Sit – stay

By admin Posted in Basics, Clicker Training, Updated posts /

‘SIT – STAY’ Basic command broken into small component parts to be mastered by the dog.

Start dog training in a quiet area away from too many distractions. (If your dog already has done some obedience training, a clicker can be used to pinpoint correct behaviour instead of the verbal “Good dog, Good sit.”)

1 Meaning of word “Sit”: With treat open at first and then in fist: The dog’s sense of smell will tell him about the treat in the fist.

Hold the treat just above the dog’s nose and slowly move it backwards between the eyes and over the head.  This should have the dog sitting down naturally. Most dogs will automatically lift their heads to get the food and then sit down. Reward immediately with the treat in your hand. If the dog is inclined to walk backwards, continue to follow it, with the food held just over the head, until it sits.

Repeat this exercise a few times and at the same time introduce the command, “J… SIT” and praise “Yes” – “Good Dog,” feed reward, “Good sit.” (Click/ “Yes” and treat the moment the dog reaches a sitting position.)

Use a happy but firm voice command! Since the dog’s name also means “pay attention” it should always be used before commands.

Repeat 10-15 times 2-5 times a day, or as often as possible, until he can do it without fail. After 6 or more successful sits the food disappears into the fist and then as soon as possible thereafter the use of food to capture a sitting position must be replaced by the hand signal.

The reason why the treat is soon kept invisible in the hand is because we want the dog to respond to the hand signal.

2 Voice and hand signals: Continue the same exercise but now hide the food/treat behind your back or in a pocket. Your empty hand’s movement now becomes a signal to sit. The sit hand signal is an upward twist of the wrist with the index finger pointing upwards. This movement must be aimed to get the dog’s head up because then the hindquarters will most likely go down and the dog will sit.

The dog must learn to respond to voice and hand signals (Simultaneously) and not only obey when you have food in your hand. After rewarding each time in the beginning, you now start rewarding only the better sits.

When the dog will sit enthusiastically most of the time, place both hands behind your back and command, “C—–, Sit.” (No hand signal). C/T if the dog sits. In some cases you will have to wait a while before he responds. Reward and praise enthusiastically because he now knows what to do when commanded to “Sit.” Now the word “Sit” always goes first in the sequence which is as follows: 1) Verbal command, “ Sit.”  2) Hand signal 3) dog sits 4) Click or “Yes”      5) reward.  Repeat by rewarding good responses to verbal commands with food and then gradually reduce the treats to about half the time.

Treats should in future be used to build new or more correct behaviour!

Remember to give the “OK” / “FREE” / “OFF YOU GO” / “TAKE A BREAK” etc. release command after short training sessions!! (The clicker indicates the end of an activity and that the dog is free to play.)
Stop as soon as the dog loses interest. Play a while and restart.

Sitting must become part of the dog’s lifestyle!  The dog must “Sit” before putting on the leash; before opening the door; before throwing the ball, taking the ball, greeting people, before eating etc., etc. Making the dog “Sit” frequently during “walkies” stops the inclination to pull on the leash and the “OK” becomes an enjoyable response for the dog.

3 Stay sitting: Get the dog to sit next to you in the heel position. Hold the leash loosely in your left hand and straight up above the dog’s head. Give the command: “J—-,Sit St-a-a-aay”  and at the same time briefly pass the open palm of your right hand in front of the dog’s eyes in an upward scoop (The hand signal to stay). With the left hand, holding the leash above the dog’s head, give tiny, rhythmic, upward tugs which will maintain gentle upward pulling on the leash and will prevent the dog from standing. For the dog to stand again the head has to go down and the hindquarters must rise. That is why we keep the head up. Count 5 seconds, Click/”Good dog,” “Good stay.”

 Since the clicker is an “end of exercise” signal, withholding the click in fact turns “sit” into “stay.” The absence of a click indicates how long the dog must sit before a treat is given.
Repeat 5 times a day. Extend the time gradually by 10 to 15 seconds at a time: 5-20-35-50 etc. 4 Phase out food: Continue the same exercise but now hide the food/treat behind your back or preferably in the mouth so that the dog can look at your face. Only use a treat to build correct behaviour. The dog now knows what to do when commanded to “Sit St-a-a-aay“. Extend time gradually by 15 seconds at a time e.g. 5-20-35-50 etc.
After many good sits continue to the next exercise.

 4 Walk around the dog: When the dog will remain sitting for up to a minute, it is time to slowly start walking around him. Give a Stay command and hand signal and stepping off on the right leg, slowly walking around the dog whilst, at the same time continuing the rhythmic tugs with the left hand as before. C/T, Praise!!!! Any attempt by the dog to stand or follow you must immediately be met with a deep reprimand, “Bah” or “Bad” or “No” (Short one-word command).

5 “Bungee” stays: When you are able to walk around your dog a few times without him trying to get up, the next stage can be attempted. Pretend that there is an elastic or bungee rope attached between you and your dog.                             Give a Sit/St-a-a-aay” command, step off on your right leg and leave your dog only to be “pulled back” after a pace or two by the “bungee.” C/T. During the first week you should not move more than five paces away from the dog. The aim here is to build confidence in the dog that you will return each time. In the beginning it is necessary to keep your eye on the dog so that the slightest movement to follow is immediately met with, “Bah” or “Bad.”

6 Distractions are now added. This is the difference between a well-trained dog and a poorly trained dog!
The tiny rhythmic tugs can now be used to test the dog’s understanding and compliance by gently tugging or pulling the leash towards you. Any forward movement by the dog is met with an immediate, “No” and the dog is “reversed” backwards to the original position.

The level of distraction is gradually increased and corrections are given for not performing. Enthusiastic praise for good work!!

After getting the dog to sit properly, use some of the following:
1 Walk around dog while continuing the tiny, rhythmic upward tugs.
2 Squeak a toy e.g.                                                       Clap hands; lie down; jump about;
3 Tug leash a bit.                                                           Get someone to ring doorbell,
4 ………………                                                          open a gate, car door etc.
5 Stranger pet the dog.
6 ………………
7 Toss a ball in front of dog.
8 Throw treats around the dog.
9 Go to new / strange location.

When your dog is stable with distractions go on to add distance.

7 Add distance: Repeat the exercise but now make use of longer lines to place distance between handler and dog. 3m-5m-10m etc.
Gradually increase the distance and the time. Eg. 10sec, 15sec, 20sec etc for every 2 metres away from the dog. Use distractions. When a stay is broken, “reverse” him back to the original position, give a firm correction then praise when he complies.
DO NOT CHARGE THE DOG TO CORRECT! he will only become confused.
Rather reel him in and “reverse” him to the original position.
Phase out the clicker once the dog’s behaviour is correctly integrated. Switch to verbal praise.

8 Off leash: As above. But when handler is 5 or more metres away, leave the rope on the ground and slowly walk a bit further away. Take a step to the right, left; sit down, clap hands etc. “Good dog” “good sit“. Repeat until stable under distractions.

9 Reduce length of leash: Repeat the exercise as above but now gradually reduce the length of the leash to 2m-1m-300mm. The dog must still feel something around his neck.

10 Random sit: Now the sit exercise is not part of formal training, but can be in the yard, in the street, at the shop etc. Expect an immediate response!!! Correct and praise.
You should now have a pet that is a pleasure to live with. Competition work will lead to stays out of sight for up to 10 minutes.

Remember: Length of TIME before DISTRACTIONS before DISTANCE away from the dog.

Review these steps before each training session!
Repeat often in different locations and on different surfaces.
Be consistent and insistent; do things the same way i.e. commands, corrections and praise and make sure that your commands are obeyed.
Test to see to what extent your dog has understood by giving the “sit” command while you are sitting down, standing behind the dog, standing on a chair or ladder or lying down etc.

Problem solving: Some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and become traumatized when their owners leave them alone, especially at a strange place.

The following may be helpful:

Secure the dog to a fence or pole so that it cannot follow you. Give a Sit/Stay command and proceed as above by leaving the dog and returning very shortly. Praise the dog in a happy voice and treat for “staying” even if he had no choice in doing so.    Be very patient and repeat often.  Next repeat the same procedure at different locations. Do not be in a hurry to “testthe dog’s staying ability too soon.   After a while it might be noticed that the dog’s lead has remained slack while you were away. This may be an indication that the time to untie the dog is nearing. When off leash, repeat the exercises from Step 5. 

TIMING is very important: Handlers often make the mistake of getting cross with their dogs when they come to them after having broken the stay command. This teaches the dog that it is fine to break a stay but it is not fine to go to the handler. What must be done is to, “Bah,” Bad” or “No” the dog when you see it “thinking” about moving or following.

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