13 Tips for Training Your Dog to Sit and Stay

The command trio

Training your dog to sit, lay down, and stay can be a daunting idea at first. However, once you know the steps, the task will seem much easier, and the stress you feel will melt away.

So, here are the steps to training your dog in the basic command trio that is the basis of all obedience training. This method teaches your pup to respond to both verbal and nonverbal cues. Which will come in handy in a variety of situations?

Teaching the command sit

To begin, you grab a handful of your treats and clench them all inside your hand as you make a fist. Gently play around in front of your pup until you get their attention focused on sniffing your hand, trying to get to those great little treats.

This method is exceptionally useful for those super food motivated pups. Once you have your pup’s attention, hold your hand just high enough off the ground that they are standing straight up on all fours.

They should have their nose raised just a little past what would be their normal head position. To where they are just slightly looking upwards at your hand, and it focuses their nose on those treats.

Now, you can kick things off by letting a treated ‘slip’, so they get a taste. Doing this will get them wanting more. Be generous, especially for the first few training sessions.

Just remember to never reward immediately after any negative behaviors. Those actions you want to discourage your pup from performing.

Command words

Next, you will keep repeating your sit command during this process. Here in our example and instructions, we use the standard command of ‘Sit’. But, once again, you can choose any word or even just a single syllable sound, whistle pattern, whatever you want.

Although a simple ‘Sit’ is the most popular and common.

Hand gesture/motion

Whatever command you choose, you will repeat it over and over, while you slowly push your hand away from your body. Your hand should be level to the ground and slowly work its way up and over your dog’s forehead.

Their nose should still follow your hand as they keep tilting their head back. You just keep extending your hand out past their head and out over their neck. This positioning works best if you are kneeling in front of your pup.

Which puts you on their level and helps make this motion more natural. Doing it this way will make getting the response you want easier. Or, it will also be quicker and simpler to reset to the starting position, to try repeatedly until you get the proper response.

The goal and point here are that as they follow the treat with their nose, they will try to back up slowly.

While they are doing this, they will look straight up in the air. As they follow your hand on this path over their head and the top of them towards their front shoulders, they will be almost tilting their head upside down.

This is because they try to keep their nose fully locked on that handful of treats, and they will continue to inch backward. As they continue shuffling their feet, you should still be repeating your Sit command.

Eventually, this slow wiggling, shuffling, and inching backward with their nose up in the air following your hand. This will cause them to drop their bum to the ground.

Initially, it will be to get a better angle on the food you’re holding. You will use this instinctual behavior of theirs to teach them the behaviors you want them to perform.

Praise and treats

In the very first split second, as you catch them dropping their hind end to the ground, offer them a treat. Plus, give your dog tons of praise while repeating the word Sit and using phrases such as ‘good boy/girl’, ‘good sit’.

You should exude with expressive, exaggerated praises and admiration towards them. The reason for this is that you must show just how pleased you are with them for sitting.

Once they realize they did something that pleased you, they will want to figure out what it was they did. They will want to know to repeat that behavior and receive all that positive energy from your reaction again.

Repetition is key

Then, you get them standing again and just keep repeating the process until they automatically sit when you give both the verbal and nonverbal. Using the hand motion with the treats, you repeat the motion with your fist. Soon, you will just get to where you do not have to do it directly over their head anymore.

You can then perform the visual command from your regular stand up position.

You will find yourself able to get the same results by saying ‘sit’ for fewer repetitions to get the desired response. Until, after enough practice, you will only need to say it one time.

Just make sure that even when you are in the phase of saying the word sit 100s of times, you take pride in every minor accomplishment together.

For example, when you meet specific training goals or milestones together, reward your pup extra to mark the occasion.

Enjoy the process

Always try to enjoy the moments and memories made together with your dog during training.

Eventually, these are the ones that you will treasure for the rest of your life, even long after your time together has ended. Plus, you both experience these moments together, and your fur friend will be just as proud of himself for doing whatever it took to please you.

This will create a happier, more confident pet dog. Which are wonderful, helpful, and positive personality traits that are important to create, teach, and instill in your new friend for life?

Now, we will get back the training steps. You may have to keep resetting and readjusting the positioning of your hands at the beginning of teaching the sit command.

Mostly this will be because your dog will move around too much, trying to get the treats out of your hand. Or, it may be because they sometimes will momentarily lose focus. When any of this occurs, then please do not get discouraged!

Even if it seems to be your only result the first dozen or more times you try this motion, they will learn eventually. It just takes time and repetition for them to learn, and some dogs take more reps than others.

It is important to have patience

Whether or not you see it yet, your dog is learning something. Even when it appears what you are trying is not working at that very moment. With enough practice, repetition, and perseverance, anything is possible, and every dog is trainable.

Some puppies have so much personality that they might have some stubbornness in them and do not want to submit at first. Those pups will put up an excellent test of wills, but again persistence and repetition are your keys to success.

Little by little, they will learn what you want/expect from them. Then, they will comprehend that you want them to perform a sit when you say that word and make that motion with your hand. They will eventually be glad to sit down just to get you to let go of some treats, one at a time.

Eventually, they will understand that you want them to sit down when you say that specific word. They will learn it because it is the one you are constantly repeating, and then when they do it, you are saying things like ‘good boy/girl, good sit!’

This is positive reinforcement for them, and most pups thrive on that.

Following training sessions

Once you reach the point when they understand what you’re saying, once they know the verbal command for sit and have it down pat, make sure you keep repeating it.

You should make the same move, to act like you have a fist full of treats. Eventually, you will do it with an empty hand and from a standing position.

All you need to do is give the verbal command to sit, plus make that same motion repeatedly. That motion of extending the treat fist away from your torso, level to the ground will be your nonverbal command for sit.

To use your hand signal, only, you will just need to change it up and only give them one or the other until they respond to each one properly. Switchback and forth randomly from verbal commands to the nonverbal hand gesture queues until their reaction is instantaneous and consistent.

To recap, get their attention, and keep eye contact while performing your hand gesture motion until you get the proper response of them sitting down. In which case, you would offer a treat and plenty of praise.

If they do not catch on to your just hand signal command, then after a while, you can add a verbal ‘Sit’ or two. Just emphasize the hand signal, so they will eventually associate just that command with the proper behavior.

Teaching the down command

Once you have gotten them reacting consistently to both your verbal and nonverbal cues for sit, it is time for the next stage. Up next is to teach them to go into a lying down position. You can easily teach that as an extension of the sitting process.

First off, you get down on your knee to be down on the same level as your dog. Then, you give your sit command and get them into a seated position just a few feet out in front of you. They should be just at the edge of your reach.

Next, introduce the next command by repeating your verbal command for Down. With a treat in your fist, you put your hand straight to the ground via your out-stretched arm. From this fully extended arm, your hand should be planted on the ground firmly and be positioned directly in front of your pup.

The reason for this will soon be obvious. Your dog will lie down- belly to the floor, trying to sniff the treat out of your fist.

Mark your dog’s behavior

Mark this behavior with praise and repeating worship such as ‘Good boy/girl, good Down!’ and then release the treat from your hand. Slowly work your way back and off the ground, but still repeating the general motion of outstretching your arm. Then, your pet will eventually anticipate what you will do.

They will expect you to reach back to the ground and will go into the down position to beat you there. You need to mark the very moment they get into the desired orientation by offering lots of exaggerated praise and a treat.

The first few times, you will do this just by opening up your outstretched hand planted to the ground in front of them.

Soon, they will learn the verbal and nonverbal queues that command them to perform the proper behaviors.

Once you reach this point, the way you have been offering the treat up from the outstretched hand will be a key step.

You should have been going from closed fist to open palm with a treat on it. This is because you can have them lying down for longer and longer periods waiting for your hand to open and present that all-important treat.

Which will lead to the last step of the basic trio of commands of sit, down, and finally stay?

The last step in the basic command trio, stay

The reason for this was important is that you can lengthen the time you hold your fist closed. You will hold it longer every time and can hold your other hand out with an open palm facing towards them.

This is the classic stay nonverbal cue. Do this until you take that hand away and open your fist to reveal the treat inside. Eventually, you will begin to say ‘Stay’ as you introduce the next command. You will do this while you make them hold in the down position.

This is where they will wait patiently for your hand to pop open and reveal the goodie within. You can even add in some praises such as ‘Good stay, good boy/girl, stay, good stay’, and similar repetitive commands.

Just remember, at first, to keep them disguised as worship; it will help them pick it up quicker.

In the end, you will have three verbal and three nonverbal hand signals. These will correspond to your trio of comments that make up the basis for all obedience games.

Also, they will always get your pup to listen to you intently when you require their attention. Without it, you will only have their attention 90% of the time where you do not need it.

Plus, you will still have that portion where it’s overwhelming, and you don’t want it. With them knowing the basic three body positions/behaviors, you will be well on your way to be the pack leader. This is exactly what your dog requires of you, for their security and confidence.

Persistence pays off

This can all be a slow process in the beginning until your pet catches on to what actions of theirs make you pleased with them. Do not get discouraged! Persistence is key here in the first stages of training because you are building a relationship with your little friend.

The dog is not only learning to go into position when you give the relating command(s); it is learning to trust you too. They trust that if they follow through on what you want, then you will follow through by giving them a treat.

Either with food or just with you treating them to some special love, affection, and attention. Which you should happily supply them with plenty of during this process.

This is especially important at the very beginning of your training sessions. You are giving them plenty of loving attention and adding in some exaggerated verbal praises too.

You should always sound sincere in your over the top praise, though. The reason is that they are always very much tuned in to all of your queues. They are always watching your body language and listening to the tone or pitch of your voice.

This takes a lot of repetitions and, therefore, will require a lot of treats. Just look for small-sized, medium reward, and preferably low-calorie training treats. Also, keep track of how treats you use for each training session. That way, you can adjust the quantity of food you provide at regular mealtimes.

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