Have you ever wondered why your puppy, who is perfectly behaved most of the time, seems to forget their manners at the most inappropriate times? For example, you are having guests for dinner, and upon their arrival, they are expecting to be greeted by your perfect puppy, Fido, that you have been raving about. But instead of sitting and waiting to be acknowledged, Fido is jumping all over them. Or when you are on a walk and another dog passes, Fido is insistent on pulling you over to meet his new friend. We at ECAD believe there are two possibilities for why well-trained puppy might forget their manners: lack of leadership by the pet parent and the pet’s boredom.
Lack of leadership by the pet parent often causes inappropriate behaviors to become progressively worse. For example, if Fido barks when a strange car pulls into the driveway and this behavior is not corrected, the barking can lead to growling. Alternatively, if Fido jumps when greeting people at the door and this behavior is not corrected, this can escalate to nipping or biting. Combat lack of leadership by following through on every command. Every time. No exceptions.
The pet’s boredom can show itself in behaviors including nuisance barking, digging, chewing, licking, eating poop, raiding the garbage, eating plants, counter-surfing, whining, escaping, jumping, chasing, and much more. To combat boredom, use commands! Learning skills and tasks, social skills and manners, and overall self-control keeps your puppy thinking about being with you, not thinking up mischief!
For today’s lesson, you will learn how to effectively teach your dog to “Sit” and to “Stay”. These two commands allow you, the pet parent, to remain in a leadership position and combat your pet’s boredom behaviors in unpredictable situations.
Command 9 – Sit
“Sit” tells your puppy to place their rump on the ground.
Step 1: Start by holding the treat between your thumb and forefinger, closing the rest of your fingers into a fist. Allow Fido to see and smell, but not have the treat.
Step 2: Now that you have Fido’s full attention, move the hand with the treat over his head and say, “Sit.” This will cause Fido to raise his head to follow your hand and his rump will go down naturally.
Step 3: The second Fido’s rump hits the ground, reward with the treat and an enthusiastic “YES!”
Step 4: Repeat steps two and three for a minimum of three consecutive times before you reduce the amount of hand motion over Fido’s head causing him to sit.
Step 5: As you decrease the hand motion, add gentle scratching and petting his chest when Fido sits. This reinforces that sitting not only provides food and verbal reward, but also offers a physical connection.
Once you are confident that Fido understands what you want when you tell him to “Sit”, you can begin to use this command as a controlled position. This means that anytime Fido is excited or seeking your attention, use the command “Sit” and when he sits, you can engage with him. “Sit” is a great command that allows you to remain the leader, while eliminating Fido from wandering in boredom. However, there is one more phase to this command that will put you in full control: “Stay!”
Command 10 – Stay
“Stay” tells your puppy to remain in its present physical posture and place. “Sit” followed by “Stay” tells Fido what physical posture you want him to hold for an extended period of time.
Step 1: Start with your puppy in a “Sit” position, give the command “Stay” and slowly begin to walk around Fido in a circular motion with one hand remaining gently on his back. The hand on Fido will remind him that you are there, and if he attempts to stand up to follow you, you have the opportunity to immediately correct with a firm “No” and gently push Fido’s rump back down.
Step 2: As soon as Fido is able to stay in a seated position while you make a complete circle, you can now practice making the same circle without touching him. Remember, every time a circle is completed you must praise, saying “YES!” and then rewarding your pet.
Note: As Fido’s skill level and patience increases, you can begin to move farther way and turn your back to your dog. Do not forget the positive reinforcement with an excited “Yes!” and reward when Fido has achieved each increasing difficult level of self-control.
Step 3: Now that Fido has demonstrated a “Sit-Stay” while you are visible, increase the skill by extending the duration of the “Stay” with you out of sight. This is done by giving the “Stay” command, and then walking into another room, returning immediately, and then praising and giving a reward. Increase the time by counting to 5 before you return, Then count to 10. Always praise and reward when you return. Now you can count to 15, 20, 30… until you have completed a full minute.
Step 4: Practice makes perfect! Add more variables, go to different rooms, and add distractions. Do anything you can think of that might cause Fido to lose focus on staying.
It is important not to move too quickly through the steps of the “Stay” command. Always remember your training session must end on a positive note. Make sure you consider different elements such as your puppy’s maturity and age, how tired or playful they are, and how long your training session has lasted so that you and Fido end on a happy moment!
Last Week’s Lesson
How to Teach Your Dog to Heel
Next Week's Lesson
Teaching Your Dog "Down"
Back to 20 Dog Commands You Need to Know
All training tips in this series are from ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Learn more about ECAD.