Free Stack

 How to Teach Your Dog Free Stack

Dalmatian and OwnerMany judges like free stack. There is a point of view that only the best dogs can stay in free stack and they are shown only by the best handlers. It is a top class of handling.

What should the dog you want to train to stack be like? Firstly, he/she should be temperamental and active. He/she must work for food. The more your dog likes treat based training, the better. As concerning anatomy, it is hard to say unambiguously. You should look at general balance. Watch your dog. If he/she stops naturally in nice stack in the street, in the field or at home, you like what you see and sometimes think “Why can’t I put him/her so cool by hands?”, you can try to train your dog for free stack. Of course, there are some points – dewlap, for example. If you can hide it from a judge with your hands, it is obvious at once in free stack. Hyper-salivation at the sight of treats can be another problem. A dog in saliva is not a pleasant scene and a judge will not feel good touching the muzzle of such a dog.

The most widely spread method of training is food based one. You can further teach the dog to work for clicker, but basic skills are worked out for treats. What treats should be like? First of all, they must be delicious. Natural food is real pleasure for a dog. But not everything is good. There are some rules, requirements and specificity. The main rule is that treats should be broken apart into small pieces easily, but not crumble. Cheese and sausages do not suit because of this particular reason. They crumble to tiny pieces, when you break them or stick together and slip out of your hands. Beef cutlets (not overdone) suit perfectly. Cut them into long slices about 0.5 inch in width and about 6 inch in length.

Black Braided Dog Collar
Dogs Must Stay Naturally and Beautifully

About Your Dog’s Age

Adult dogs of about 1 year old suit the best for this kind of training. Their bodies are formed and well-balanced. Puppies grow up by “pieces” that’s why they are hard to stay in free stack and feel comfortable. They also get tired quicker and loose interest to work.

First Steps in Training

The dog must be hungry. Do not feed your dog before a training session at least 8 hours. Choose a place for training carefully. Quiet place, where nothing distracts your dog, suits the best. Pay your attention at the ground. If it is grass, it should not be wet, if you train in closed space, be sure that paws of your dog do not slide.

Bullmastiff Wearing Spiked Dog Collar
Treats Must Be Yummy for Your Dog

Training Process

Set your dog free. Take treats with one hand and grasp with other. Show your dog what is in your hands to interest him/her. And start playing with your furry friend, spinning, making sharp turns, putting your hands with treats up and down, making your dog spring, fall down, spin and frisk. Play and excite your dog for about 5 minutes. But do not give him/her a treat. What do you do this for? To make your dog:

1.    Relax

2.    Be excited

3.    Tune his/her energy to yours

4.    Blow off some steam

5.    Understand that it is a pleasant game, not a hard work.

Dancing Spaniel
Concentrate Your Dog On Treats

The next step is "dancing". Go to this step without any break in playing, frisking and jumping. Your hands with treats must be lowered down to the raised dog’s nose. Start dancing – shifting your feet and moving your body in accordance with it. Hands with treats must move with all body and make your dog dance as you do – shifting his/her paws. It should be performed in rapid pace. Why? At the first step your dog became interested in treats, he/she is excited and wants to get a treat. That’s why he/she sticks to your hands with his/her nose. What brings dancing in this case?

1.    You become a single whole with your dog. You easily make your dog move in a proper direction with movements of your body.

2.    Your dog is concentrated on a treat, but you make him/her move quickly and rhythmically – he/she learns to feel his/her weight and naturally balance it not loosing connection with treats (your hands).

“Dancing” should not last more than 1 minute. Watch your dog’s hind legs. It is the most difficult moment, as you stay in front of the dog, but you need to see when the hind legs are in a proper position. They must not be too much apart or joined, too far from body or under it. In this case your dog will move his/her legs because he/she stays inconveniently.

Bull Terrier Wearing Dog Harness with Flame
Free Stack Is Appreciated by Many Judges

You’d better to work with a camera or a mirror. Some time later you will feel how and where hind legs must step and your dog will accustom to a correct position and will try to stand right by himself/herself.

Once the hind legs stand correctly, stop moving and let your dog smell and lick your hands, try to take out a treat. At the same time you move your hand and make your dog turn his/her head and shift forelegs, as a result. Make your dog stretch a little ahead. But be advised that amplitude of your hands movements should be little and you shouldn’t make any abrupt moves. Otherwise your dog will jump again.

At once the dog is in the right position, take a treat with your left hand, break off a small piece with your right hand and give it to the dog, fixing him/her in stack.

Your dog thinks: “Finally!”, wagging its tail and enjoying a long-awaited piece. You say “Stack!”, break off  another piece and draw a big circle in the air with your hand before giving it to the dog. Repeat this with the next piece of treats. You need this to teach you dog to wait a treat. Do this “ritual” at the first level of training. When your dog will learn staying for a longer time quietly, you will not need it. You must give your dog treats during the time he/she stays nicely.

Malamut & Leather Dog Lead
Give Your Dogs Treats Only when He Is in Right Position

Important Hints

  • Not a single piece of treats must fall down from your hands. It will be the greatest mistake in training. Your dog must “stick” to your hands with his/her nose and understand that he/she doesn’t get treats unless he/she stacks and stands nicely. If treats fall down, your dog will turn and lower his/her head and won’t be concentrated.

  • It is very important how you stand in front of your dog when you finished “dancing” and his/her legs are in a required position. Set your feet shoulder width apart, straighten your back, and keep your elbows free.

  • It often occurs when you finish “dancing” and try to set your dog’s forepaws in the right position, your pet suddenly sits. Don’t worry. Bring a treat closer to your dog’s nose and pull it to your body bottom-up. In this way you will make your dog stand. Then start “dancing” stage again.

  • What should you do if your dog shifts his/her leg or sits at the last stage when he/she gets treats? At once you notice this, turn away from your dog and go away. Don’t speak to him/her and don’t pay attention at your dog fur 30 seconds at least. You will show your dog if he/she shifts paws, you will stop playing with him/her this cool game. After 30 seconds you can repeat once again.

  • What should you do if your dog still keeps nice stack, doesn’t move, but you have no treats left? At once you don’t have any treats, praise your dog loudly, pat him/her and run with him/her a few meters. Then take a new portion of treats and repeat everything.

  • In conclusion it must be said that even if free stack is worked out perfectly, you should repeat it before you go on a ring at a dog show. In this case your doggy will stack nicely and will keep it for a long time when a judge is examines him/her.

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