Since gaining my rehab qualifications, I developed an interest in fitness prehab aka preventing the injury occurring in the first place. This leads me to undertake further requirements in canine fitness.
One of the most important exercises that is either overlooked, not trained or not trained so that the form is correct, is the stand.
Why even bother to teach it? Surely all dogs can stand and where is the fun in that? Beg, bow or reverse are all way more fun are all things I’ve heard.
The stand is important. Yes, all dogs can stand, but many of them can’t stand correctly. They like us will cheat if the can, they slouch, weight shift and if they have previously had an injury, they will usually avoid using one limb more than another for a long time afterwards.
The stand is a critical position, if the dog can correctly perform a stand, it is usually well balanced and has the excellent core strength to be able to hold the position. If unbalanced, any transitional movements to another position will be unbalanced and performed using incorrect muscles.
A square stand should be attached with limbs held equal distance apart, weight shift should be even, with forelimbs held naturally underneath shoulders and hind legs should have a good angulation and with a neutral topline for the breed.
The stand is used for the start of a lot of strengthening, fitness and rehab exercises. It is a stable position but also works many muscles to transition to a different place or to hold the stand position for prolonged periods of time without weight shifting and off-loading especially when you start to introduce rehab and fitness equipment.
I remember many years ago with my first pup going to training and the trainer asking “what is the first command that you teach?” I answered sit because of course that is what I had been teaching her to do for her rewards that’s what everyone teaches right?
The trainer a lovely way said “why not stand? It’s the easiest to teach after all”.
Is it? I thought I had always struggled to teach it. Getting the dog to stand still long enough to reward the position at the correct was difficult.
That’s when she came up with this piece of advice that stuck with me. “What is your dog doing right now?” My pup was stood gazing adoringly at me wondering how to get another treat. So why not reward that. It was like turning on a light bulb. Why fight with the dog to get the position when they do it naturally. Little did I know at the time this is what many years later has come to be called shaping, wait for the dog to offer the behaviour rather than try to lure the position.
Waiting till they stood then rewarding and slowly lengthening the time before reward then perfecting the actual area until they were held square. It works so well and is by far the quickest and most fun way I have found.
Recently with my Fitness work for Fitpaws Master Trainer (FPMT) and Certified Canine Fitness Trainer (CCFT) I have started using shaping more and find my dogs are more focused than when I lure. An excellent introduction to shaping is to try this method to teach stand.
So, go and have fun working a nice even well-balanced square stand!
Written by Kirsty Powell-Palmer, RVT