Creeping Forward on the Drop Signal

command discrimination down drop on recall signals Jan 28, 2022

When giving the down command, does your dog creep forward as he drops? This annoying problem can occur on the Signal Exercise in Utility or the Command Discrimination Exercise in Open. This creeping is a frustrating problem to tackle, not to mention costly, as the points lost for forward movement can be significant.

The Remedies

Over the years, all of the following solutions have been tried, with varying degrees of success:

1. Place the dog behind an obstacle to prevent forward motion

Place an object on the ground (for example, the bar from the bar jump or a dowel), in front of the dog’s front feet to prevent him from moving forward. Done long enough, your dog may get in the habit of dropping without creeping. However, often the dog is inhibited when the object is present, but relieved when it is removed giving him room to go down in a more natural way, that of creeping forward.

2. Place the dog on a mat or bed

Similarly, stand the dog on a piece of carpet or on a raised bed. When told to lie down, he must drop without moving off the object. Again, perhaps the dog will create a habit of going down without creeping. However, the dog may revert to creeping forward when he is standing on the floor.

3. Position the reward behind or next to the dog

Place a toy or a treat behind the dog, and when he drops without creeping forward, release him to the toy or treat. If the dog expects to be released to the reward, it may motivate him to drop in place. The shortcoming seems to be that when the reward is not present, there is not the same motivation to drop without creeping.

4. Teach the dog to back up before lying down

Teach your dog to take a few steps backwards prior to lying down. If the dog expects to be told to “back-up, down,” it may create a habit of doing so. That could counteract the more natural behavior of moving forward before lying down.

5. Place a toy or treat on the ground in front of the dog as a distraction

On first attempt, the dog may move forward to grab the treat. Once corrected, he will become hesitant to move forward for fear of reprimand. Thus he becomes motivated to drop in place to avoid the distraction.

An Additional Idea

All of the above techniques (and probably more) have been used with varying degrees of success. If you are struggling with a dog that creeps forward when dropping, consider one more solution.

Watch the above video. This dog had a chronic issue of creeping forward on the down command. This handler chose to re-teach him, going with his natural behavior, that of sitting before going down. It can be done fluidly, in one motion. A dog that lowers his rear end first does not move forward.

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