Teaching Your Dog to Sit
Goal: Your dog sits down.
Uses: This command is a foundation of training. It’s useful for teaching your dog many other skills that begin with a sitting position, including down and stay. It is also helpful in preventing jumping, chasing, dominance, and excessive barking; a sitting dog cannot display a dominant or aggressive/alert posture.
Training Technique: Sitting is a very natural, comfortable position for a dog, so most dogs pick this skill up fairly easily.
- With your dog in front of you, hold a treat in front of him, and draw it slowly over his head so that he has to look up to see it. Do not hold it so high that he will try to jump up to get it. Hold it within his reach, but keep your hand closed around it so he can’t get it.
- By the time you have drawn the treat over your dog’s head, just above his eye level, he may have automatically backed up into a sit to keep his eyes on it. If so, issue a yes! and reward him.
- If he didn’t sit, you can assist him into a sit by practicing this skill on leash and gently pulling it in a diagonal upward-backward direction, which will help lift his front end and encourage his back end to drop. If he successfully performs a sit, issue a yes! and reward him.
- As soon as your dog learns to sit down when you hold a treat over his head, you can start to use the sit command. Issue a sit before you lure him into the position with a treat, and as he becomes proficient at it, begin to fade out the food rewards.
- You can also teach him a hand signal for sit by gradually adjusting your luring motions until you are raising your fist as if you are lifting a dumbbell, or you can get in the habit of pointing to his rear end when you tell him to sit.
Teaching Your Dog to Stay
Description: Your dog stays while sitting, standing, or lying down.
Uses: Like other movement-control commands, this is a power command. Use it to prevent your dog from chasing animals or going out the door when people are coming and going. Also use it to prevent your dog from breaking a command like sit or down.
Training Technique: Don’t underestimate the power of this command; it can give you considerable control over your dog. Take the time to train him thoroughly in stay, and practice it often.
- For the sit/stay, tell your dog to sit in front of you, and then give the stay command. Take one step backward, and immediately step toward him again. If he has maintained his position, issue a yes! and reward him.
- Keep repeating Step 1, but gradually increase the number of steps you walk away from your dog. Always walk all the way back to him before issuing a yes! and rewarding him. Don’t give him a stay and then call him to come to you. This might result in your dog learning that stay means “stay for a little while and then come,” and he’ll never hold a stay for very long.
- If he keeps breaking the stay, you may be progressing too fast, in which case you need to shorten the amount of distance and time you expect him to remain in position.
- With a gradual increase in the amount of distance and time you ask your dog to stay, he will eventually be able to remain stationary when you cross the entire room.
- Then he’ll be ready to learn the out-of-sight stay. Give the stay command, and take one step out of the room (out of your dog’s range of sight). Immediately step back into the room and return to your dog. If he has maintained his position, issue a yes! and reward him.
- Gradually increase the amount of time you expect your dog to remain in stay when you are out of sight. Soon, he will stay anchored in position for as long as you like, regardless of whether or not he can see you.
- For other stay positions, like stand/stay or down/stay, teach your dog the position command first, then repeat these steps with him in that position.
Janice Biniok has written numerous articles and books on companion animals. She is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America and has an English degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has been training and communicating with dogs for more than 35 years, but her five years working in the sport of canine musical freestyle impressed her with the dog’s ability to learn an amazing number of human commands.