Fido’s Homeschooling DIY Training Program: Sit and Stay

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Welcome back to Fido’s Homeschooling DIY Training Program! We left off with tips for training the ‘Go to Your Place’ cue and its many applications. However, what you really want in many of these situations is for your pup to ‘Go to Your Place’ and stay there. So, let’s back up for a moment and explore a pawsitive approach to the Sit and Stay cues. 

The key to success in teaching any behavior is to start easy and go slowly. (Be the tortoise, not the hare!) As with all of your training adventures, have fun, be patient and remember that reasonable expectations at the beginning will lead to great results later on. On that note, let’s dive in.

How to Train ‘Sit’

  • To begin this exercise, wait for your dog to sit. As soon as the rump hits the floor or ground, click or say your magic word and treat.
  • Don’t worry. You don’t have to wait indefinitely. If your dog doesn’t sit automatically, use your food lure: 
    • Hold a treat at the tip of Fido’s nose with your hand flat and palm upward.
    • Move your hand and the treat up and over Fido’s head and advance your hand slightly back in the direction toward his or her rear end. 
    • In order to look up and back (to follow the treat), your dog will need to shift his or her weight back and down, resulting in a sitting posture. 
  • Eventually you won’t need the food lure; the flat hand with palm upward, gesturing up, will cue the behavior.
  • Once your dog starts sitting reliably every time, you can add in the cue word “sit.”
  • Practice doing this 5-10 times: 
    • Say the word “sit.”
    • Pause to see if Fido Sits. (Do pause. Do not repeat the cue.)
    • If your dog Sits, great! Click and treat. If not use the food lure, then click and treat when your dog is sitting.
    • Repeat this step until you no longer need the food lure. 
  • Practice cuing Sit in a variety of locations and situations. Even 2-3 times a day for 2-3 minutes can be very helpful. 
  • Training tip: Remember, use the cue only once, then wait. If Fido doesn’t respond, think about ways you can help your pup succeed, perhaps by making adjustments in the motivation, environment and/or level of difficulty.    

How to Train ‘Stay’

When you and your inquisitive canine are ready, you can start to build from here and add in Stay. Here’s how:

  • Stand facing your dog. 
  • Begin by asking your dog to Sit (see above). 
  • Click and treat the first Sit to get your dog interested and engaged in this training game.  
  • Tell your dog “stay” in a cheerful tone. Pause. Put one hand out in the Stay hand signal (hand out in front of you with palm facing dog), then click and treat immediately before your dog has a chance to move. Note that you haven’t moved away from your dog at all. 
  • Repeat this several times until your dog shows no sign of wanting to get up – better to stay and wait for the click and treat!
  • Next, you’ll just move your shoulder back a little.  
    • Just as before, begin by asking your dog to Sit. Click and treat the first Sit to capture your dog’s interest. 
    • Tell your dog “stay” in a cheerful tone, pause, place the same hand out in the Stay hand signal (hand out in front of you with palm facing dog).  
    • Move one of your shoulders back a bit, as if you were going to turn away, then immediately click and treat before your dog has a chance to move. 
  • Once you’ve moved your shoulder successfully a few times, repeat the same procedure as above but add a small step back as if walking away. Immediately bring your orientation and focus back in toward your dog and then click and treat. Note that you’re still standing directly in front of your dog. 
  • It’s best to start off simple and easy so that you can build up to more difficult situations over time, without you or your pup becoming frustrated or discouraged.

Building to Advanced Levels 

  • When you have achieved several successful Stays with one small step back, try taking two steps back, then bungee back in, clicking and treating. 
  • Repeat several times.  
  • Note that throughout this exercise when you step back, you step right back in—You are not asking your dog to hold one specific position for any duration of time. You just want him or her to resist the temptation to get up and follow you when you move.  This is all you do for the first part of teaching Stay. 
  • To advance Stay, slowly continue to increase the number of steps you take back, immediately coming right back in to click and treat every time.  
  • Remember to give the release cue (‘okay,’ ‘go sniff,’ ‘say hi,’ etc.) between practices or at the end of the session.

Troubleshooting 

Training can and should be fun, rewarding and successful! Dogs and humans should enjoy working together as you practice your training exercises, even the more challenging ones (especially the more challenging ones). With that in mind, what do you do if you’re following all the steps- with patience and delicious treats and a pawsitive attitude – and your dog gets up and ‘breaks the Stay?’ We’ve got you covered.

If your dog gets up:

  • Say “too bad” in the same tone of voice you’d say, “Oh well.” 
  • Ask your dog to Sit. Click and treat.
  • Ask for an easier level Stay and reward it.
  • Always go back to an easier level of teaching if your dog doesn’t understand what you want. By doing this you will help your dog build self-confidence at this (or any) new behavior. Plus, it will help your inquisitive canine want to stay in the game of learning new skills. 
  • Focus on setting your dog up for success, rewarding the behaviors you want, and preventing unwanted behaviors from being practiced through management. 

Beyond the Training Session 

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s not only a matter of nice manners, but safety, to help your inquisitive canine learn a very solid Sit/Stay. You can combine it with “Go to Your Place” or another targeting game for those times a visitor or package arrives and you don’t want your pup to charge the front door; when a latch is accidentally left unlatched – and you notice it a split second before your pup does; when the tray of chocolate brownies crashes to the floor and Fido wants to rush over to help you clean up. If you’re reading this, you can probably think of at least a dozen other times when you want or need your canine bestie to sit AND stay. Getting creative about where and when you practice, will really help your inquisitive canine generalize these fundamental skills so you have them when you need them.

Training is a lifetime endeavor – a connection between you and your dog that will last many years. So, as you explore these DIY homeschooling exercises, at any point, it’s a good idea to reach out to your credentialed, force-free trainer for guidance and support. 

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share in your training adventures with your inquisitive canine! 


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