Golden Retriever Training: Teaching The “Stand” Skill

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I love teaching my Golden Retriever basic obedience skills. Our Golden Retriever was so bright that he learned his basic skills quickly, often in under 5 repetitions. However, the one he and I had the most difficulty with was the “stand” skill. 

The “stand” or “stand up” skill is generally taught after the “sit” and “down” skills. It is the last primary dog position before teaching your dog recall. The stand skill is a handy behavior for your dog to learn in its obedience training, and it can be used in various valuable situations. 

The “stand” skill teaches your Golden Retriever to stand up when cued and requires that your dog stand up on all fours without moving or stepping forward. The stand skill is beneficial when putting on a dog’s collar or harness or when it needs to be examined or groomed. 

First, we always teach the behavior that we want and how we want to see it. Then we add the verbal cue. In this manner, the dog learns what it that we want before we begin conditioning the verbal cue and hand signals to the behavior. Lastly, we begin to fade the lure.

The Training Session

Below I outline all the steps in teaching the “stand” skill from both a sitting and down position. I also outline how to proof the skill and, finally, some of the common problems you might encounter, and some suggestions to remedy those issues.

The Basic Progression: Stand From the Sitting Position

It’s recommended to start teaching the “stand” skill from the sitting position.

It’s typically more straightforward for the dog to learn to stand up from a sitting position versus a down position since the dog is already halfway in the stand position when sitting.

  1. Start with your dog in the sitting position. 
  2. Hold a treat between your thumb and forefinger (lure hand). 
  3. Move the treat (lure) SLOWLY away from the dog’s nose and towards you at about collar level (continue to move the lure toward you and away from the dog slowly.)
  4. The dog will follow the lure and stand. Immediately say; “Yes” (marker) and then reward. 

Add the Verbal Cue 

Once your dog can do the stand skill successfully, as outlined above, we add the verbal cue. The dog now understands what it is we want, and now we want to start conditioning the verbal command. 

So, follow the steps outlined previously, but when performing step 4, you instead do the following:

  • Move the treat (lure) SLOWLY away from the dog’s nose and toward you. Say “stand” (verbal cue) while initiating the movement, and once the dog is in the stand position, say “yes” and reward the dog.

Stand Up From The Down Position

Standing up from the down position changes another variable, so expect that your Golden Retriever might not get this right away.

Remember, dogs are poor at generalizing, so this skill may need to be taught much like the first progression (stand from a sitting position). This means you may need to get the behavior first before adding the verbal cue. 

  1. Start with your dog in the down position. 
  2. Hold a treat between your thumb and forefinger (lure hand). 
  3. Move the treat (lure) SLOWLY away from the dog’s nose and UPWARD (note this movement) and then forward and towards you.
  4. The dog will follow the lure and stand. Immediately say; “yes” and then reward. 
  5. When your dog can successfully stand up from the down position, add the verbal cue while initiating the movement.

Notice the additional UPWARD movement in step 3.

That upward movement was taught to get our dog to go into the sitting position, and your dog should begin to move into the sitting position when doing so. That’s fine, but before the dog settles into a complete sit, keep moving the lure forward continuously and smoothly, which should cause it to forward into a stand.

Fade the Lure 

Once your dog gets the behavior discussed above, you want to start fading the lure. To do this, start with no treat in your lure hand, and initiate the movements as before. Once your Golden Retriever successfully stands up, you feed the reward from the other hand or the treat pouch behind your pack. 

The dog is now responding to the hand motion and verbal cues instead of following the food reward (lure).

Proofing The Stand Skill

As always, we utilize the three D’s: duration, distance, and, lastly, distractions, when proofing a skill. 

As always, start with duration. 

When your dog stands up successfully upon cue, begin pausing for a few extra seconds before offering the reward. Then, increase the duration by one or two seconds at a time before delivering the treat. 

If your dog stands up before the required time, then you’ve gone too long for his abilities at the moment. Just shorten the time to one that the dog can do successfully and increase the duration more slowly. 

Aim for a milestone of 30 seconds, then add in the distance. 

For distance, start by taking just one step back after your dog is standing and reward it for not moving toward you. Then, continue to increase the length by a half-step to a whole step at a time. 

Aim for a milestone of 10 feet, then move to distractions.

Training with distractions should always start with a low distraction setting and progress slowly to more distracting settings. The backyard is the best place to start but use creativity if that is not an option.

It may require walking or driving your dog to a suitable location to start. Just remember, distractions impose the greatest challenge for your dog.

Once you find a good setting to begin, practice the “stand” skill, and any other skills learned to date, and then progress to more distracting environments over time.

I’m working in a low distraction setting with Bailey on the deck. A few kids were playing next door and dogs barking, but he focused like a champ.

Common Problems

The two most common problems are 1) the dog doesn’t stand up, or 2) the dog steps forward for the treat.

To address the first, problem make sure when you use the lure that you are moving away from the dog at about collar length and do it slowly. I made a mistake initially in moving the lure upwards, which Bailey took as a sit.

If you move the reward back from the dog’s nose at collar length, it will have no option but to follow the lure and stand up. 

You may find that your dog walks forward a few steps initially when standing up, and that is fine when starting. It’s more important to get the behavior first than work on refining it later. 

Often a step or two forward happens when we’re slow on rewarding the dog once it stands up, or it’s because you’re moving the treat too quickly forward (you don’t want it to chase the treat). I was often a bit late on my reward initially, and it was just enough time for Bailey to walk a few steps forward. He was following the food reward, so that was my bad. 

If you find your dog steps forward, try quickly feeding the treat while holding your hand still or even pressing gently backward while he’s eating it. Doing this halts the dog because he must stop eating the treat from your immobile hand.

You can also implement a dog training platform or an elevated dog bed into the training, which I highly recommend. You can train all basic positions on the platform or bed.

When teaching the stand on a platform, the dog is less likely to step forward because it’s elevated a few inches off the ground. As a result, the dog is more inclined to stop in place rather than jump off (unless you keep moving the treat forward). 

Next Steps

You and your dog should be well on your way to being pros. You now have a good foundation of skills, including marker training, looking at me, leaving it, sitting, down, and now standing. That’s impressive, and both you and your dog deserve congratulations and a pat on the back. 

If you need a refresher on teaching the “sit” and “down” skills, then you might want to take a few minutes to review these two training articles: Golden Retriever Training: Teaching The “Sit” Skill and Golden Retriever Training: Teaching the “Down” Skill.

Keep up the hard work. Keep it fun and upbeat, and train for short, multiple sessions daily, if you can. 

We’ll be putting it all together in the next lesson and teaching the “sit, down, stand” combo. Your dog knows all these separately, but we’ll put all three skills together in unison next.

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