Teaching your dog how to get into the “basic position” is not an easy task. Watch the video instruction and follow my step-by-step instructions to learn how it can be done with ease!
[Links to Part 1234]

Verbal cue in English:

Verbal cue in German:


Part 2 of 4: Teaching our dog how to find the basic position.

Now that our dog pays attention to us when he sits in the basic position, we are going to add another element: How to make him get into the basic position by himself.

At first, we want to keep it simple.

Step 1

Get your treats, your clicker and a toy. Put the treats into your right pocket (I suggest you wear a training jacket or a belt pouch to keep your treats handy.) Initially, you want to keep them out of your dog’s reach so he does not get distracted.

Step 2

Make sure your dog can focus exclusively on you. Avoid any disturbance. Training indoors or in your backyard is a good idea.

Step 3

Give your dog the Sit command and praise him calmly once he sits down correctly.

Step 4

Position yourself a few steps (~4 feet) ahead of your dog. You and your dog should be facing in the same direction. Your dog should now sit behind you – ideally slightly to your left.

Step 5

Take a treat out of your pocket and put it into your left hand.

Step 6

With the treat in your hand, turn your upper body to the left and extend your arm with the treat towards your dog. It is okay if you move your left leg slightly backwards so you can stand more comfortably. The treat should now be just about a foot away from your dog’s nose.

Step 7

Call your dog. When he gets up and moves towards the treat, close your hand around the treat and slowly turn your upper body back into a straight position. Try to do this in one smooth motion while keeping your arm straight. Ideally, the treat should stay right in front of our dog’s nose during the turning motion. It is actually desirable if our dog pushes his nose into our hand to get the treat. We want him to follow our motion precisely.

Step 8

Once you are back in a straight and upright position and your hand (with your dog’s nose “attached” to it) reaches your leg, pull your hand up. We want our dog to get into the Sit position right next to us. If he does not sit down by himself, it is okay to give him the Sit command the first few times.

Step 9

As soon as our dog sits correctly in the basic position to our left, we release the treat as his reward. Remember, don’t reward your dog before he sits down AND looks up.

Step 10

Keep your dog in the Sit position and repeat this exercise from step 4 a few more times. End the training session with playtime.

Note: the 4 feet distance works well for larger breeds such as retrievers or shepherds. If you have a smaller dog, you may want to reduce the distance between your hand and your dog by getting into a slightly kneeling position. Your dog needs to be able to stay close to the treat during this exercise.

There are several different ways to teach the basic position. Some trainers start with luring the dog into position while others (like me) start with getting our dogs attention by teaching them to look up. There are also trainers who use “shaping” as their primary method (the dog needs to find the basic position by himself), but I found the luring method more effective especially for inexperienced handlers. We will use shaping at a later stage to “fine-tune” the basic position exercise.

Once our dog has learned to follow our hand into the basic position, we can start to make this lesson a bit more challenging.

Step 11

Repeat steps 1 through 10, but this time, get into the straight and upright position more quickly. Eventually, your dog will learn to follow the motion of your hand even if it is not right in front of his nose. Don’t rush it though! It is important for your dog to clearly understand where the basic position is before we reduce any physical help (such as our body motion).

If you limit your training sessions to a few minutes several times per day, your dog should be able to reliably get into the basic position after no more than a week or two. Once that is the case, we can move on to the next step.

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