Teaching your dog to free-stack or stand nicely for conformation, is not really on most dog-human’s important list for training. However, because this project is so easy to make, it is worth doing, and the behaviour can help your dog in many different situations.
I like to use it at the vet so that the dog’s whole posture can bee seen. This is more important than you might think. If a dog cannot hold a stack or simply stand still for even a minute without changing his weight to different feet, it may indicate some issue with joints or muscles, or another problem. Standing quietly can also help a dog focus and relax.
Teaching this behaviour is easy, especially with a clicker. One thing you do have to watch out for is that your dog does not keep moving his feet into the position. You will need to train him to STOP moving his feet into the correct position – i.e. to not to continue moving forward to adjust his feet. Teaching the behaviour of “stopping” is key here.
This behaviour is simply something that has to be properly selected for when you are training. A dog needs to move his feet to get them in the proper position. Click/reward when the dog stops moving his feet. Your dog should eventually be trying to figure out himself where to put his feet and keep them there to be rewarded.
If your dog does not know where his feet should be, he will keep moving them. This is where this DIY stacking board will come in handy. It shows the dog exactly where the feet go without too much moving to find the spots. This should evenutally translate well to the floor without boards.
The video below shows Ira as a puppy standing on both front and rear boards. I am using what is called “rapid” clicking which isn’t really technically correct use of a clicker, but it works here. Don’t get hung up too much on perfect technique. Just make sure you are heavily rewarding your dog for standing still. Remember, you will likely need this behaviour at places that might stress your dog out (vet, groomer, giving meds, checking paws etc), so the more food you use to train the better.
If you wanted, and for fun, you could paint the boards with something doggie related in cool colours.
Have fun and happy training!