Therapy Dogs International Testing Part 6


This test evaluates your dog’s training for sit, down and stay.

I am going to split this blog into two parts. Part one how to teach your dog to sit and down. Part 2 will be how to teach your dog to stay.

In TDI testing you can use more than one signal or cue, so do your dog a favor and make sure you give him as much information as he needs.

I suggest people start training most behaviors using a hand signal (vs. verbal cue) first because dogs are masters at reading body language. Once your dog understands that the hand signal means do a certain behavior you can then add the verbal cue by saying it just before you use your hand signal.

Let’s start at the beginning with teaching sit. You’ll start by taking a tasty treat and holding it just at your dog’s nose. As he starts to sniff the treat very gradually raise your hand, just enough to elevate your dog’s muzzle 90 degrees. As your dog’s nose rises in the air his butt should head to the floor (it’s physics). The moment his butt hits the floor use your marker and give him a treat and release him from the exercise. Repeat 5 times. Practice this a couple times a day for several days. At this point your dog should be pretty good at sitting this way. This is when you’ll add your verbal cue “sit” just before you bring the food to your dog’s nose. Practice this for a couple days. Your dog should be sitting very well by now, as long as you have food in your hand.

Now for the transition to having no food in your hand. NOTE: You MUST stop using food in your signal hand after the 1st week or two or your dog will become dependent on it! Here’s how you go about making this transition — initially put the food in your non-signal hand, pretend as if you have food in your signal hand use your hand signal and say the verbal “sit”. Your dog should sit. When he does give him a treat and release him from the exercise. Repeat 5x.

Up until this point you should be reinforcing (feeding) your dog for every sit you ask for. Once your dog can reliably give you a sit 80% of the time that you ask him to sit i.e. if you ask for 10 sits you’ll get at least 8 on the 1st request, you can start to randomize when you will reinforce the behavior. You will reinforce the 2nd sit, the 5th sit, the 6th sit, the 8th sit, etc. The key is to be RANDOM. This is how you work to remove food from the immediate training picture.

You will teach the down using the same principals that you just used for the sit:  food in your hand signal, followed by adding the verbal cue, and then transitioning to no food in your signal hand, and finally randomizing your rewards.

To get the down it is usually easiest to ask for it when your dog is sitting. You will NOT mark that sit (or you’ll never get beyond that point) you can feed it if you want to but don’t mark it. Once your dog is sitting you will take a piece of food from his nose and bring it straight down (as if on a string) to the floor. Your dog’s nose should be following the treat in your hand. Once your hand’s at the floor you may want to move the treat either in toward your dog’s body or out away from your dog’s body, along the floor. This sounds contradictory but it really depends on the dog — I think it may have something to do with their individual structure. Anyway, at first you will mark any behavior even approximating a down, such as a leg extension, even the bowing of the head. hopefully you will get a full down within the first 5 tries. Once your dog is giving you a nice down you will progress in the same manner you did with the sit outlined above.

Small dogs seem to have more difficulty with the down. If you run into this problem see if you can sit on the floor with your dog. Extend one of your legs, so it”s laying flat on the floor. Your dog should be sitting or standing on one side. You will slightly bend your knee, adding a little elevation and provide a little gingerbread trail under your leg for your dog to follow. As they are crawling under your leg hold a treat at their nose so they stop their forward movement for a moment. Lightly & slowly lower your leg — your dog should now be in a down! Mark the behavior, give them the treat and release.

Next time we’ll work on teaching your dog to stay!


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