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Hey guys! I attempted to stack my GR pup. He's 13 weeks old here. I know I didn't do a great job, but it was a lot better than the first time I did it. I'm really looking forward to start training him for the show ring. If you guys have any advice/tips, let me know :) He's my first show dog. I think 13 weeks is a pretty gangly stage :nerd:

I definitely struggled to get his front end in the right place and it was tough getting him to keep his hind legs angled right, but overall it wasn't a terrible experience :)
 

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I am still a novice. Realistically I SUCK at stacking my bitch. Luckily she can free stack really nicely from gaiting. But things I learned while learning is this:

-control the head, you control the dog. I struggle with this, but I see pro handlers do this ALL the time and it's literally like magic. They have the head and the dog just STAYS there. So when I control the head, I'm using a slip chain, right under the jaw line, and I hook a finger through the loop at the back of the head so I can keep it taut. The leash is bundled in the palm of that hand so I'm using only my thumb and pointer finger to keep the chain secure and to keep the dog's head under control.
-to reposition the hind legs, it is infinitely easier to literally scoop the dog up by their bottom and let it drop naturally. I place my left hand between her legs, lift up so her entire hind end is OFF the ground. And bring it back down. It allows her body to reset naturally and 95% of the time results in proper alignment.

-You might not be able to SEE what it looks like, so it's easier to go off feel. You know the elbows should be under the shoulders, so when you are positioning the front legs, feel the shoulder, and picture the line from the shoulder down. Then grip the elbow and align it with that line. Do the same with the hips. Knees should be under hips.

-Teach your dog "step". This will be handy as heck when you are stacking on the down and back. You gait down and present your dog to the judge. The dog should be able to free stack here but if a foot is out of alignment, you can nudge the dog into a stack by telling it to step. You can use leash pressure to communicate this to an extent. I never thought it was possible, but my own girl has done it with just leash pressure alone.

This might be a helpful resource: Conformation Stacking

I hope this helps!
 

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I am terrible at stacking. Pilot will kind of crouch if I try to do it. In fact, I thought he had a sloped top line until the CCA! He stood up nice and tall. (Which isn't real tall LOL) The judges commented on his strong, level topline! To me, it looks like he's doing Pilot's thing in the back and kind of crouching. Maybe it's just him trying to get the food. I am not an expert....I do not show conformation!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I am still a novice. Realistically I SUCK at stacking my bitch. Luckily she can free stack really nicely from gaiting. But things I learned while learning is this:

-control the head, you control the dog. I struggle with this, but I see pro handlers do this ALL the time and it's literally like magic. They have the head and the dog just STAYS there. So when I control the head, I'm using a slip chain, right under the jaw line, and I hook a finger through the loop at the back of the head so I can keep it taut. The leash is bundled in the palm of that hand so I'm using only my thumb and pointer finger to keep the chain secure and to keep the dog's head under control.
-to reposition the hind legs, it is infinitely easier to literally scoop the dog up by their bottom and let it drop naturally. I place my left hand between her legs, lift up so her entire hind end is OFF the ground. And bring it back down. It allows her body to reset naturally and 95% of the time results in proper alignment.

-You might not be able to SEE what it looks like, so it's easier to go off feel. You know the elbows should be under the shoulders, so when you are positioning the front legs, feel the shoulder, and picture the line from the shoulder down. Then grip the elbow and align it with that line. Do the same with the hips. Knees should be under hips.

-Teach your dog "step". This will be handy as heck when you are stacking on the down and back. You gait down and present your dog to the judge. The dog should be able to free stack here but if a foot is out of alignment, you can nudge the dog into a stack by telling it to step. You can use leash pressure to communicate this to an extent. I never thought it was possible, but my own girl has done it with just leash pressure alone.

This might be a helpful resource: Conformation Stacking
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IQ6kuSSi1A

I hope this helps!
Thank you so much! That's a a great video! I thought about having him where his sleep lead but for now I'm still working on touching his legs without him instantly sitting down lol. Would it be worth it to clicker train a stack?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I am terrible at stacking. Pilot will kind of crouch if I try to do it. In fact, I thought he had a sloped top line until the CCA! He stood up nice and tall. (Which isn't real tall LOL) The judges commented on his strong, level topline! To me, it looks like he's doing Pilot's thing in the back and kind of crouching. Maybe it's just him trying to get the food. I am not an expert....I do not show conformation!
For sure! He usually has a nice level back when he stands properly, usually after gaiting a bit. But he's also so lanky right now and his legs are growing at different rates so who knows lol.
 

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The curving of the back/topline is cause the knees are not under the hips. It's under extended. His feet need to come back a smidge and I think the top line will straighten out.

I'm trying to teach Lana "reach"
https://dpca.org/BreedEd/conformation-training-tips/

Where she sticks her neck out instead of leaning her WHOLE body out. But idk. We're all just sitting around and having fun.

Hopefully other conformation handlers swing by and chip in.
 

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Thank you so much! That's a a great video! I thought about having him where his sleep lead but for now I'm still working on touching his legs without him instantly sitting down lol. Would it be worth it to clicker train a stack?
I'm literally the WORST at this cause Lana doesn't even have a legit "stand" command down yet. She has a STAY though which I have mercilessly exploited to my advantage. Instead of teaching "place" for when she is in stack, I just do some gaiting and then slow down, bring her in front (but don't say front, cause that is a whole other can of worms in obedience where she sits with her face in my stomach/legs basically), and then give her a stay command. She stops moving and if she is out of sync, I'll give her the step command and pull on the side she needs to step. If she messes up, no worries, I just release her stay and we reset by doing a circle (which I use in obedience training for sloppy sits, so she knows if we're resetting something was off and we're trying again).

When we started, I thought about doing platform training to get her used to where her legs need to be and then just do it until it becomes muscle memory. You can buy a stack box (https://happylegs.com/) or make your own (So Fly: Stacking Box) or even just use freestanding platforms like these (https://fitpawsusa.com/product/fitpaws-paw-pods/) but I instead focused on rewarding when she freestacks nicely to increase the odds of her doing that by choice.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The curving of the back/topline is cause the knees are not under the hips. It's under extended. His feet need to come back a smidge and I think the top line will straighten out.

I'm trying to teach Lana "reach"
https://dpca.org/BreedEd/conformation-training-tips/

Where she sticks her neck out instead of leaning her WHOLE body out. But idk. We're all just sitting around and having fun.

Hopefully other conformation handlers swing by and chip in.
We're trying! It's so hard to get him to stretch and keep his hind legs in place. I also worry a bit that he still doesn't have the muscle to support that position for long so I'm hoping it comes more naturally as he gets older
 

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I'm literally the WORST at this cause Lana doesn't even have a legit "stand" command down yet. She has a STAY though which I have mercilessly exploited to my advantage. Instead of teaching "place" for when she is in stack, I just do some gaiting and then slow down, bring her in front (but don't say front, cause that is a whole other can of worms in obedience where she sits with her face in my stomach/legs basically), and then give her a stay command. She stops moving and if she is out of sync, I'll give her the step command and pull on the side she needs to step. If she messes up, no worries, I just release her stay and we reset by doing a circle (which I use in obedience training for sloppy sits, so she knows if we're resetting something was off and we're trying again).

When we started, I thought about doing platform training to get her used to where her legs need to be and then just do it until it becomes muscle memory. You can buy a stack box (https://happylegs.com/) or make your own (So Fly: Stacking Box) or even just use freestanding platforms like these (https://fitpawsusa.com/product/fitpaws-paw-pods/) but I instead focused on rewarding when she freestacks nicely to increase the odds of her doing that by choice.
I'm also a bit worried about mixing up commands or inadvertantly teaching something I don't want him to do after he's done with conformation. My girlfriend really wants to do rally obedience and agility with him. I really want to clicker train him though. Have you heard anything about puppy culture's Show Stack training?
 

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I'm also a bit worried about mixing up commands or inadvertantly teaching something I don't want him to do after he's done with conformation. My girlfriend really wants to do rally obedience and agility with him. I really want to clicker train him though. Have you heard anything about puppy culture's Show Stack training?
I have not heard of that. But I know multiple people who have Champion dogs and I have not heard of this type of training being used on them. It's mostly just practice. Why pay $100+ dollars for a bunch of DVDs of gaiting? I think you would get more out of actual handling classes. Where I am, we have 3 different people offering handling in my general area (within an hour drive so like 50-70 miles). They are all on Thursday evenings. two costs $5 cash per class. Another is free to members of the club (membership is I think $30 annually). And you get hands on practice AND most of the class mates will also offer tips and tricks to help you along the way. For me, that is much more valuable than a dvd.

In regards to messing up with commands... people don't teach SIT to show dogs. But Lana is both a show and performance dog so she knows sit. She has on MULTIPLE occasions sat in the ring. Even at national. HAHAHAH! I was mortified. But she isn't the only one. You just get her back in a stack and move on. LOL! It's not mutually exclusive. One of my friends, her Champion bitch also competes in Rally. There are plenty of dogs who have both conformation and performance (or hunt!) titles. :) You can totally do both. For me, obedience was a given. But Lana is more high strung that her litter mates (realistically it's most likely because *I* am more high strung than the other owners.)

I clicker trained Bear but not Lana. We use YES! to mark behaviors. It's a mixed bag. Some trainers think a YES is interchangeable with a click. Others think a click is more accurate in timing. Still others think a click is like tying a hand behind your back because you won't ALWAYS have a clicker when you need it.

My best advice is to just find what works best for you and your dog, practice often, and always end on a good note. We only get them for a short amount of time, everything we achieve in conformation or obedience pales in comparison to the bond we share and the memories we make.
 

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I find it very helpful to work in front of a large mirror so I can see how the pup is standing. If you can find a handling class that is a great way to learn. The participants help each other and your dog will get used to being around other dogs and being touched by "strangers." You will make friends with some really nice people. Check out your local all-breed club. Sometimes obedience training clubs also hold handling classes. Good luck with your furry friend!
 

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Fwiw... I typically do a quick training session every night with my younger dogs. Not really doing gaiting with my youngest - primarily because a lot of gaiting is going against the heeling training. I don't want to train the two in the same session.

With gaiting, you are particularly training focal points. Teaching your pup to go from point A to point B without looking at you or looking behind. This is why I do not train it the same time I train heeling for obedience!

Heeling practice for obedience is very particular and needs a lot of foundation work early on to teach your pup the exact position and focal point (with my pups, it's up at my mouth or nose).

For stacking practice - I have a big mirror that I practice stacks in front of. It's big enough to see an entire adult dog from nose to tip of tail.

I also use that big mirror for obedience training - teaching scoot sits and pivots. Same training sessions as the stack practice. It's just heeling and gaiting that I keep separate - and to be honest, I put more focus on heeling with a young pup.

Conformation training - and gaiting in particular... will have more of a negative impact on obedience training vs the other way. "No Sits" in obedience costs you 3 points each time. In novice, there are at least 6 possible sits total between heel on leash, heel off leash, and figure 8. That's losing 18 points or going from a 200 score down to 182. That does not leave you much room for qualifying if you also lose another 12 points on other things which may happen. You have to get a 170 score to qualify in obedience, so you can see how costly no-sits can be. A sit in conformation is nowhere near as costly - especially since they might happen with puppies more than adults... and judges tend to be more forgiving with puppies.

But even adults - depending on where the sits might happen, it won't hurt the judge's opinion of the dog if the dog is an excellent mover and ideal structure. A friend's dog got a reserve with a good sized entry - and that was with her sitting every time the handler came to a stop in the ring.

Just putting the sit thing into proper context.

With a very small puppy - it was literally just getting them used to setting their feet for a 1/2 second before getting treats. And repeat. <= And this was done up on the grooming table just to save my back.

I believe by 13 weeks we were down on the floor each time by then.

With your pup's stacked pics - it looks like he's posting a little. Some of that is where you are baiting him. Difficult to describe, but when teaching a pup to bait, you want him up over himself vs pulling back or slouching in the rear. You can control that with how you are baiting and when you reward.

In general - routine training helps them learn that when you set their head and tell them a command (mine is "feet"), they need to bam-bam-bam-bam set their feet and reach in front (pulls them up and forward so they aren't slouching on their rear).

Now is a good time to teach your pup to learn how to let you place his/her feet and leave it there. And you yourself need to learn how to be efficient and smooth at placing feet. There's times where you let your dog free stack (it's great to pull that out when you are the only dog in the ring or last dog and by the time you get back to the line with your dog the judge is already looking at dogs)... but there's also times where you need to quickly set the feet.

Usually - entering the ring. You want to set your dog's head and quickly set feet all before the judge makes it across from the steward's table to the middle of the ring. By the time the judge is out there to look at the dog - you want your dog perfect and working expression/headset for the bait.

And you want the dog to hold the same position as the judge then goes all the way to the right and comes down the line looking at expressions and fronts along the way. You absolutely want those front toes even and correct! But you also want head and expression to be perfect.

Going around the ring, generally you do what you can to give your dog as relaxed a start as possible. Most dogs want to chase, so you keep a bubble distance between you and the dog in front. You don't want too great a distance between you and the dog in front - but you don't want to be running up their butts. That's bad ring manners + it's setting your dog up for fail.

Your dog gets the middle of the mat always....

You want your dog to be trotting in a straight line. And until your dog is more experienced, you can set the so it's straight up from the back of the skull and keep the lead tight until your dog sets his head and trots forward and you can reach forward to let him go without being pulled back.

In general while gaiting - the dog leads.

And every time you stop gaiting either around the ring or after the down and back, you want a free stack and show the judge something to look at. With the around the ring gait, you can then adjust feet... down and back you cannot.

With the down and back, some judges are just looking for expression. But there are other judges who will half circle around to see where the feet ended up. And dogs who are easty-westy in front or bad at setting rear feet can give that judge something negative to compare your dog to the next one.

Back to hand-stacks....

Just train very quick 1-3 reps every day and it will come along the same time as his legs grow. Don't be shy about kneeling on the ground or sitting on the ground - will help you get a better set on the head right now while the pup is small.

Gotta add as well... don't forget to get your pup used to being groomed once a week. Get the pup up on the grooming table, use the dryer, trim feet etc...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Fwiw... I typically do a quick training session every night with my younger dogs. Not really doing gaiting with my youngest - primarily because a lot of gaiting is going against the heeling training. I don't want to train the two in the same session.

With gaiting, you are particularly training focal points. Teaching your pup to go from point A to point B without looking at you or looking behind. This is why I do not train it the same time I train heeling for obedience!

Heeling practice for obedience is very particular and needs a lot of foundation work early on to teach your pup the exact position and focal point (with my pups, it's up at my mouth or nose).

For stacking practice - I have a big mirror that I practice stacks in front of. It's big enough to see an entire adult dog from nose to tip of tail.

I also use that big mirror for obedience training - teaching scoot sits and pivots. Same training sessions as the stack practice. It's just heeling and gaiting that I keep separate - and to be honest, I put more focus on heeling with a young pup.

Conformation training - and gaiting in particular... will have more of a negative impact on obedience training vs the other way. "No Sits" in obedience costs you 3 points each time. In novice, there are at least 6 possible sits total between heel on leash, heel off leash, and figure 8. That's losing 18 points or going from a 200 score down to 182. That does not leave you much room for qualifying if you also lose another 12 points on other things which may happen. You have to get a 170 score to qualify in obedience, so you can see how costly no-sits can be. A sit in conformation is nowhere near as costly - especially since they might happen with puppies more than adults... and judges tend to be more forgiving with puppies.

But even adults - depending on where the sits might happen, it won't hurt the judge's opinion of the dog if the dog is an excellent mover and ideal structure. A friend's dog got a reserve with a good sized entry - and that was with her sitting every time the handler came to a stop in the ring.

Just putting the sit thing into proper context.

With a very small puppy - it was literally just getting them used to setting their feet for a 1/2 second before getting treats. And repeat. <= And this was done up on the grooming table just to save my back.

I believe by 13 weeks we were down on the floor each time by then.

With your pup's stacked pics - it looks like he's posting a little. Some of that is where you are baiting him. Difficult to describe, but when teaching a pup to bait, you want him up over himself vs pulling back or slouching in the rear. You can control that with how you are baiting and when you reward.

In general - routine training helps them learn that when you set their head and tell them a command (mine is "feet"), they need to bam-bam-bam-bam set their feet and reach in front (pulls them up and forward so they aren't slouching on their rear).

Now is a good time to teach your pup to learn how to let you place his/her feet and leave it there. And you yourself need to learn how to be efficient and smooth at placing feet. There's times where you let your dog free stack (it's great to pull that out when you are the only dog in the ring or last dog and by the time you get back to the line with your dog the judge is already looking at dogs)... but there's also times where you need to quickly set the feet.

Usually - entering the ring. You want to set your dog's head and quickly set feet all before the judge makes it across from the steward's table to the middle of the ring. By the time the judge is out there to look at the dog - you want your dog perfect and working expression/headset for the bait.

And you want the dog to hold the same position as the judge then goes all the way to the right and comes down the line looking at expressions and fronts along the way. You absolutely want those front toes even and correct! But you also want head and expression to be perfect.

Going around the ring, generally you do what you can to give your dog as relaxed a start as possible. Most dogs want to chase, so you keep a bubble distance between you and the dog in front. You don't want too great a distance between you and the dog in front - but you don't want to be running up their butts. That's bad ring manners + it's setting your dog up for fail.

Your dog gets the middle of the mat always....

You want your dog to be trotting in a straight line. And until your dog is more experienced, you can set the so it's straight up from the back of the skull and keep the lead tight until your dog sets his head and trots forward and you can reach forward to let him go without being pulled back.

In general while gaiting - the dog leads.

And every time you stop gaiting either around the ring or after the down and back, you want a free stack and show the judge something to look at. With the around the ring gait, you can then adjust feet... down and back you cannot.

With the down and back, some judges are just looking for expression. But there are other judges who will half circle around to see where the feet ended up. And dogs who are easty-westy in front or bad at setting rear feet can give that judge something negative to compare your dog to the next one.

Back to hand-stacks....

Just train very quick 1-3 reps every day and it will come along the same time as his legs grow. Don't be shy about kneeling on the ground or sitting on the ground - will help you get a better set on the head right now while the pup is small.

Gotta add as well... don't forget to get your pup used to being groomed once a week. Get the pup up on the grooming table, use the dryer, trim feet etc...
Thank you guys so much! I've taken all this advice into account the last week a we've made a lot of progress! I can handle his hind legs now with his standing. I'm still struggling a bit with getting his front legs into position vs posting, but I imagine it won't take long! We do very short (1-3 minute) sessions throughout the day.
 

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