Retriever Training Forum - Sit means Sit - Or Does It?
Ted Shih - Tue Feb 18, 2003 9:29 am
Post subject: Sit means Sit - Or Does It?
You may think sit means sit, but my guess is that it really doesnít to your dog.
I can discuss this subject because in many respects, I am an expert. By expert,
I mean that my dogs are known offenders (one having broken in two different
trials in the fourth series where we were on the leader board) and that I am, in
no small measure, to blame.
First, some background. My dogs are professionally trained by Cherylon Loveland.
She does not run trials, I do. In the off-season, I train every weekend. In
season, I train Thursday, then jump in my dog truck.
Second, it doesnít matter what you do, the dogs know a field trial (or hunt
test). I donít care what you do, you cannot replicate battle conditions, only
approximate. At a FT, there is no collar. There are lots more people, dogs, and
truck. The dogs sit around longer. There are more guns at the flyer station.
They get a shot duck or pheasant - not a pigeon. So, if you have a high powered
dog, he is going to be jacked up. That is a given.
Third, if you have a young, jacked up dog, your obedience problems can be
exacerbated. One partial solution is to wear the dogs out. When my dogs were 3
and I was running in the AA stakes, I would run blinds in the morning before the
set up dog ran, run blinds after the setup dog ran, run blinds after the marks,
run blinds after the blinds, etc., etc. etc. I found that when I was able to do
this (not always possible because of grounds near FT, running numbers, etc.) I
found that I MIGHT have a chance of keeping the dogs RELATIVELY mellow. You may
think I am exaggerating. Let me assure you, I am not.
When I ran the dogs' legs off on blinds, they would still race out after the
birds, but be more considered about it. If I didnít run the blinds, I was
doomed. The dogs were just too pumped to be a FT. If they had to sit in the
truck and wait, they would be running all over Godís country in the first
series. Things got somewhat better last year at age 4, but they still needed the
blinds to blow some of the steam out of them.
Last Spring, my two 4 year old littermates each had a win and each needed two
points to qualify for the National. So, I pushed hard ... I ran too many trials
in a row ... and got nothing. Whatís worse, the dogs line manners got worse. One
moral - be careful not to run too many trials in a row!
So, Cherylon and I dissected what was going wrong. There were some things that
we could not address or did not want to address. Neither Cherylon nor I wanted
to take the drive out of the dogs. It is too big a part of what we enjoy about
the game. We thought (and this year may tell us so) that age would probably take
care of some of the problem.
Then we started to work on me. And we discovered sit did not mean sit to the
dogs when I was running them. They knew that the standard was different for me
than for Cherylon.
Ok, so what do I mean when I say sit means sit.
It means in training (and of course at a FT) to the dog that:
You donít get out of the dog box until I say so.
You donít move after you get out of the dog box until I say so.
When I am walking to the holding blind (and I use a very short lead - a 6"
climbing rope with no loop attached to a choke chain, which makes it easy for me
to identify surging by the dog - and which can remain on the dog for land
marks), you must sit when I stop.
It means that when I call for the birds, ANY movement calls for correction
(either 6" lead or stick).
It means when you return with the bird, reposition, and sit, ANY movement
without my direction calls for correction.
It means that after you gives me the bird, ANY movement without my direction
calls for correction.
The standard is ANY (and I do mean ANY) movement.
When a handler can say that he or she truly honors that standard (in training -
there are always some allowances that need to be made at a FT), then Sit means
My guess is that if you videotape yourself, you will find that sit really does
not mean to the dog what you think it means.
Gman - Tue Feb 18, 2003 9:38 am
Post subject: Sit means Sit
Ted, This is the standard Rex-Judy-Farmer approach to line manners. It is why
out-of-state judges are amazed at how well behaved our dogs are online. In a
typical 60-80 dog open, you MIGHT have to tell 3 handlers to reheel their dogs.
I am learning the hard way these lessons because Zipper was a laid back, steady
eddie kinda dog. Wizard is not and you have to make him toe the line. If you
watch yourself, the you don't have to watch the dog.
Reo - Tue Feb 18, 2003 9:56 am
Ted--thank you--I really appreciate this post and I'm sure others will
I'm printing it out and going to go over it with my training group so that
whoever is at the line behind me can watch/evaluate MY corrections and timing,
etc. There's certainly EVERY possibility that I'm NOT making the dog sit....a
TRUE sit......that I am allowing him to do some movement in training no matter
how slight and that would most certainly carry over into trialing, especially
with this type of dog. Soon as this snow melts some so we can get back out and
into fulltime training mode I'm going to implement all of what you posted. As it
stands now IF I can gain some ground with this regimen of training he may get to
run in late summer, early fall. All I can do is try and he's just too nice a dog
to quit on him.
WRL - Tue Feb 18, 2003 10:28 am
WONDERFUL WONDERFUL POST TED!!! WOW....awesome....
I KNEW this stuff but it really sinks in for that habitual creeper I have (Bug)
who has been known to leave the line on her own between multiple marks.....eesh
Polock - Tue Feb 18, 2003 10:38 am
Ted, I tend to believe that the disregard for the 'sit means sit' command is
In our wonderful world of HT's and FT's, regardless of who's game we're playin',
we as humans have a need to get there quickly. Though we go through the OB
session of training we are constantly extending the dawg onward at an
accelerated pace, either because of rule demands or our ego/dreams.
Unfortunately along that road to success, some things suffer, OB may get a
little less attention, while we're working on blinds, marks, TT, FF, CC and
such, so we can compete.
We buy high energy dawgs, then we attempt to get them higher through training
scenarios that included live flyers, gunfire and the like. Our adrenaline flows,
the dawgs sense it ,and things start to slide down hill in our quest. The
athlete that we've trained our dawg to be takes over, and in the excitement of
the moment, his adrenaline flows also.
We push our dawgs hard to get into the competition of our egos, at an
accelerated rate, that we forget ......BABY STEPS, Baby Steps, baby
steps............... IMHODAO... if I may quote our friend Joe S.
Man........I love these dawgs and these games!!!
Polock......the only time the the world beats a path to your door is when you're
in the bathroom
Ted Shih - Tue Feb 18, 2003 10:53 am
One thing that I think I need to reinforce - as Gman and Shayne both alluded to
- your approach depends upon the dogs.
My two boyz needed lots of blinds and lots of obedience because they are as
Steve Martin would say - "Wild and Crazy Guys."
At the same time when I was running the boyz, I had a 3 year old bitch, with
whom I did not run blinds, and did not get on about obedience. She was lower
maintenance and was better off left alone at the FT.
So decide what to do depending on your dog.
ErinsEdge - Tue Feb 18, 2003 11:01 am
Excellent post Ted. I had 2 dogs that didn't budge on line. I was spoiled. Then
I got 2 dogs that I thought were doing ok but they were lifting their butts and
doing tiny little butt scoots. My trainer also noticed it and said don't let
them get away with one little scoot. Well, at a trial, that little tiny scoot
turns into a hop hop and they are 6 feet in front of you. We now practice even
leaving the house to air. Sit means sit.
Gman - Tue Feb 18, 2003 11:03 am
Post subject: Know your dog
Exactly right Ted!
Zipper needed to be relaxed and feeling good, especially on watermarks to do
well. Other dogs need to be tightened down for their "minds to be in gear". Got
to know your dog and what is needed. Perfect example of it this weekend in the
Am at Acadiana. Sunday morning, its raining, 50 degrees and the wind is blowing
at 25-30 mph. Judges just lick their chops with contradictions like that. The dogs
have not had a collar on them since Thursday, many of them running Open and Am,
so they have seen a few birds. Great water blind with a re-entry required after a
sizeable distance on land. I think only 2 dogs out of the first 15 picked up the
duck! Sunday morning is a great time for a little OB with a collar on a dog that
I have also found that as a dog advances in training and the setups get more
difficult, there is a great temptation to COMPETE instead of train. Handlers get
so involved in doing the tests that they forget about line manners, creeping,
movement. Keep your standard.
Evan - Tue Feb 18, 2003 4:12 pm
Terrific point, Ted.
Also a good point by Joe M.. I would go a step further and say that a break
starts within the framework of the dogís expectations. Thatís why Iím such a fan
of ďthink drillsĒ. Before reaching that point of maintenance, though, I also
start with, and continue to promote, a solid sit standard as part of what any of
my dogs come to expect from me.
As a former pro I also recognize how clientís dogs have different expectations
of the standards supported by trainers, as compared to those they expect from
their owners. In suggesting think drills, my standards are assumed because a
solid tripod posture in a single piece of real estate is the only standard I
accept. Measures beyond the norm (like think drills) have impact only if I keep
that standard alive at all times.
As you pros know only too well, in spite of all the teaching and pleading you
may do with your clients, they will do what they will do. Sometimes they listen,
learn, and follow direction well. Sometimes they donít.
subroc - Tue Feb 18, 2003 4:36 pm
Evan, What do you mean by "think drills?"
Also for anyone, as we try to adhere to the "sit means sit" level of obedience,
other factors come into play. This example is easy to illustrate and is where my
question arises from. I donít know how many saw the ESPN retriever show a few
weeks ago but it had a very difficult steady situation presented to the dogs and
I looked at it and wondered what I would/should expect from my own dog in that
situation. The marked retrieve was a double. There was a fairly technical bird
(DFT) thrown on the right. Then right away a diversion bird was thrown right by
the front of the handler and dog moving right to left about 15 yards in front of
the handler. The reactions from the dogs were anything from a simple shift of
the front feet to mark the fall to a controlled break stepping out of the box
that was the test parameter.
In this example does "sit mean sit?" Is repositioning to mark the fall still
Being new to all this, I watched that part of the show with as much interest as
the retrieves themselves.
Evan - Tue Feb 18, 2003 5:02 pm
First, the answer to your very good question would be "yes". Sit means sit. Even
if you train your dog to move with you, he moves in response to a cue. That may
only be your physical movement - right or left, or stepping up or back on him to
communicate your desire for him to move. Many handlers do those things only
intending to turn the dog's head to see marks in another direction.
Even if the dog is trained to move, though, he should only pivot while remaining
seated on the same spot next to the handler. I've done it both ways. I prefer to
be able to move the dog in a tight pivot because of the separation that
sometimes exists between marks.
"Think drills". The more I observed that style itself became an obstacle in a
dog's performance, the more I would give that dog to think about. Very focused
check-down drills, poison bird blinds (even for derby dogs), and even primary
selection have been useful in helping the high drive types remain focused on
their jobs without taking that wonderful style out of them. Reo also mentioned
that she does cold honor blinds; a very similar regimen to poison bird blinds,
and a wonderful discipline.
There are many other examples of think drills, but I'm sure you can see that the
idea is to change the dog's expectations. Instead of always anticipating a
one-two-three-GO cadence, you provide something more to think about, or to
anticipate happening before they get to go.
Did I describe them well enough?
Aussie - Tue Feb 18, 2003 6:37 pm
Evan, if you are not careful you will start speaking with an Australian accent.
I could not agree with you more.
As you know I follow US training methods. But it gives me a headache day after
day trying to marry up the major differences with what is required from my
Australian dogs in competition. Down under our dogs HAVE TO HAVE good line
manners, otherwise, they have no chance of seeing the marks (they are from
silent hidden bird launchers).
What I saw, by observing the pre-national training and the national itself was
one trial. I cannot wait until I see a weekend FT and a hunt test during my next
But what I did see was wonderful to terrible line manners. During my observation
of the pre-national training I made notes beside every dog that I was blessed to
video and see working. I wrote comments for example like happy tail, needed
"use" of heeling stick between marks, great focus, great heeling to line, great
memory. The blinds blew my mind with the control of course!!!!! It was
interesting going through my notes after the completion of the Amateur national
- the dogs percentage wise that had good line manners, were not just the
finalists but the dogs that had lasted nearly until the end of the trial.
By having visible gunners in the field surely that encourages bad line manners
and head swinging. Or for that matter duck calls etc in hunt tests.
I was told many times that line manners or for that matter delivery of birds is
not really considered in competition, the dogs work in the field is.
So that is the standard. Therefore the dogs are taught by THE RULES - ours and
Also in Australia dogs do not see where the birds fall in our competitions. They
see the bird in the skyline but that is all. I really enjoyed your comment about
mixing up training/selection. Sorry to repeat this information but also in
higher stakes the dogs will have to pick up the blind before getting the
"skyline only sighted" marks in the same series (run).
Nothing turns me on more than a dog, obeying at the line to leave the marks and
go for a blind, then picking up those marks like there were neon signs on them.
subroc - Tue Feb 18, 2003 6:50 pm
Evan, Yes, you explained it perfectly.
First, the answer to your very good question would be "yes". Sit means
sit. Even if you train your dog to move with you, he moves in response to
a cue. That may only be your physical movement - right or left, or
stepping up or back on him to communicate your desire for him to move.
Many handlers do those things only intending to turn the dog's head to see
marks in another direction.
Even if the dog is trained to move, though, he should only pivot while
remaining seated on the same spot next to the handler. I've done it both
ways. I prefer to be able to move the dog in a tight pivot because of the
separation that sometimes exists between marks.
Essentially, taking initial alignment drills for heeling and handling and
putting an additional component of responding to subtle handler movement only.
Allowing pivot within that parameter only and holding to the strict standard.
Sit still means sit.
"Think drills". The more I observed that style itself became an obstacle
in a dog's performance, the more I would give that dog to think about.
Very focused check-down drills, poison bird blinds (even for derby dogs),
and even primary selection have been useful in helping the high drive
types remain focused on their jobs without taking that wonderful style out
of them. Reo also mentioned that she does cold honor blinds; a very
similar regimen to poison bird blinds, and a wonderful discipline.
There are many other examples of think drills, but I'm sure you can see
that the idea is to change the dog's expectations. Instead of always
anticipating a one-two-three-GO cadence, you provide something more to
think about, or to anticipate happening before they get to go.
To make sure that I have it clear. An additional example of a "think drill"
would be, much as primary selection, throw a mark, pause, turn and run a blind.
Change the expectation.
Thank You Joe M.
Ted Shih - Tue Feb 18, 2003 8:06 pm
Joe, In many respects, "sit" is simply a synonym for "control." When you enforce sit,
you are enforcing control.
Another means of enforcing control is to make sure not only that the dog does
not move its feet without your permission, but also that the dog does not move
its head without your permission.
For example, suppose you are running a triple. The first bird is thrown. Before
it hits the ground, the dog swings its head. You could say "sit" and stick the
dog. You could simply send the dog for the first bird (and correct if he does
not run straight and true to the bird, then start the sequence over). You could
wait until the dog's head returns to the first bird. You could do any of those
things before calling for the second bird. Or you could simply call for the
second bird. If you simply call for the second bird, you are teaching the dog
that he can control the tempo of the birds. If you do one of the others, you are
telling the dog that he needs to be more attentive to you and that he cannot
swing off until you allow him to.
Blast-great thread by the way, all who have posted please respond with
correction method and psychology of why you would choose this method and of
course subsequent corrections. Everyone is welcomed to respond of course I would
like to hear of the logic behind your correction.
Ted Shih - Tue Feb 18, 2003 9:22 pm
First, the collar is only one tool. Other tools are lead, stick, and voice. Just
because you use a collar, doesn't mean you abandon others.
Second, my view is that dogs violate sit in many ways, not just the way you
describe. Some dogs dance, tapping their front paws and raising their butt.
Others lower head, crouch and raise butt.
Third, my standard is butt planted on ground, front paws planted too. I will
make exception if test is wide open and I must make the dog travel through a
long arc - for example one bird is at 9 o clock and another at 3 o clock. But in
such instance, I will either be moving into the dog or moving away from the dog
- cueing him, telling him I want him to move with me.
Fourth, the correction depends on nature of infraction (is it just a twitch, is
the first time I have seen the behavior, what happened yesterday). When I come
to the line, assume dog on left (I have two sided dogs), short rope lead in left
hand, stick and collar in right. I will jerk on lead if forward movement of paws
or crouch with butt lifted (typically on marks as they fall). In contrast, if
after returning with a bird, the dog moves forward after giving me the bird, I
will stick him across the chest because I find stick on butt tends to drive a
moving dog forward. I may also nick for latter.
Big moment (or repeated little ones) may merit stick and collar.
Remember don't nag if you want this to mean anything. You come to the line, dog
gets positioned, you say sit. Don't say sit (sit, sit, sit, sit, sit) along the
way. If dog violates standard, then you say sit with appropriate correction.