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:
“Heel” or “Swing”

Verbal cue in German:
“Fuss” [:fooss]


Part 3 of 4: Teaching our dog how get into the basic position – from anywhere.

By the time you are ready to work through this part, your dog should have learned to get into the basic position from behind your back and to look up (to pay attention to his source of treats). Excellent!

There is one catch though. When we are outside with our dogs, it is not really practical to wait until they are right behind us before we can call them into the basic position… Part 3 of this exercise is an extension of the second part. We want our dogs to learn how to get into the basic position from no matter where they are.

In competitive obedience, there are a number of ways for dogs to get into the basic position. In most cases, the dog approaches the handler from the front. From that position the dog can either:

(a) move its rear end to the right (~180 degrees) until he stands left to the handler;

or (b) circle clockwise around the handler until he stands left to him.

Regardless of what method we choose, they all end with the dog sitting down in the basic position on the handler’s left side. If you are planning on showing in obedience, you want to work on an perfectly straight sit. Even though method “a” is very common in competitive obedience, I have primarily used method “b” with my dogs (Andy knows how to do it both ways, but I am only using method “a” to correct him into the right position if has done a sloppy job getting into the basic position the first time around).

Let’s get started.

Step 1

As always, get your treats, your clicker and a toy. Put the treats into your pocket or a belt pouch.

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

Position yourself in front of your dog. It does not matter whether your dog sits or stands as long as he does not move around too much.

Step 4

Take one of your treats in your right hand and hold it in front of your dog’s nose. I am sure you will have his attention now!

Step 5

With the treat as your lure, move your right hand towards you and then to the right past your hip. You dog should follow your moving hand closely. Continue to move your hand behind your back. Right behind your back, switch and take the treat into your left hand. Continue the circular motion and move the treat past your left hip. Your dog should still follow your motion.

Step 6

When your dog’s head comes around your back, move your hand up so he needs to lift his head to stay close to the treat. Continue to move the treat forward and up until your dog stands next to you.


Step 7

Once your dog is next to you, hold the treat at shoulder-hight and tell him to “Sit” (if he does not already do it by himself).

Step 8

Reward your dog with a click and the treat when he sits down AND looks up.

Initially, we don’t care about speed or accuracy. We just want our dog to learn that if he follows the treat around us, he will be rewarded. If your dog made good progress with the exercise in Part 2, he should already know where the basic position is and that he needs to sit and look at you for the reward. Holding the treat next to your head or at shoulder level (when at step 7 above) is a nice memory aid. In my experience, you need the extra Sit cue only the first few times.

Step 9

After your dog reliably follows your hand closely into the basic position, continue this exercise but move your hand with the treat more quickly. Within a few repetitions your dog will have learned that he will be rewarded for circling around you into the basic position, even without the treat right in front of his nose.

Now it is time to introduce a verbal cue. I have heard some people use “Swing” or “Side” as verbal cues. I am sure this works just fine. A lot of handlers in the Schutzhund sport however use the German word “Fuss” (pronounced “fooss”) to get their dogs into the basic position. I use this cue as well. The English equivalent to Fuss is the “Heel” cue. This is less confusing than you might think. For your dog, heeling is nothing other than staying in the basic position will walking or running. In any event, feel free to substitute the verbal “Fuss” cue with any other verbal cue of your choosing.

Step 10

Repeat step 9 multiple times over the next few days, but this time, use the “Fuss” cue every time you start moving your hand away from your dogs nose. Reward your dog only after he circled around your and finishes in the Sit position AND looks up to you (use your verbal or mechanical marker to mark the reward and then feed your dog the treat).

Step 11

Go back to step 3 and give your dog the “Fuss” cue without showing him the treat and without circling the treat around yourself to test if he has learned his lesson. If he has not, go back one step and keep on working. If he did it right, reward him and praise him extensively (= playtime!).

Congratulations! Your dog has learned all elements of the getting into basic position routine: (a) looking up to you, (b) sitting to your left in the correct position, and (c) to circle around you to get into the correct position. Now it’s time to put everything together.

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