer when she was a year old, Khana was probably 6-8 months old before she learned it). My dogs still sat, and would sit when I handed out treats or waited at the door, but it was not a trained behavior on command. It was just what they did. Instead I taught stay (along with down and stand, before I taught sit). Stay meant "stay there in that position in that spot". Khana was doing a beautiful stand-stay at a young age and her debut into the conformation ring at nine months was perfect - she did a gorgeous self-stack and then held the stand-stay for the judge to go over her.

I personally think focused heeling is a useless exercise unless you're going to compete with your dog. Teaching a dog to walk calmly at your side on a loose leash is much more valuable and that's what we teach to pet people in our classes here. I start out my pet classes with three basic behaviors - stationary attention training, walking on a loose leash, and stay. And our next focus is the recall. Sit and down - they happen, but they're so easy to train that they just aren't really that important to me.

Here I am, babbling again .. *L* .. it's just really interesting to me to think back and consider the changes in thoughts toward obedience and what's important and what isn't.

Melanie and the gang

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post #9 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-24-2008, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The concept of "stay"

I teach a stay way different now than I used to. I used to teach it similar to what's been described - very small increments of change in distance and time until the dog really understood what "stay" meant. I still think those small increments are vitally important - if everyone training their dog would really think about the behavior they're training and then break it into tiny steps, accepting and rewarding each tiny progression on the part of their dog, they'd be able to teach their dog almost anything. The problem is that people get impatient and they have expectations of the dog's understanding that is truly beyond what the dog can do.

I really like having my dogs figure things out for themselves, so I teach the stay in a way that makes the dog realize that movement takes away all possibility of reward. And I do that by using visible food on the floor from the very first session.

I have the dog at my left side, with a flat collar on (leash is optional, usually on but not necessary if you're training alone). I usually place the dog in a sitting position when I first train this behavior. My left hand is in the back of the dog's collar, palm up, holding onto the collar firmly. I take 4-5 small yummy treats in my right hand and I reach out in front of the dog and place the treats on the floor. I don't say "stay" (the dog wouldn't understand it anyway, and I don't ever want to pair "stay" with the dog moving so the command isn't given until the dog has learned the behavior).

Most of the time the dog will immediately try to go to the treats. I simply remain quiet, using the collar to hold the dog back, and never EVER allowing the dog to reach the treats. I wait while the dog attempts to get to the treats. I let the dog be frustrated - it's a good life lesson, you don't always get what you want .. *L*. And it generally doesn't take but half a minute or so before the dog stops and realizes that they're not going to be allowed to move to the treats. And at that point they usually do one of a couple things - they stop and look at the person, or they sit or lay down.

If they return to the sit, that's immediately praised and I reach forward to grab a treat (quickly!) and stuff it in the dog's mouth. If the dog remains in position, the praising/treating continues without hesitation until the treats are gone. If the dog breaks the position, all verbal communication and treats stop immediately. And then I wait again for the dog to figure out that they have to return to position to get the remaining treats.

On occasion a dog just won't sit. If it takes longer than a minute and a half (which, if you count it out, is quite a bit of time) then I will gently place the dog back into a sit. I don't nag it with "sit! sit! sit!" because that's not what's important at this time. I gently ease it back into a sit and then praise as soon as the butt is down, following that with quick treats as long as the butt stays down. If the butt comes up or the dog lays down, I stop and wait for the dog to think about what has changed and how to "fix" it so that the praise and treats will resume.

I know that a lot of people will read this and think "what an odd way to teach a stay!" but in all honesty, this is the neatest thing to do especially with puppies. We teach 8-12 week old puppies this stay and they will have it figured out at the end of the FIRST session! All the dogs I've ever taught like this have a really good concept of stay meaning "don't move!". They've already tried moving and found that it doesn't work, and that the only thing that brought the treats to them was to stay rock-still.

Once the dog figures out that staying still is the key, then the handler can increase duration (wait for the dog's butt to stay in a sit for five seconds between treats instead of rewarding continuously, then wait for 7 seconds, then 10, etc.) and then you can increase distance (start placing the treats a bit farther away, and then farther, and then to the point of having to leave the dog to place the treats). The dog is so focused on the concept of not being able to move because they never get the treats if they move that it's rare (if done properly) to ever have a dog break a stay.

And as you continue on, you still put the treats out but then treat from your pocket instead, and end with picking up the treats and putting them away so that the dog starts to realize that the treats will come from you instead and those treats on the floor aren't necessarily what they'll get. And when you start moving away, you have to make sure you can always reach any treats on the ground BEFORE your dog does even if that means you have to step on them. After a bit, you just put out one treat, and then no treats (but still treating from your pocket or from a bag of treats on a table, etc.).

The neat thing about this way of teaching stay is that it transfers beautifully to any position - down, sit, stand. When I taught Khana the stand-stay, I simply put a treat down in front of her and she immediately focused (in her head I could see her thinking "woah, I know this one! I don't move!" since she'd already been taught a regular stay). From day one I never had any problems with her moving on the stand-stay, even though she really wanted to visit with the people approaching her. The treat gave her something to focus on, and when she stayed still when a person approached, I immediately praised and brought the treat forward to her mouth for reward. And once she understood, I started treating her from my pocket and then was able to switch to treating her after the entire exercise (stand, stay, leave the dog, examination by stranger, return to dog, release from stay - THEN praise and treat).

By the age of 2 1/2, Khana had been in the performance ring 13 times, with 12 qualifying scores (RN, RA, RE, CD - one time she peed in the ring for an NQ) and never a break on any stay.

Melanie and the gang

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post #10 of 38 (permalink) Old 10-24-2008, 09:13 PM
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Re: The concept of "stay"

Melanie,

I LIKE that way!! It really has the dog work out for themselves what gets them the treat!!

Might have to try that with my new girl!
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