I train and help train hundreds of dogs each year. Almost every dog I encounter, no matter how advanced, how delayed, how remedial, or how extensive their training, has never learned to “stand” on cue. It seems to be the most difficult basic cue for owners to teach their dogs, despite the incredibly easy methods we can use to put it on cue. An overwhelming number of dog handlers seem not to understand the significance of teaching their dog to stand. “Stand” is, if not the most critically important thing you can teach your dog, at least as important as “sit”, “down”, and “come”. And yet…virtually no one teaches it.
Let’s cover the physical aspects first:
Try to stand completely still for 60 seconds. Can you? Was it difficult? It almost certainly was. Most humans shift their weight frequently if they aren’t actively moving around. Standing still requires the muscles in the entire body to work to maintain balance. This is true for every animal that can stand. There’s a lot of very subtle muscle movement involved and keeping those muscles toned and balanced is important. Standing is also one of the three basic positions dogs can assume. (The other two are sitting and laying down.) Moving from stand to down, down to stand, sit to stand, and stand to sit, is a pretty complete workout. This is a great way to work any dog, but especially dogs who need low impact exercises to increase muscle tone. Physically, being able to ask your dog to stand on all four feet is critical.
Psychologically, teaching “stand” is equally important. Dogs need to understand the words we use to describe their behaviors and their environments in order for us to communicate with them. In order for a dog to clearly comprehend that movements we need them to make, handlers must teach them all of the basic motions they’re capable of achieving. If one third of those positions are a mystery to the dog, advancing from that position is unspeakably difficult. Adding one more cue to their repertoire can provide the clarity a dog needs to help him understand the things that will be asked of him is the only humane option.
Behaviorally, teaching “stand” creates reliability. If a dog knows how to stand on cue, he can also learn with ease when to jump (or not to jump), when to walk (or not to walk), when to move forward and back, when not to lie down or sit…
Dogs who know a “stand” cue can be easily examined at the vet, can stand quietly in a line, can contain themselves while they wait for exciting new things, and can greet other dogs politely.
Stand is such a vitally important cue to train. It’s easy to capture, easy to lure, and easy to use. So the next time you’re working with your dog, teach them to stand on cue. Then work on the stand-stay. 😉