TEACHING: SIT, DOWN, STAND, AND STAY
How do I teach my puppy to "sit" on command?
Using a food treat, hold the food over the dog's nose and slowly move it up
and back over the dog's head. As the puppy follows the food with its head it
will sit down. Now couple the word "sit" with the action. The upward motion
of the hand as you hold the food treat also serves as a visual command for the
puppy. If the pup lifts its front legs you are holding the food treat too high.
As soon as the puppy sits, say "good sit" and give the treat. Many repetitions
will be necessary for the pup to learn the association properly. Gradually,
as the puppy understands what you want, only give the treats intermittently.
You should practice sit in many places throughout your home. It is especially
important to teach your puppy to sit by the front door. A dog who readily sits
by the front door will be less of a problem greeting guests.
How do I teach my puppy to lie down on command?
Start with your puppy in a sit position. To get the puppy to lie down, take
a treat and lower it between the puppy's front paws and say "down". Usually
the puppy will follow the treat and go down. If the puppy does not lie all the
way down, slowly push the treat between the paws and if the puppy lies down
give it the treat and of course add "good dog."
For some puppies, teaching the down command can be very difficult. An alternative
method is instead of pushing the food treat backwards, slowly pull the treat
forward. If that does not work, sit on the floor with your legs straight out
in front of you and slightly bent at the knees. Take a hand with a treat in
it and push it out under your knee from between your legs. As the puppy tries
to get the food treat, slowly bring it back under your knee. As the puppy tries
to follow, it will usually lie down.
Once the puppy understands the "down" command, make sure that you vary the
starting position. You should try to get your puppy to "down" from both a stand
and a sit.
How can I teach my puppy to "stay" on command?
Puppies can be taught to stay for short periods of time at a young age. Once
they sit on command each and every time they are asked, without the need for
food inducements, training can proceed to more difficult concepts such as "stay".
First the pup is taught to stay without moving as you stand in front for 1-2
seconds. Initially give the puppy the "sit" command, say "stay" (using a hand
as a stop sign can be a good visual cue), take one step away, and then return
to the puppy and reward him or her for not moving. Be very careful that the
puppy does not stand up or move as you present the reward because then you will
have rewarded "getting up". Gradually increase the distance by a step at a time,
and the length of the stay by a few seconds at a time, until the puppy can stay
for a minute or more with you standing at least 10 feet away. It is important
to set up the puppy to succeed. Proceeding very slowly, and keeping a long lead
attached to the puppy so that it can not run away can help ensure success. Be
patient. It may take a week or more of daily training to get a puppy to sit
and stay for 1-2 minutes. Over a few months it should be possible to increase
the stay to 15 minutes or more, and to be able to leave the room and return
without the puppy rising from its stay. For these longer stays it may be better
to use a "down-stay" (lying down and staying in place) combination, and to train
the dog in a favored resting or sleeping area.
Once extended "sit-stays" are accomplished, the command can be used to prevent
many potential behavior problems. For example, if you practice "sit and stay"
by the front door, this command can then be used to prevent running out the
door and jumping on company. Have your puppy sit and stay while you place the
food on the floor and then give him an OK or release command. This will help
establish your leadership and control.
How can I teach my dog to stand on command?
Place your puppy in a sit position. Take the food treat with the palm of your
hand facing up and move it forward and away from the pup as you say "stand".
Your puppy should again follow its nose and stand up. Don't pull your hand so
far away that the puppy follows you, but just until it stands up.
What else can I teach my dog?
Using the concepts discussed above a dog can be trained to perform anything
that it is physically capable of. A "down" or "sit" can be extended from several
seconds to many minutes as long as we progress gradually or "shape" the dog's
behavior In shaping, we determine our ultimate goal, such as a 20 minute stay,
and reward successive increments of the behavior until we reach that goal. For
example, once the dog will sit for 3 seconds before the reward is given, we
can repeat the command and when the puppy sits we wait for 4 seconds before
the reward is given. Proceed very slowly, ensuring that the puppy is performing
the behavior properly a few times in a row before proceeding to the next step.
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