Moving stand exercise…make it fun!!

When you think of “fun” exercises, the Utility moving stand is probably not one which comes to mind first…but it could be! After watching Kazee work his moving stand during practice the other day, someone asked me how I teach it. There are a multitude of ways to teach this exercise, but, like almost everything, you need to break it down into pieces and train the individual components first.

If you know how I train, I require the dog to give me extra effort on the individual components. Because I show my dogs often, I need to have a way to show the dog when he is NOT giving me enough effort. Also, because most dogs tend to stress down slightly at dog shows, if I require more effort in practice, it will usually balance out about right when in the ring. And, lastly, it is a heck of a lot more fun!

When teaching this exercise, I will assume your dog understands a “stand” command. Hopefully, your requirement since puppyhood was a kickback stand, where your dog does not move forward into the stand. Also, if you have been “helping” your dog stand with your hands for Novice obedience or Rally, stop NOW. Your dog is fully capable of standing by himself from a sit position…it is time to start requiring it.

So, what is the difference with the way I teach a moving stand exercise? I teach my dog to stop forward motion and immediately move backwards before freezing into the stand position. Okay, your first question may be “How will this be scored in the ring?” While I train and practice with more backwards motion, I drop part of my cue in the ring and the dog normally only takes a step or two backwards when standing (if any). To my knowledge, Gunner was never hit for any backwards motion in the ring. The handler’s motion is also very important, as any hesitation on your part can (and should) be scored. The smoother you make this exercise, the better it will look.

To start teaching the “stand back”, put your dog between you and a barrier. Ask him to stand and then immediately ask him to step backwards (and stay standing). I give my moving stand signal with my left hand, which has a cookie in it. At this point, I do not worry about my dog going backwards perfectly straight. Again, when used in the ring, the dog will not be running 4-5 steps backwards. I do try to keep him relatively straight and if it was a big issue, I would put a couple of broad jump boards on the ground to limit the arcing.

So, what if you currently give your moving stand signal with your right hand? One, you can do the same thing with your right hand, as shown with my left hand. Or, two, switch your signal to your left hand!! Personally, I do not like the moving stand signal with the right hand. For most people, it completely contorts their upper body and most people hesitate on the signal because of this upper body rotation. I do use my right hand for my novice stand signal and my utility signal stand signal because I am either standing still (Novice) or stopping with my dog (Utility signals). For me, this is more about “old habits die hard” and I have been using my right hand for this signal with no issues for too long to convince me to switch. However, it is very easy to train a different signal for the moving stand exercise, especially because you are able to give a verbal command with the signal.

Once your dog’s effort meets your satisfaction when done against a barrier, move into an open area. I will also switch to a toy at this stage for a couple of reasons…the main one being that I can take a toy into any match ring. If it is match before a trial, you often can not have food, so I like to be able to reinforce my dog the same way I do in practice. Yes, I know not all dogs love to tug as much as Kazee does, but you CAN teach your dog to enjoy it. In the video below, I have the tug toy in my right hand, but I would recommend starting with the tug toy in your LEFT hand, same as the cookie. After your dog is proficient, then switch the tug toy to your right hand and make sure the dog remains engaged with YOU while heeling forward.

Make sure you watch for ANY forward motion after the dog freezes in the stand. This must be dealt with every time you see it…even if it is simply giving a negative marker and restarting the exercise. If the verbal negative marker alone does not have the affect I need, I will give a negative marker, walk back to the dog, pick him up slightly (one hand under his collar and the other hand under his belly), move him backwards slightly and tell him to “stand” or “stand stay”. Forward motion is NEVER allowed. Proof this, especially with the higher drive dogs who do not want to stand still! Reward the freeze in the stand stay often (throw tug toy or go back and feed), you do not have to finish your dog every time.

Separately, while you are initially training the “stand back”, you can start working the “return to heel” portion. I prefer a left finish for the moving stand exercise, as I think it is easier to maintain a straight finish.

I teach a hand touch on the finish. I started doing this many years ago when I was showing my German Shepherd, Zita. After awhile in the ring, I would occasionally get walk-ins on the moving stand. Part of her retraining included a hand touch on the moving stand finish. The extra effort I required from her consistently in training completely abolished the walk-ins in the ring and even gave her a cute little bounce on her finishes, which she maintained until her last weekend in the show ring.

This hand touch is also extremely easy to take into the ring with you. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have already NQ’d and want to require a little extra effort on the moving stand, simply stick your hand back up on the finish and require a hand touch! (And then apologize if the judge says “Don’t train in my ring.” 😉 )

Have fun with this exercise, but remember to always maintain criteria! My pushy dogs always like to forge on this exercise because they like it so much, so I have to be extra vigilant during training.

You may have noticed the new training space in the videos. We have relocated to the Denver, Colorado area and have traded our beach umbrella in for snow shoes! While I love the Colorado weather, I am very glad I have somewhere to train daily without driving if the weather is bad. 2018 has been a rough year with a lot of losses (including 3 dogs), but I am looking forward to 2019 and hopefully adding another dog to the family.

If you have any questions about the videos above, please feel free to ask in the comment section. And, as always, train hard but play harder!!