Sit, Down and Stand

Once you have good focus, you can start to work on more complicated commands. The sit, down and stand can be taught by waiting until your dog takes the position naturally (generally, in a quiet setting), and marking and rewarding that behavior. Once the dog offers that behavior consistently, you can add the command. Say the command as the dog begins to take up the position at first, then try it before the dog is in position. In order to do this style of training, each position must be taught separately, you cannot begin a new exercise until you have the previous one on command.

Note: When you use a clicker, it is easiest to begin with if the clicker marks the correct behavior and the end of the behavior, so the dog is released before you feed. When you lure, you tend to feed the dog in position, so you need to release the dog explicitly with a release command such as "free" or "ok" to let the dog know that it is ok to break position. It is important to keep the dog's understanding clear as to when it is working and when work is completed.

You can also teach these exercises by luring. The problem with luring, is that you have to eventually fade the hand movement, and since dogs are more in tune to movement than sound, this can take a while. To teach the sit, a piece of food held over the head lifts the nose up, and the rear naturally drops down - say the command, as the dog takes up the position. To teach the down, close your hand around the food and drop your hand to the floor, to encourage the dog to take up the down position. Open your hand and feed the dog once in the correct position.

The stand can be taught by holding the food at nose level in front of the dog. If you hold the food with your palm facing upwards, begin with your hand close to the dog's nose and move your hand away from the dog, he will take a step forward and stand in order to get the food.

You can also teach these exercises by gently maneuvering the dog in to position with your hands, but again this "help" will need to be faded. Once you have a good sit in lots of different places, you could insist on the sit, by placing your hand under the dogs chin, and lifting so the dog has to sit. This is a mild form of compulsion and you may or may not want to do this. If you do not want to "back up" commands, you must spend a lot longer proofing them in different environments. This requires a good deal of patience. Very sensitive dogs will need the patience part of this, a willful puppy with a low desire for food may need more hands on training, and probably will not suffer for that. In gauging what you need to use, err on the side of less. More patience and more shaping lead to confident happy pups that like to work (until they get to that lovely teenage stage!).

Note: You may notice that I do not include "stay" as a separate training exercise. Since I always release, either by clicking to end or by saying "free", I don't actually teach stay as a specific command. When I teach a stationary exercise like sit, down or stand, I gradually extend the length of time I expect the dog to remain in position. I also vary the time (e.g. 30 seconds, 1 second, 5 seconds, 45 seconds, 10 seconds, and eventually out to several minutes in preparation for competition). Once I have built the time to around a minute, I begin to move around the dog. At first I take just half a step before releasing, and then begin to walk around the dog, staying close. I also like to move to the left side of the dog before I release. As a further clarification for the dog, if I expect the dog to remain in position, I will move my right leg first (e.g., "sit" and then walk off starting with my right leg). When I teach heeling later where I expect the dog to move with me, I will move my left leg first.

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