How To Train Your Dog To Sit, Stay, And Lay Down: The Basics

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Training your dog is a key responsibility for all dog owners. When you adopt a puppy, it is fairly simple to teach them while you are potty training them, teaching them not to bite, and showing them the ropes of life. But many people opt to adopt an older or even senior dog. Adopting a dog from a shelter or previous owner can be challenging for a number of reasons. The dog is used to another life and a different way of training. It is your responsibility to teach them the basics, and then build their understanding from there. 

The most basic commands that all dogs should know and start with are:

These commands seem simple but they will shape the beginning of an incredibly well-behaved and trained dog. You might have a dog that looks like a wolf or might even have a wolf-name but, you want them to act like a happy domestic dog, not a wild wolf.

Before we dive into training your dog, it is imperative for you to know the basics that YOU should remember as the owner and trainer, to successfully train your dog.

The most basic advice for dog owners/trainers to follow while training their dog:

  • Patience
  • Take It Slow
  • Start At The Bottom And Move Up
  • Never Yell
  • Reward Dog For Understanding (Positive Reinforcement)
  • Use a Simple Phrase
  • Keep Rewards Handy, Always
  • Avoid Long Sessions
  • Dogs Follow Treats With Their Noses/Bodies
  • Give Them Their Own Space
  • Dedicate Daily Training Time

How to Train Your Dog to Sit

There are several ways to train your dog to sit, although the most common methods are called, “capturing” and “luring”. Capturing and luring can be used in a variety of different tricks.

Capturing

  • Wait patiently for your dog to sit on their own, keep dog treats with you while you are waiting.
  • Once your dog sits, tell them “yes” calmly and give them the treat.
  • Step aside, encourage your dog to stand.
  • Once they stand, wait for them to sit again and then give them another “yes” with a treat.
  • After you have repeated the above steps, start to say “sit” as soon as they sit down.
  • After you say sit, reward them, and then repeat until they can sit on command.

Luring

  • Sit or stand in front of your dog with a treat to lure them in.
  • Lift the treat in front of their face, and lift it higher as they lift their nose. (This will typically make them sit as their nose rises higher.)
  • Once you have done this and your dog is sitting, give them the treat
  • Continue to repeat this multiple times and then start to do it without the treat.
  • Once your dog can accomplish this without a treat, use the hand gesture rising above their head, and then say, “sit”.

As an owner it is entirely up to you which course to take to teach your dog to sit, both techniques work, but one might work better for your dog. Try to pick one first and if it is not working then you can try the other technique.

NEVER push your dog into a sitting position to teach them, this can be painful, scary, and confusing.

How to Train Your Dog to Lay Down

Teaching your dog to lay down is very similar to teaching them to sit. You can use the capturing method or the luring method.

Capturing

  • Wait for your dog to lie down, you can go somewhere they will likely lay down anyway.
  • Give your dog a treat to reinforce this behavior.
  • Encourage your dog to stand up again
  • Once they stand up, wait for them to lay down again, and give them a treat
  • Repeat this several times
  • Once they are in a routine of standing and laying down, start to say “down” right after they stand up. 
  • Reinforce with a treat, and repeat.

Luring

  • Like with sitting, use a treat in front of your dog’s nose to gently urge them into a down position.
  • If they aren’t laying down fully, give them the treat when their elbow’s start to bow to the ground.
  • Once the dog is fully laying down, give them the treat and only give them a treat once they are all the way in a down position.
  • Repeat until your dog recognizes the hand gesture of down.
  • Begin saying “down” once the dog begins to lay down.
  • Repeat with treats until they can do it without treats.

NEVER push your dog into a laying down position to teach them, this can be painful, scary, and confusing.

How to Train Your Dog to Sit and Stay

Teaching your dog how to stay may be one of the most important commands you will teach. This could save their lives if they get separated from you while on a walk, or if they are running after a child or animal. The command stay will teach your dog to sit and stay until you give them the release word or command. The release word can be anything you choose, it should be simple and easy to remember. Many people opt for, “free” or “okay” as their release word. 

Steps to Train Your Dog To Stay

  • Teach your dog your release word.
    • While your puppy is sitting or standing, toss a treat down to get them to come towards you. Once they start to move towards the treat say your release word.
    • Repeat the above step a few times, once your dog understands the release word as coming towards you, give them the treat after you say the word. This teaches your dog that the release cue means that they can come towards their owner.
  • Teach your dog to sit (see above).

Once your dog knows how to sit, and they understand that the release word means that they can come to you, you may continue with the next steps.

  • Tell your dog to sit, and then turn and face them, reward them with a treat
  • Pause for a few seconds, if your dog stays in a sit, reward them. After you reward them use the release word.
  • Repeat the steps above, and gradually increase the amount of time you pause in between your dog sitting and you releasing them. (Sing a song and then gradually work to getting all the way through)
  • It is likely that your dog will become impatient and get up in between pauses. This is okay! You will need to ease back to a shorter time period in between sitting and releasing until they are ready to sit and wait for longer.
  • Once your dog has mastered staying for the entirety of your song (or about 1 to 2 minutes) you can start walking away from your dog when you tell him to sit.
  • Tell your dog to sit, and say “stay”. You will then take one step away and one step back, reward the dog and then use your release word.
  • You can continue doing this, add more steps, even try facing away from your dog as you walk away. If your dog starts to move before you give the release word, start the steps over and give them a shorter distance and a shorter time period. 
  • Just remember “sit”, “stay”, walk away, and then use the release word to release your dog. Be patient with your dog, they want to please you.

Teaching your dog to stay requires many steps, as well as patience from the trainer and the dog. It is important to teach your dog this command, once they have mastered this it will seem easy to teach them other, less important tricks. Teaching your dog to stay will give you the peace of mind that they will listen to you if they are ever in a situation dangerous to themselves or others.

Advanced tip: Once you feel as though your dog has mastered the simple command of stay with just you and them, add different variables. Introduce a neighbor or trusted friend into the situation. Go in the backyard with the friend that they love, tell them to sit and stay while the friend is a distance away. This will help to teach them that they still need to listen to their owner, even when other delightful variables are another option. Just remember to train your dog in a safe environment, even when adding variables.

How to Train Your Dog to Sit Pretty

We have gone over the three basic commands, sit, lay down, and stay. Has your dog mastered these tricks? They are ready to move onto something fun and exciting? Say no more, let us train your dog to sit pretty. This trick goes by a variety of different names including, beg, pray, etc. This trick is when your dog sits on their hind legs and raises their front paws up in a begging or pretty manner.

Training Your Dog To Sit Pretty

  • Tell your dog to sit
  • Hold a treat just above your dog’s nose and raise the treat up slowly. Once your dog rises their front feet, with their bums still down, give them the treat and praise them.
  • Repeat this step and raise the treat higher and higher until they are sitting completely on their haunches.
  • If they are having a hard time balancing, offer them your arm to balance on until they can get used to this position (it’s not a natural position for them, just a fun trick to learn).
  • Once they understand how to achieve this trick, give it a name and start using it after giving the hand signal.
    • If for any reason your dog seems uncomfortable with this position, it might not be the right trick for them. Some dogs don’t feel comfortable sitting on their hind legs. Access the situation accordingly.

How to Continue Training

If you have made it to the end, we are here to wish you luck in your training journey. You have now learned how to train your dog to sit, lay down, stay, and sit pretty. You should give yourself a pat on the back, the first step is to train the trainer. Now you can get to training your pup! 

It is important to remember that you need to continue to train your dogs throughout their lives, like humans, dogs can forget. It is important to continue to teach new tricks to your dogs as well as actively use the tricks they already know. If your dog ever starts to slip and not understand a trick, you can always use the tips above to reteach your dog the tricks they once knew. They will soon remember how to get treats and achieve a happy owner. 

Dogs want to impress their owners, and owners want to have good dogs. Take the leap and follow these basic steps to fully train your dog and you will achieve the best of both worlds. 

What tricks and training tips do you want to learn more about? Leave us a comment down below, we would love to hear your thoughts!

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