Teaching The Command “Sit” And “Lie Down”
Dogs learn to “Sit” just as quickly as they learn to “Come” to you. Concentrate on your dog’s head. Control the head and the body does what you want it to do.
- Stand facing your dog with its food bowl or a food treat in your hand and command it to “Come”.
- When it reaches you, move your hand holding its food or treat over its head. Make sure it has eye contact with its reward. As its head follows the food above it, its rump will naturally go down. As you see it bending its hind legs, give the command “Sit”.
- As it assumes a sitting position say “Good girl” or “Good boy” and give the food immediately.
- Once it’s obediently sitting as it faces you, graduate to standing beside it while giving the command “Sit”. At first always give food rewards but eventually give them intermittently. Finally words of praise alone are sufficient.
Most dogs naturally assume a sitting position to keep an eye on something above them. Some don’t. If your dog doesn’t sit for a food reward, hold its collar in one hand and use your other hand to tuck its hindquarters into a sitting position. Give the command “Sit” as you do this and instantly reward it with a food treat and a verbal “Good boy” or “Good girl”. Avoid over excitement. If meals are too exciting your dog can’t concentrate on your commands. Train it on a fuller stomach, using less stimulating but still interesting rewards. Once more, never give a command without ensuring your dog complies. If you do so you’re actively training your dog to disregard that command.
Use Consistent Words
Do you remember the last time you tried to learn a foreign language? At the beginning of training, everything you say to your new dog sounds like gibberish to it. Give it the advantage of hearing consistent gibberish. Have a family powwow and decide on the exact words you’ll all use while training your new dog. Avoid the easy pitfall of having some members of the family use “Wait” while others use “Stay”. Dogs thrive on consistency. Make a list of the words you plan to use to teach your dog his basic obedience commands, post it at home and, we’re not kidding, make small copies for everyone to carry. Remember, sit means sit. Down means lie down. Asking a dog to Sit Down is confusing.
Teaching The Command “Lie Down”
“Lie Down” is a natural variation of “Sit” and “Stay” but requires a little more work on your part and understanding by your dog. All of the commands so far have anticipated willing behaviour by your dog. Now, you’re commanding it to do something natural but at the same time, a little unusual.
- With your pup in a “Sit” position, kneel to its right, hold its collar with your left hand and hold a food treat in your right.
- Put the food treat in front of your pup’s nose, then, using a sweeping action move your treat-holding hand forward and downward in an arc. As your pup lies down to keep in contact with the now ground-level food treat, give the command “Down”. Keep the treat clenched in your hand so it can’t grab it.
- Continue moving the food along the floor until it is in a complete down position. Praise it with “Good girl” or “Good boy” and give the treat.
- Once it understands “Down” prolong it with “Stay”, rewarding a good response initially with food and praise, then food intermittently with praise and finally with verbal praise alone.
- Release it from its “Down-Stay” with the release word “Finished”.
If your pup creeps forward on its haunches rather than lying down, kneel beside it and while it’s sitting put the palms of your hands under its forelegs, lift gently into a begging position then lower into a lying position. Instantly reward it with praise and treats. If it refuses to stay down, using both hands apply gentle pressure to its withers, the area above its shoulders. Reward it for lying down then release it with the word “Finished”.
You’re teaching your dog a completely new language. Be patient and reasonable. Don’t bore your dog with too frequent or too long periods of training. Remember, a few minutes two or three times a day is just about right for most dogs. Mature dogs can cope with fifteen minute sessions twice a day but also take advantage of feeding and exercise times for more natural training.
Introduce A Neutral Word
Your dog might get this wrong, either through misunderstanding what you want it to do or by having a giggle and turning the exercise into a game. Save the word “No!” for serious misdemeanours and used a more neutral word, “wrong”, spoken in a passionless tone, when a pup rolls on its back or tries to play while learning to “sit”.
A Few Don'ts
- Don’t loom over your dog. Your imposing presence may frighten it.
- Don’t put too much pressure on its collar. This isn’t discipline, it’s no more than a gentle form of guidance.
- Don’t go all Margaret Thatcherish with a beady-eyed stare. That’s intimidating too.
- Don’t use low value rewards. This exercise can take a little more time for a dog to learn and it should be amply rewarded.
- Don’t even try this exercise if you don’t understand what you’re doing. Get our help.