Sphynx downs allow Service Dogs to fold into a down instead of sliding into one. Folding backward means the dog takes up less space than the sprawl that often happens when the dog first sits, then flops into a down with gravity doing most of the work. Sphynx downs are more efficient, ergonomic, and neater than their sliding counterpart. Training them, however, takes a bit of practice and lots of repetition. Learn to improve your dog's sphynx downs by following these simple tips! Use a Platform to Teach a Sphynx Down Platform training helps provide clear boundaries for your dog. When it comes to positions and position training, platforms offer your dog instant feedback as to whether or not they're in the correct place. They're either on the platform or off the platform -- there's nothing in between. It also allows the trainer to manage the environment and situation so the dog can better differentiate and sort behaviors to offer. Platforms can be sophisticated and purpose-built, like the Klimb dog training pedestal or a Karunda bed. Raised surfaces in the environment work well, too. Examples include steps you can stand to the side of, the edge of a porch or (unheated) fireplace hearth, or stable concrete blocks arranged so there's space for all four of your dog's feet on the surface. Place your dog in a stand at the platform edge. If your dog doesn't yet know how to fold back into a down, use a lure backward at an angle between their front legs to teach them the basic position. Work on building competency with the behavior before adding distance or distractions. If your dog currently sits then slides into a down when you use your current down command, consider pairing a new cue with the sphynx down behavior. Until your dog reliably folds into a down on cue on a platform, try to avoid using the new skill in real-life applications without the ability to heavily reinforce it. Practice the position from a variety of orientations. Try standing in front of your dog and beside your dog. Give sitting on the floor or kneeling a shot. When your dog responds to the verbal cue regardless of your physical position or body language, you know they're starting to actually understand it. Put Your Dog on a Line The next step to improving sphynx downs involves fading use of the platform. Ideally, we want the dog to
Basic obedience positions, consisting of sit, down, and stand, provide a foundation for much of the movement your Service Dog does throughout the day. Public access uses long downs, mobility work relies on rock solid stands, and sit is the most commonly cued position for most dogs. Lots of puppies learn sit first. Next, they master down and down stays. Some go on to learn stands, but many don't. By improving your basic obedience positions, you can improve your communication with your Service Dog while also improving task work, public access, and functionality. You can also use basic obedience positions to build your dog's strength, mobility, and flexibility. In addition, improving sits, downs, and stands offers a great chance to work on your dog training skills, including timing, reward placement, and reinforcement schedules. These skills also serve as a base for more advanced obedience and positioning skills, like pivots, emergency downs, and stays out of motion. Basic Obedience Positions and Cue Differentiation Does your dog know sit? Many people believe their dog does but then discover their dog relies on a mixture of physical, environmental, contextual, and verbal cues and not on the cue "sit" itself! The same goes for downs and stands -- does your dog still respond to the cue if you're standing straight up and you don't use your hands? What if your back is turned? Many dogs, including highly trained ones, only know what their handler wants if the cue is delivered with precisely the correct elements. Work on improving your dog's response to verbal cues. Strive to reduce or remove physical elements from your cues. Change the way you deliver cues -- sit down, stand up, lay on the ground, try it from an elevated position, etc. Work until your dog performs reliably off a single verbal cue regardless of the environmental set up or the position you yourself are in. Expanding your dog's generalization of a cue might come in handy during emergencies or in situations your dog can't readily see you. Basic Obedience Position Transitions Playing position transition games is a great way to improve basic obedience positions. Most dogs can go into a down from a sit, but does your dog pop into a sit from a down on cue? Do they stand on cue while sitting or in a down? How many times can they transition cleanly? These games are great opportunities to work on cue differentiation
We all think our Service Dogs know basic commands inside and out, but do they really? This week's Service Dog Challenge will shake up your behavior proofing knowledge, polish your Service Dog's performance and solidify your partner's comprehension of cues. Get ready to have some fun perfecting your canine partner's positional knowledge and learning how to test understanding!