Juniors Tutorial

Stacking a Dog

for the beginning Junior

This is the way I was taught to stack a dog. It may not be perfect, but what way is?

What is a Stack? The position of the dog in the show ring according to its standard. (i.e. how it stands when it's not gaiting.)
What are the kinds of stacks? There are hard stacks and free-bait stacks that you use depending on your breed. Hard stacking is actually setting up the dog's feet with your hands and holding them there. Free-baiting is letting the dog stack itself while you shamelessly bribe it with liver, or whatever kind of treat you have handy.
What does a stack look like? Well, it really depends on your breed. Most dogs stack in a four point stack, or the feet line up in a square (trapizoid to be spacific). The German shepherd dog, however stack differently.
This is a picture of what the four point stack should look like if you were looking down on top of the dog. The paw prints are were the dog's feet should stay. The numbers are like a counting guide to help you remember where the feet are suppose to go.
I don't know the name of this stack, but it is the stack a GSD is suppose to be in. The front feet are align, while the back are spread apart.
When do you stack? In the ring, you stack when you are not gaiting, or trotting around the ring. Whenever the judge looks at your dog, it should be in your dog's breed's stack.
Here is a good GR stack.

Ch. Deja Vu's Dream Come True
Here is a bad GR stack.

He he, that's me and Phro!
How do you train your dog to stack? With a lot of patients!
No, really. Really! It takes a load of patients to train a dog to do anything, much less something which many dogs find tedious and boring. That, and a lot of treats!
Here is a good GSD stack.

Ch. Jomari's New Kid in Town,HIC
Here is what a bad GSD stack looks like.

He he, that's me and Draco!
What are the steps in teaching a dog to stack? There are about five steps to teaching a dog to stack, but there are about five million ways you could teach them. In the way I taught my dogs to stack, I used these five steps though.
Step 1:
Hold still!
You must first teach the dog to hold still, so you can mess with their feet and such. You can do this by taking small pieces of bait and holding them up right beyond the dog's reach. Hold their head with the other had to prevent them for taking the bait right away. Say "Stand!" or "Stack!" or "Yikes!" or whatever command you want them to know and as soon as they stand still (just for a millisecond), give them the bait. Increase the lenght of time until it gets up to about, hmm...thirty seconds that they can stand still without wiggling. If they move, say a sharp "NO!" and don't give them the bait. Take this slowly!! It may seem like a long time to stick with one lesson, but it is a very important step. It is important to learn because if the dog can't stand still, you can't mess with their foot position and the judge can't mess with their bite or anything!
Step 2:
Stop messing with my feet!
This is a most combersome lesson; dogs get irritated with it easily. Your goal (and always have a goal when you start on a training lesson) is to get them to stand still while you move their feet around. Practice the previous step, but before you give them the bait, take one hand (the hand that's not holding the bait!) and reach down and move a paw anywhere. It doesn't have to be in the right place, just so they keep it where you move it. Then, if they are still, give them their reward! My dogs have never liked me trying to move their paws around, so when they get irritated be it, they just hop around and look at me as to say, "What do you think you're doing??" If either you or your dog becomes frustrated in the process, just quit and try again later. If you continue, they will end up hating stacking, and everything that accompanies it, and you will have to work even harder to get them to like it again. Been there, done that, not pretty.
Step 3:
Once your dog can go about thirty seconds without moving their feet, try this step. Start putting their feet in the right places. To help you count where they go, try the 1-4 method. (See chart on 4-point stack above.) Number the paws one though four and count them as you put them in the right places. Eventually, this will come natural to you, but for now, it's a good way to remember. Say your command for stacking and place the paws in there respected places. Make sure that your dog keeps still, and when you think they have, reward them! At this point, if you wish, you can start to thread out using bait, and just saying stack (or whatever). Again, don't move too fast. It may appear that your dog can stack in a couple of days, but 99.9% of the time, it's just a conisidence, and you end up having to start over. You should practice this one a while.
Step 4:
Hold REALLY still!
The biggest problem I had at my first show in the ring is that Phro would not let the judge touch her back (partly because she is shy, partly because it was her first time too). So to prevent this, you can teach an extra command: to hold-still-no-matter-if-the-sun-crashes-to-earth. Do this be stacking the dog and holding one hand under the dog's belly, and the other gripping the leash so that the dog has little room to move. Have someone (or do this yourself, if you can) take the dog's absolute favorite, to-die-for treat and tease them with it by taking it along the top of their head and down their back. While they are doing this, say "Still!" or "Steady!" or "Bob!", etc. and firmly hold them in place. When they stand still, reward them and give them the treat. After a while, you should be able to remove your hand from under the belly (and even if they get REALLY good and take off the leash) and the other person, or you, can freely run their treat along their back without them moving. It also works great to give them the command while you are out in public and other people are touching their back. This simulates a strange (or normal) judge touching them. Move slowly with this one too.
Step 5:
This one is easy. When the dog knows all of that, just take the bait and lead them from the front. Say "Stack" and when it stops, check their feet. If any are out of place, simply move them into the correct place and give them the treat. It might sound like it doesn't work, but it does, over time.
Anything else? Be consistant in training, have patients with your dog, and practice a lot. That's it, I think.
Thanks. No problem.

Juniors Section

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