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kamuzz

How To Teach An Ex Show Dog To Sit

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kamuzz   

Our English Setter is a failed show dog. He failed at showing after about 18 months. And even though we've had him for nearly two years, we still haven't managed to teach him to sit.

Applying pressure to his hindquarters makes him lock his knees.

Luring his head up produces a meerkat impersonation.

Making a fuss of him on the rare occasion when he happens to sit hasn't achieved anything.

He gets stressed if we use a two person approach and "collapse" him into a sit by pushing his knees in while the other person lures. (Bit hard to explain.)

Suggestions please?

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You don't need hands on :)

Personally I do a lot of shaping (ie wait for the behaviour and then reward it) but luring can be handy for dogs that have zero idea about offering behaviours. What I prefer to do, however, is lure with one hand, mark "yes" for the right behaviour and then reward with a treat from the OTHER hand. Gets them thinking a bit more. Try marking "yes" for what's called successive approximations - so think what sit looks like from a stand - head up? Yes, treat. Head up a bit higher? Yes, treat. Rump slightly drops? Yes, treat etc etc. Use AMAZING treats and lighten the mood - play before, during and after, turn it into a game. Make it easy to be successful.

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Rebanne   

I taught one greyhound to sit, after a fashion, by luring him up when lying down. Why do you want him to sit? My greyhounds stand and lie down beautifully, I am happy for them to do so and not bother to sit ( 2 out of 3 do sit though )

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I taught one greyhound to sit, after a fashion, by luring him up when lying down. Why do you want him to sit? My greyhounds stand and lie down beautifully, I am happy for them to do so and not bother to sit ( 2 out of 3 do sit though )

I agree with this too - I've had some Whippets/Greys in class who prefer sit or drop or vice versa (brother and sister adopted and living together had different builds and preferences) and I'm happy to go with the flow. If the dog has manners sit/stand/drop doesn't bother me.

Edited by The Spotted Devil

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Does he drop?

If yes (I think) you have two options - use drop instead of sit - Scottie prefers drop - I think he finds it more comfy.

Alternatively - maybe you can lure him up from a drop to a sit.

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mita   

[ I've had some Whippets/Greys in class who prefer sit or drop or vice versa (brother and sister adopted and living together had different builds and preferences) and I'm happy to go with the flow. If the dog has manners sit/stand/drop doesn't bother me.

Agree with that, very sensible.

All my Tibbies have been ex-showgirls. It's never been difficult to teach them 'Sit'. No hands on the dog needed. They've loved treats & I've held the treat over their heads & a little to back while saying 'Sit'. The bottoms automatically go down to the ground to get into that position of 'eyeing' the treat. Trick was not to hold the treat too high or they'd stand on their back legs. As soon as the bottom touches the ground, I've said, 'Good girl!' & given the treat. They soon connected bottom on the ground, with 'Sit', with reward.

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Willem   

@ the OP: did you rule out any medical causes? ....e.g. problem with the tail, anal sacs, spine?...how does he respond to other commands e.g. 'drop'?

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Hi Kamuzz. Never ever try to use any physical pressure with an English Setter. They do however respond brilliantly to motivational training, shaping. If he is doing a meerkat impression you might be holding your luring hand too high. Just move your hand backward just slightly above his nose with a treat. It also may help to have his back near a wall/fence so he can't move his whole body away. Also make sure the floor is not slippery. Happy to speak more about this to you. I have just trained my show ES for his first Rally novice title (only took 2 months and he scored a 98 out of 100 in one round) and he is the 7th ES I have owned and trained.

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kamuzz   

Thanks for the suggestions so far. He can't drop - I cannot fathom out how to teach drop from a stand.

One of the reasons I want to teach sit is that "everyone" expects a dog to sit. Go to the vet - vet says sit. Veli would make a good "pets as therapy" dog, but sitting is mandatory. And so on.

How does he respond to other commands? Wags his tail and gets excited. He does sit naturally very occasionally so I don't think he has any issues. (The vet dismissed this as typical ex-show dog behaviour when I asked.)

Edited by kamuzz

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Diva   

I think you are putting too much emphasis on his having been a show dog. Show dogs might be heavily reinforced for a good stack but that doesn't mean they can't learn other positions, I am sure many of us have show dogs who can sit and drop, lol. It sounds like a technique problem - placement of the lure, timing if you are shaping. Have you taught him anything, or does he just not understand the whole training thing?. I wouldn't try to physically manipulate him into it, you are probably just triggering his opposition reflex and building a poor response to training.

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Tassie   

Agree with what TSD and others have said about luring and marking. I'm a bit too impatient to do much real shaping. It's really important when you're starting luring to use something the dog really wants, and to be slow and patient with your hand movements. And to keep the food pretty much on the dog's nose as you gently move your hand to get the nod position you want .. or as TSD says, you can reward successive approximations .. something which is a stage towards the final picture.

With drop from stand, you can teach it through a sit, and then move the lure forward and down .. slowly .. trial and error as to how far. Down from stand ... I usually lure it through an interim stage of bow... getting elbows on floor.

I would recommend teaching your Setter in the same way you would teach a puppy .. so have a look at things like YouTube clips from kikopup (Emily Larlham) or Donna Hill.

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Dogsfevr   

Personally if it's just because the vet said I wouldn't be worried ,not sure why the vet would want a dog to sit anyway.

ES think differently and have the attitude of why but they are good learners when the process engages them .They can certainly make it hard if the process doesn't seem right to them

Show dog or not they can sit ,my old ES isn't a fan of sitting but loves down,I don't teach sit but always teach drop but for vet visits I good stand is a blessing ,

Does the dog regularly sit when not asked or is he a stand and down type of dog?

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RuralPug   

I hear you - he would make a great pets as therapy dog, but won't be allowed unless he will sit on command etc. You are aiming for PAT, so need a good sit.

Training him to sit etc. the first thing to realise is it won't make any difference that he was a show dog. It is not unusual for people who have had great success training Dog A to be confused when size or learning style of Dog B creates a need for an amended training style - perhaps this is happening to you?

It is simply that you are not luring him correctly to offer the behaviour you want to reward. It might be that his height is awkward for you when holding the treat - think of it as more getting his head and eyes to go back which will automatically mean either rump down or backing (rear against wall stops the the latter). So think about the shape of his head when deciding where to hold the treat - probably if you are holding above his nose rather than above the top of his head, there will not be any incentive for his rear to go down to access the treat. If he is a reluctant sitter, you may need to start by shaping the behaviour as detailed already by others.

Another thing to try is it doesn't hurt to mark and praise if you see a behaviour that you want to the dog to reproduce on command. Not all dogs can learn this way, but many can. Whenever you see the dog sitting of his own accord for whatever reason, you need to get his attention (not over excitedly LOL or you'll lose the behaviour that you wanted to mark) name the behaviour ("Sit!") mark ("Yes!" or clicker or tongue click) and praise and reward. This works well with dogs that are indoors with their owners pretty much 24/7. You need to understand the mark and praise rather than just just the "O Clever boy! Good Boy!" which, if coming out of nowhere, won't help him to work out just what he has done right.

Finally, dogs can learn by watching other dogs. When Joe and Sue and Curly receive a treat for sitting down each morning, and I start fostering Rex who is untrained, I will often find that on the third or fourth morning Rex will sit too!! Of course, he gets a reward as well if that happens! So it may be worthwhile attending your local obedience club - not only can the trainers give you advice, they will most probably lend you a trained dog who will accept rewards for sit from you whilst your setter watches...

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helen   

I reckon Setterspan's guess was pretty spot on. They are gun dogs so would pretty much be happy to learn.

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helen   

Hi Kamuzz. Never ever try to use any physical pressure with an English Setter. They do however respond brilliantly to motivational training, shaping. If he is doing a meerkat impression you might be holding your luring hand too high. Just move your hand backward just slightly above his nose with a treat. It also may help to have his back near a wall/fence so he can't move his whole body away. Also make sure the floor is not slippery. Happy to speak more about this to you. I have just trained my show ES for his first Rally novice title (only took 2 months and he scored a 98 out of 100 in one round) and he is the 7th ES I have owned and trained.

Hi, just wondering how you find English Setters in general and what they are like to train. Also do you show and how much work is required for the coat

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I've had rescue dogs in my classes that simply would not lure a drop. So I asked the owners to go home, keep awesome treats in their pockets or in tiny containers around the house and mark "yes" and PARTY when the dog lay down of its own accord (capturing) - that dog nailed the drop within a week. He went from struggling to top of the class - and it was so awesome! It's often not that they can't do a behaviour it's that they don't understand what you want.

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Willem   

Thanks for the suggestions so far. He can't drop - I cannot fathom out how to teach drop from a stand.

One of the reasons I want to teach sit is that "everyone" expects a dog to sit. Go to the vet - vet says sit. Veli would make a good "pets as therapy" dog, but sitting is mandatory. And so on.

How does he respond to other commands? Wags his tail and gets excited. He does sit naturally very occasionally so I don't think he has any issues. (The vet dismissed this as typical ex-show dog behaviour when I asked.)

...'wags his tail and gets excited'..because he gets a treat?...you might have 'disarmed' yourself by giving him a reward / treat without having him to make the 'right choice'!...consequently there is no need for him for 'seeking' the right choice. If this is the case: no treats anymore (from no one) except for the right choice.

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Willem   

Maybe he hasn't "learned how to learn" ?

...that is my guess, there might have been never a need for him to learn for getting the treat, the only 'command' he likely follows (I'm speculating) is the recall as he can't get the reward without being close to the owner.

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JulesP   

It is more like he has been taught not to sit. Also possibly been taught to not follow the treat, but to stand and look pretty instead. To plant his feet but show expression.

I had some interesting experiences with a show horse once. I thought he as being a pain but was actually very well trained. It was just his training was hindering what I wanted to do.

So maybe work on unsticking his feet first.

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