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It makes experts out of novices in no time and puts the fun back into training and showing dogs
That's a good idea , but you'll never get MY dog to do that!
I hear that wherever I set up my booth and demonstrate Happy Legs. My response is always the same, " Are you having trouble getting you beautiful dog to stand for the judging?" They will then proceed to tell me how their dog won't hold still on the table or how he moves when the judge goes over him or perhaps how the might special their dog if they could just get him to hold a good show pose. That's when I say, "It's not his fault, it's the way we train. Bring him over and we'll have him standing in that perfect pose in less than on minute." Even as I put their dog up on a set of Happy Legs, the still skeptical owners say "no way" or "not this dog". However, one minute later that has changed to "I can't believe he's doing it" or "that's amazing". I now explain to them what has made him a different dog in just one minute-Stilt Training.
Stilt training teaches the dog the game we want to play in the ring which is "hold your feet still" by isolating each foot and making a consequence to moving them. When you teach on a flat surface there is no consequence to moving a foot so the dog can only be taught "stand up" . But we don't want to play the "stand up" game, we want to play the "hold your feet still" game. By raising the dog up 4" and putting each foot on a seperate stilt, you now take away any other choice for the dog and where he can put a foot. If he moves the consequence is a stumble which pulls the whole body out of position. Now the dog can understand your "game" is to stand on these platforms and not move. The dog thinks its just a fun game , easy to win at but what is actually happening is "muscle memory". The dog memorizes what the position feels like and will repeat the feeling on the ground. Rememer, dogs love to play games and once you've explained to him what you want to do, they want to please. On the stilts the dog immediately learns the pose and quickly relaxes, allowing you to work on free baiting, tail and ears and to go over him without moving. Your dog will assimilate what he learns on the stilts, applying it to the ground in minutes. The result is the confident "free bait" that we all want. He finally understands what you have been trying to teach him all this time. Best of all, Stilt Training teaches him the correct pose without the negativity that upsets you and the dog. If he stumbles off the stilts, it is his "fault" not yours because you've given him a stilt big enough to fit his foot and strong enough not to tip over. So now you become the good guy and simple tell him "its ok , I'll help you" and put him back on and tell him what a good dog he is. This not only teaches him the correct pose, but also teaches him the correct, positive attitude-ears up and tail wagging.
The premise is that a dog can comprehend what a sit or a down stay means because there are few choices to be confused with in either of these positions. If a dog is in a sit or down, they have to make a dramatic choice when changing that position. Thus the dog understands a correction it may receive from the trainier and quickly learns what is asked. The same holds true for stilt training. It gives the dog no choice but the one you've given him and to move dramatically changes his position.
I've been on the show circuit for over 30 years. I have bred over 30 champions and finished over 50 titles, so I know how important it is that your dog hit that perfect pose every time and look naturally regal doing it. Since we only have three minutes to impress the judge we all know it's the dog the "asks" for the win that catches the judges eye.
Happy Legs is a hand crafted southern poplar box that acts as a convenient carrying case for four easily adjustable stilts. Boxes are constructed in three sizes and stilts in four sizes to meet the needs of any size dog from Chihuahua to Irish Wolfhound. Because it is portable , Happy Legs can be used on a grooming table or on the ground and go where you and your dog go. It can help your dog no matter what his age or experience. On Happy Legs we have successfully trained dogs from the young pup at his first show to the old pro that just needs a gentle reminder. Old or young, dogs will learn it, love it and you will be amazed. Many top handlers already use Happy Legs to give their dogs that winning edge and I'm proud to say some of the top winning dogs in the country are Happy Legs dogs.
STEP ONE: PLACING DOG ON STILTS
Place box on a grooming table or on any flat surface. Open box and position each stilt in the approximate width and length to accomadate your dog. Bring the dog parallel to the box with the box on the dogs left side. Holding the dogs head with your right hand, use your left hand, and leaning over the dog, pick him up under the chest and dangle his front over the stilts that you set in the front of the box. Adjust the stilts if necessary at any time by repeating any step. While still holding the head with your right hand, use your left hand to pick up the rear all at once and dangle both feet over the stilts at the opposite end of the box.
Maintain a secure hold on the dogs head with the collar or, if on a table, work him in a grooming noose. This will keep your dog from simply walking off the stilts. If the dog stumbles off the stilts the first time you put him up, just praise and encourage him and quickly put him right back up. This will actually help him learn that there is a drop off. With practise, it won't take long before the dog is so comforatable on the stilts that they will stay on them without any assistance, however, you should NEVER leave your dog unattended while on the stils.
Your approach to this teaching exercise is to convey to the dog that it is just a simple game and they win as soon as the feet are on the stilts. The dog thinks its a fun game and what is actually happening is "muscle memory".
Now that you've taken away all choices to the game , the dog can memorize a body position.
Don't let the dog lean on you or feel you holding him on the stilts. Don't help him stay up, he is responsible for his own feet. However, if they are only picking ONE foot up and searching, always help the one foot by putting the foot back on a stilt and praising the dog again. If the dog stumbles off, repeat instructions.
In 1 minute you will be able to drop the leash and stand out in front of the dog. With a few lessons, you' be able to put the dog up on the stilts with no leash or collar and practice free baiting , walking around the dog, all the while , reinforcing the desired pose for the show,obedience or field.
REMEMBER: They are doing what you are asking , ie. holding their feet still, immediately after you put them up on the stilts so give them lots of praise immediately. A lot of people I train with tend to wait , expecting their dogs to jump off or , simply not believing their dogs are standing there in a perfect pose. Be aware and praise the dog as soon as all four feet are on the stilts.
Use the same training word at home that you'll use in competition, such as "stand stay" or "pose" etc.
Any dog over one year of age can easily stay up on the stilts for 2 minutes the first time you put them up. Time yourself, you'll be surprised how long 2 minutes can be and how much the dog will learn in a short amount of time.
During the few minutes the dog is up on the stilts, you can bait him, brush him, have someone go over him, check his bite, alway praising him and giving him a verbal cue word to his action, ie. "good stand stay". Whether you have a big dog or little dog, your objective is to eventually have the box on the ground with the dog up on the stilts in a loose lead looking up at you. For the show dog, it teaches the "free bait" , for the obedience dog , it teaches the "stand for examination" , for the field dog , it teaches the "whoa". The dog gets off the stilts and will play your game because that's what dogs love to do, play games.
STEP TWO:REMOVING DOG FROM STILTS
When removing the dog from the stilts, use the same position with your arms as when you put him up. Lift the front legs off and the rear legs will folow on their own. Immediately after the dog is off the stilts, stack him in a similar position as when he was on the stilts. Give the same verbal command with praise and let him hold the pose for 5-10 seconds. Release him and reinforce with praise. If he won't hold the pose for a few seconds, put him back on the stilts for another minute and repeat step one.
Start puppies when they ae young, 4-5 weeks of age. While fully cradling a young puppy, hold him over the stilts and let him feel the position. Never releasing your complete support from the puppy, hold him on the stilts for 2-5 seconds. Repeat this every week until the puppy can better understand the concept. Usually by 8 wks of age the puppy is up on the stilts for 30-40 seconds, plenty long enough to learn the game. REMEMBER!! A puppy doe not have strength in their stifle muscle to be able to lean out over their stifle joint, so don't stretch a young dog out too far from front feet to back feet.
PLEASE NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG UNATTENDED WHILE ON THE STILTS!!!