In blog, Pet Care

Teaching Your Dog the Sit, Down, and Stay Command

Obedience training is crucial to your dog’s development and to your owner-pet relationship. Teaching your dog just a few basic commands can greatly improve your ability to handle your dog, especially as he gets older. It will also allow him to socialize better with people and other dogs. It is important to start training your dog as soon as possible. In fact, even a small puppy can start learning a few basic commands, such as sit, down, and stay.

Become the Pack Leader

Dogs are natural pack animals and any time they are introduced into a new environment, they will be looking for a pack leader. They will look up to the leader, obey his commands, and turn to him for guidance and comfort. It is crucial that you establish this leadership role from the day you bring your dog or puppy home. Failure to act as the pack leader will force your dog to consider himself the leader, which can have very dangerous and destructive effects.

Top Training Tips

Being the leader does not mean that you should be harsh or cruel to your dog. Instead, it is important that you be authoritative, direct, and consistent, but you should never hit or scream at your dog. This will make your dog fearful and less likely to be obedient when necessary.

Teaching your dog even the most basic commands will not happen with just one training lesson. Instead, it will take time and patience. Other great training tips include:

  • Always Train in Short Intervals
  • Make Training Fun for Your Dog
  • Do Not Push Your Dog, Let Him Learn at His Pace
  • Offer Consistent and Frequent Training
  • Always Offer Praise and Rewards
  • Never Punish While Training
  • Stop the Training Lesson if You Become Overly Frustrated

Teaching the “Sit” Command

The “sit” command is one of the first commands your dog should learn. Once your dog learns this command, you will be able to order him to the sit position at any time. This can be extremely beneficial for times when you need to calm your dog down, such as when company comes over to your house or if you pass another dog while walking. This command is also very helpful when you need your dog to sit for a vet appointment or when at a dog grooming service.

Start with your dog just a few feet in front of you and clearly command your dog to sit. You should then guide your dog to the sitting position and offer a reward as soon as his bottom touches the floor. Another option is to place a treat in your hand and hold it just a few inches from your dog’s nose. Now raise your hand slowly above your dog’s head. As you raise your hand, your dog will instinctively raise his head and go into the sitting position.

You will have to repeat these steps many times until your dog is able to connect the sit command with the reward. Keep your training sessions to about five minutes or even less and have them very often. In time, your dog will learn this command and obey without the food incentive. However, you should always offer praise and affection when your dog obeys any command.

Teaching the “Down” Command

When your dog becomes very anxious or excited, it is a good idea to order him to the sitting position. However, there are some instances where you dog may become overly excited and the sit command is not enough to calm your dog down. In these cases, ordering your dog to lie down on the floor can help. As he lies down, he will become less anxious and start to calm down considerably.

This command is slightly more difficult to teach, but is still does not take most dog very long to learn. Start by ordering your dog to the sitting position and offer praise and affection when he obeys. Now place a treat in your hand and hold it just inches in front of your dog’s nose. Command your dog to “lie down,” and slowly, lower the treat to the floor and then slide it backward on the floor in front of you.

Your dog is likely to follow the treat with his nose and automatically lie down on the floor. However, the first several times, you may need to guide your dog physically to the floor. Only after your dog’s entire body is on the floor can you reward him with a special treat. Repeat this command several times and then let your dog have a break and try again later.

Be sure to state every command clear and authoritatively. Remember that your main goal is for your dog to know the difference between these various command and for him to act accordingly.

Teaching the “Stay” Command

The “stay” command takes the “sit” order to a higher degree, by demanding that your dog remain in the sitting position until you signal his release. This command is very beneficial for protecting your dog from dangerous situations. You can also use the “stay” command as a way of calming your dog down if he becomes overly excited.

This skill is more difficult to teach, especially when working with hyperactive puppies. In addition, your puppy will have had to master the “sit” command before trying to learn how to “stay.” However, with a little bit of patience and some persistence your dog will eventually obey the stay position whenever you command.

Once you are ready to begin, start by ordering the “sit” command. Once your dog sits, instead of giving him a treat right away, say “stay” firmly. After just a few moments, make a small motion with your hands (which will serve as the release signal) and say “okay.” Now you can immediately give your dog praise and a treat. Slowly, increase the amount of time between when you say “stay” and when you release the dog from this position.

If your dog moves before your release him, he should not be rewarded. You can start the process over if he is ready. Be sure to keep the training sessions very short in duration and stop if your dog is not showing any signs of interests or if you become frustrated.

Taking the time to teach your dog at least the three basic commands of sit, down, and stay will make your dog easier to handle both inside and outside your home. Things like going to the vets or to the dog groomers (like Wags my Tail!) will be less stressful if your dog has a full grasp of these orders. You will also have a more pleasant experience when company comes over and when completing regular tasks, such as a dog wash.

Training your dog does not have to be difficult or stressful. The most important things are to go slow and give your dog time to learn one command completely before moving on to the next. Do not get frustrated if your dog is having trouble listening to your orders. Just give it a few days, and try again. If after several weeks, you are still having trouble, you can seek out professional support from a certified dog trainer.

More training tips: ASPCA

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