Teach your Dog to Perform

Teach your Dog to Perform a Sit, Down, & Stand

Before you start teaching your dog the positions, set yourself and your dog up for success by preparing the environment with everything you need. In addition to preparing the environment, prepare yourself. Your dog should understand the meaning of his conditioned reinforcer (CR) before you start. If he doesn’t, go back and play the eye-contact game until he does.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can progress to more difficult commands. Luring is the simplest way to teach these exercises. The issue with luring is that you must eventually fade the hand movement, which can take some time because dogs are more sensitive to movement than sound. 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. Close your hand around the food and drop your hand to the floor to encourage the dog to take the down position. Once in the proper position, open your hand and feed the dog.

What You Need

You’ll need to set up your training area with everything you need to control and reinforce your dog. To keep your dog with you and to help you achieve certain behaviors, keep a collar and leash handy. You can let your dog drag the leash if you want so you can step on it to keep him from wandering.

You’ll also need treats, and lots of them. What you use will depend on your (and your dog’s) preferences, but whatever you use needs to be something your dog likes and is willing to work for.

You may also want to have a few special toys in your training area. You can use them during play breaks, and to motivate your dog. As your training progresses, you’ll also use them as distractions to challenge your dog.

Sit Command

Teaching your dog to sit appears to be a simple task until you consider the various ways a dog can sit. There is a place to sit on the stand and a place to sit on the ground. The dog can plant his front or rear end in either of those position changes.

The sit command has numerous advantages! For example, we use this on a daily basis to teach our children proper door manners. Furthermore, we use the sit for daily dog obedience while working the dogs when we only intend to leave the dog in a command for a short period of time. This can be seen in literally hundreds of our YouTube videos. Also, we frequently use the sit command to allow people to greet the dog calmly and controllably, as well as for food manners (making them wait for their food until we release them).

Stand Command

Stand is among the most underutilized and overlooked commands; however, we use it every day! The stand command is fantastic because it tends to make grooming your dog so much easier! You simply tell them to “stand,” and then you can groom, brush, and treat them for fleas, among other things. Every groomer in America wishes every dog they worked with knew this command!

Down Command

The ability to leave the dog in a position for an extended period of time and the dog can relax and be comfortable is the most advantageous purpose of the down command. I always down my dogs if I intend to leave them in a specific position/spot for more than a minute or two.

You can also teach these exercises by gently navigating the dog into position with your hands, but this “assistance” must be gradually faded. Once you have a good sit in a variety of places, you can force the dog to sit by placing your hand under the dog’s chin and lifting so the dog has to sit. This is a mild form of compulsion, and you may or may not wish to engage in it. If you don’t want to “back up” commands, you’ll have to spend a lot more time testing them in different environments. This requires a lot of patience. Very sensitive dogs will require patience, whereas a stubborn puppy with a low desire for food may require more hands-on training and will most likely not suffer as a result. When determining how much to use, err on the side of caution. More patience and shaping results in confident, happy pups who enjoy working (until they reach that wonderful adolescent stage!).


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