Beginning the "Third Action"
The "Sit" command

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

The "Third Action"

In the Third Action, the dog learns that becoming stationary turns off mild stimulation. This knowledge is the foundation for collar corrections for the sit-stay and down-stay exercises, the Novice and Utility stands, the signal drop and the drop on recall.

There are three stationary positions--sitting, lying down, and standing. To introduce the concept of the Third Action to the dog, you should select only one of these and work on it until your dog understands how to respond to the collar in that stationary situation. Do not confuse the beginner by trying to teach him all three stationary positions at once. He won't "get it."

This article will describe the procedure for "Sit." Later articles will cover "Down" and "Stand." Your dog must already know the command you'll be working on, but doesn't need to be very reliable at it. You should use low-level continuous stimulation for these training sequences.

"Point-Of-Contact" Training

Up until now, the dog has learned to move to turn off the collar. Now we want him to learn the opposite: become stationary, and don't move. To make it easier for the dog to learn this idea, "point of contact" training can be helpful.

"Point of contact" training places the stimulation in a position on the dog that tends to elicit the movement you want. So if you are training "sit," initially place the receiver on the top of the rump. If you are training "down," at first place it on the back of the neck. If you are training "stand," start with it on the dog's belly.

At first, use a lower plug than your normal training plug, because the dog may be more sensitive in these areas of his body. Be sure to start with your # 1 (brown) plug. If you train with a model that has variable contact points instead of plugs (such as The Companion), use the new, extra low, # 1/2 (blue) contact point to begin with.

Training "Sit"

Start with the dog on leash for his first few lessons. Place the collar around his waist with the receiver over his rump. When you first place a collar in this position, have the dog sit quietly and get used to it before he moves around. Otherwise, some dogs will overreact to the feel of the strap around their flank.

Now have him sit as you move away, but don't tell him to stay. You want him to try to get up. The moment he does, press the button and give him the "sit" command. Step toward him if necessary and control him with the leash to stop any forward motion.

The moment he's sitting again, release the button and praise him calmly. Don't worry if he sits slowly at first; this is caused by the feel of the strap on his flanks. Once he realizes that sitting turns off the collar, he'll respond more quickly.

If your praise causes him to get up again, press the button and cheerfully repeat "Sit." Release the button when he sits back down. He'll realize that praise isn't a release command, and breaking his sit still "turns on" the collar.

Repeat until the dog wants to stay sitting. Pull gently forward on the leash as "proofing" to test his resolve to stay seated. Praise him when you see him brace to resist the leash pressure.

"Sit" from Motion

Now walk with the dog (no attention--this isn't formal "heeling"). Immediately after making an about turn with the dog, press the button and command "Sit." Swing around and step quickly in front of the dog to block forward motion, and release the button when he sits. Praise him as you face him and back away to the end of the leash. Pull gently on the leash to remind him to stay seated, and praise him when you see him resisting the pull.

Repeat this sequence often, over several short sessions, to make sure that the dog has a chance to make the equation: "My butt goes on the ground, and the collar turns off." Remember, he already knows the word "sit," and this knowledge, plus your body language blocking him, is going to cause him to sit, stimulation or no stimulation. Just because he's sitting every time doesn't mean he has made the specific association you want.

The signal you're looking for in most dogs is an "extra quick" motion at going into the sit. This signal (repeated consistently) tells you that the dog realizes that putting his butt on the ground is what "turns off" the collar. Be sure to give him enough repetition at this stage for him to learn.

When you see him responding promptly to the "Sit" command and sitting reliably, phase out use of stimulation with each "Sit" command. From now on, only use stimulation if you must give the command a second time.

Weaning The Dog off "Point-of-Contact"

When the dog is responding well to the collar, and you're consistently getting the sits you want, it's time to wean him off of "point-of-contact." To do this, put the collar in its regular position on the dog's neck (adjusting the intensity plug to his regular training plug), and repeat every step you took in the training sequence, just as though "starting from scratch."

The difference now is how long you need to spend at each step. You may be able to complete several steps in each training session, whereas the first time around it may have taken several sessions per step. Let the dog's success at each step be your guide as to how fast you can proceed during the weaning phase.

Putting a "Stop" on the Moving Dog

Now it is time to teach the dog a nice, crisp "stop" as part of his stationary action. A good "stop" prevents the dog from creeping before he sits. Despite reinforcement from the collar for "Sit," some dogs will develop the habit of "coasting" into a sit unless they're taught to stop quickly before sitting.

To teach the dog to stop promptly when asked to sit from motion, you should now integrate the platform into your Third Action training. The dog must already be familiar with the platform from his training on the Second Action, as described in our last three articles. You'll use the platform to put a "stop" on the moving dog at the same time that he assumes the desired stationary position on your command.

To incorporate the platform, jog toward the platform with the dog on leash. Just as the dog is about to step up onto the platform, command "Sit." You continue to jog past the platform, leaving the dog sitting on it.

The first few times do not use electrical stimulation; just help the dog if it seems that he won't stop and sit on the platform. However, most dogs that have done work with the platform under our program will immediately see the platform as a familiar cue, and will "lock up" and stay on it without stepping off.

After the dog is familiar with what you'll be doing, begin using low-level stimulation if he steps off the platform to follow you.

"Sit" at a Distance

At this point, the dog is ready to begin "random sits," where you give him the sit command when he's at a distance from you. Release the dog, and let him wander off until he's about 15 feet away. Give your first "Sit" command without stimulation ("Name, Sit" if this is how you've trained him). If the dog is slow to respond or moves toward you as he thinks about responding, quickly give a second command (in the same tone of voice) with stimulation and step at the dog. If, however, he gives you a nice, prompt sit-in-place on the first command, without coming toward you, go to him, praise him and reward him !

Repeat this for several training sessions. Gradually increase the distance to about 60 feet, and sometimes give the command while the dog is in motion. You can also practice quick sits in the middle of play sessions when the dog is excited. If he gives you a nice, quick sit, immediately release and reward him with more play. Reinforce slow sits with the collar as you repeat the command.

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