BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Teach A Dog to Stay, Sit Or Come When Asked: Dog Obedience Training Basics

Girl with a dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Teaching your little canine friend how to stay represents the basics of dog obedience training long with other basic commands like “come” and “sit”. Of course that you may continue your dog’s education and train them how to fetch the morning newspaper or to roll on their back. You just have to realize that training your dog to listen and respond to your commands is of paramount importance for a creating a happy and healthy owner-dog relationship as well as a socially compatible pet.

Basic obedience training is important for absolutely every dog regardless of breed, size and gender. It should start as early as possible and continue as long as necessary. In the following lines we are providing practical information on how to teach a dog to stay, sit, come or listen to other basic commands.

Train your dog to come when called

The very first command a household dog must master is to come when called by its owner. Every pet-dog must obey to the “come” command at any time and under any circumstances. Some dogs even seem to learn the command without any specific training. If this is your case, you still will need to train your dog to come to you when called. Why? Because you must be sure that your dog will obey the command every time and not only when he or she decides and this is achieved only through targeted obedience training.

Husky greeting

The following guidelines will show you how to train your dog to come:

  • Choose the right time of the day. Typically this would be between meals when your dog is at it hungry (you must not let your pet starve!)
  • Start with small distances. The very first training session must be held inside – less things to distract your pet and small distances.
  • Get a dog treat or a tiny bit of his or hers favourite food and stand several feet away from your pet.
  • Say “Come!” or “Come here!” loud and clear and wave the treat in front of your dog.
  • Reward your pal as soon as they arrive.
  • Once your pet responds quickly to your command, do the same outside – again, select a calm, quiet place.
  • When you notice that your dog responds to the command every time, start rewarding him or her only occasionally.

If done correctly, you will never have to worry about how to train your dog to come when asked again. However, almost all dogs seem to “forget” what they have learned rather quickly. As surprising as it may sound, failing to perform at certain command is rarely your dog’s fault; it is often the owner who unconsciously sabotages their pet’s training. Common mistakes that can ruin the “come when asked” command include:

  • Calling your dog to come only when you need to put their leash back on.
  • Letting your dog to neglect your command.
  • Punish your dog when they finally respond to the command.
  • Calling your dog to punish them for something else.

As you can see, all of the above situations provoke negative associations in your pet – soon your dog will figure out that the outcome of obeying the “Come!” command is not in their favor. In order to retain the results of the training, try to avoid the above situations.

Teaching your dog to stay

After your dog has mastered the “come” command, it is time to move to the next very important obedience command – the “stay” cue. Not many dog owners actually try to teach their dogs to retain their position on command although it might be very useful in certain situations. Additionally, this is a great basis for teaching your dog more obedience tricks, for example to wait for permission before going out an open door, i.e. a car door, your apartment door, etc.

Come command for dog

So, how to teach your dog to stay? These are the main steps that you need to follow:

  • First and foremost, think of a release command – a word or a phrase that will mark the end of the “stay” command. You can go for any word but it is recommended to stick to short, easy to distinguish words and/or phrases such as “Done”, “OK”, “YES” and so on.
  • Call your dog and give the appropriate command for the position you want your pet to maintain. It’s good to choose a position that’s comfortable for your four legged friend, such as down or sit. Let’s assume you will ask your dog to sit.
  • Once your dog sits, wait a little bit (several seconds), reward your pet and pronounce the release command – at this point you should encourage your dog to get up.
  • Repeat the same slowly increasing the time between the “sit” command, the reward and the release command. Once your pet starts holding its position for longer, try moving away from him or her – preferably stepping backwards rather than walking away. Try a step or two, reward your pet and give the release cue.
  • Increase the distance between your and your pet gradually until you are satisfied with the results.
  • Opt for short but regular training sessions. Most dogs tend to get tired quickly when learning new tricks. A pet that becomes suddenly distracted without an obvious reason or a pet that starts making mistakes, are signs of a tired pet. If you notice these signs in your dog during a training session, take a break and continue later.

The success of your training session will depend not only on your teaching technique but on the predisposition of your pet and the distractions around them. It is best to train your dog only when he or she is relaxed and well exercised, i.e. after a long walk. Also, start inside – pick a room free of distracting noises, smells or items so that your dog can fully focus on your commands.

How to teach your dog to sit?

After you have trained your little pal to come to you when asked, it is time to train him or her to sit on command. Teaching a dog to sit may be a bit challenging, especially if you have never done it before.

Here are several tips that explain how to teach a dog to sit:

  • Get a dog treat in your hand and call your dog.
  • Hold the treat in front of your pet’s nose, approximately 1-2 inches away. The best way to hold it is between your index finger and thumb.
  • Start moving the treat above your dog’s nose, towards the top of its head. Your dog will try to follow the treat with their nose – the higher the nose of your little friend goes, the lower his or her bottom will drop!
  • When you notice your dog’s bottom is very close to the floor or may be touching it say “Sit” – loud and clear, and give them the treat.
  • Ask your dog to stand up again and repeat the exercise.
  • Once your dog masters the command, repeat the same but without a treat in your hand: ask your dog to come, place your hand around an inch in front of your dog’s nose and start moving it slowly towards the top of his or hers head while pronouncing the command.
  • The final step is to teach your dog to sit on verbal command only. Start giving the command first and than placing your hand in front of your dog’s nose. If the training has been successful so far, your dog will sit just upon hearing the command and seeing your hand in front of them. Start pulling away your hand gradually. After a few training sessions your dog will sit on command without you moving your hand at all.

Teaching your dog how to sit may require several training sessions.

Dog training

Some dogs learn very quickly, others need more time. Here are several extra tips that may prove effective if your pooch is stubborn:

  • Keep your fingers at the right distance in front of your dog’s nose: if the treat is too far away, your pet will try to walk or jump to get the treat.
  • It is possible that your dog will back up when you start moving the treat above your dog’s nose – some dog’s do that, instead of raising their heads! To avoid this, choose place that would limit the space behind your dog – a wall, piece of furniture, etc.
  • Reward your dog after he or she has mastered the command just remember to keep the treats in your pocket or anywhere else where your dog cannot see them.
  • Be very patient – if your dog cannot figure out what is required of them, take a break and try again.

Another great trick you can teach your dog is how to roll over. Please read our article detailing the steps needed to teach your dog to roll over.

What are general rules to follow?

Although there are various training programs designed to help you teach your dog to come when asked, sit or stay, there are several general rules every dog owner must follow.

  • Stay positive throughout the training session. Dogs have very strong instincts and intuition and can detect your general predisposition and mood. Even if you don’t feel particularly nervous, your dog will sense your anxiety and will become nervous too. Just the same – they can feel if you are happy and relaxed. Last but not least, a training session must be a fun and positive experience both for you and your pet.
  • Be very patient and try not to loose your temper. Some dogs are really fast-learners – Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Collies, Poodles for instance respond faster to training and tend to remember more “tricks”. Other breeds require more work to master basic obedience commands – Afghan and Baset Hounds, Bulldogs, Pekingese, Chow Chow dogs for instance can give their guardians real hard time training them.
    Puppies and young dogs are generally harder to train as they get excited easily and do not always listen to you. Whatever the case try not to loose your temper. The worst thing you can do is to start shouting at your pet or act in a rude manner.
  • Give short, precise commands in confident, calm voice. Dogs have very good hearing – they can recognize different sounds even if you talk in a low, composed manner. They can remember a lot too. On the other hand, they are not humans – long, complicated commands will only confuse your pet and he or she is likely not to respond in the desired way. Stick to short words and always use the same commands for the same action.
  • Stick to positive reinforcement methods. Modern dog training trends employ positive reinforcement (good behavior is rewarded, unwanted behavior is not), while older techniques included harsher methods. Of course, it is up to you to decide which dog training techniques to use, although dog trainers nowadays advise in favor of reward-based dog training.
  • Do not over-prize your pet. There is a very fine line between using rewards in dog training and spoiling your dog. Moreover, there are various rewarding methods you can use to make your dog deliver that good behavior again and again. Use different types of incentives (food, tasty treats, toys, verbal and physical) but try to not over-do things.
  • Get your pet’s health checked. Take your pet to the vet if you notice he or she consistently experiences learning difficulties. Sometimes training problems are not directly connected to the training methods you use or to the intelligence of your dog. It may be a hearing or eyesight problem you are unaware of that prevents your four legged friend to respond to your commands.
  • Training is not a one-off task. You need to constantly train your pet – reinforce commands your dog has mastered already and never leave unwanted behavior uncorrected. Just like humans, dogs tend to stick to behavior patterns they feel most comfortable and these are not always the ones you would appreciate. In this respect, being a dog owner is pretty similar to being a parent – it’s a full time job, 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Don’t let training be the only time you spend with your dog. It is not a coincidence that dogs are known to be human’s best friends. Try to spend quality time with your dog besides any training sessions. Take your dog on a long walk, play a game or just cuddle for some time – these activates will strengthen the bond between you.

All of these tips should be considered, no matter what you’re teaching your dog. You can learn more about other things to teach your dog in our article about basic obedience training.

Easiest and most difficult dog breeds to train

While some dog owners ponder how to teach their dog to sit, others have never experienced even the slightest problem during their dogs’ training. Is it true that some dog breeds are naturally easier to train than others?

Trained dog

Although this topic is highly controversial, there are dog breeds that seem to learn faster. The top three fast-learners include:

  • Golden Retrievers. Obedient in nature, a Golden Retriever will effortlessly make it to the top of any “easy to train” dog list. Dogs from this breed enjoy being trained and appreciate all types of obedience training games.
  • Border Collies. Known to be among the most intelligent dog breeds, Border Collies are always interested in what you can teach them.
  • Doberman Pinschers. Intimidating as a Doberman Pinscher can be, it is also an excellent learner. Dobermans are very intelligent and always attentive to what is going on around them.

There are plenty of other dog breeds that are easy to train as well. Here’s a great article on the smartest dog breeds.

Although there might not be a direct link between your dog’s intelligence and training effectiveness, certain dog breeds have proved to be very difficult to train.

You may find training particularly challenging if you are dealing with dogs from the following three breeds:

  • Beagles: Being hunting dogs, Beagles are easily distracted. If you own one, you probably noticed that your little pal cannot resist the urge to look for new scents and follow them.
  • Bulldogs: These cute wrinkled friends prefer to sleep, eat and.. sleep again. Most of the time a Bulldog is happy just to sit and observe. Motivation is the key – find rewards that your pet really enjoys.
  • Chow Chows: Very lovable and hug-gable, Chow Chow dogs tend to be very dominant as well. Most training problems you may encounter stem from that dominance – be very assertive and firm while training a dog from that breed.

Dogs are very social animals who enjoy being around people. Surprising as it sounds, dogs prefer to have rules – rules and boundaries give them a sense of stability and security. On the other hand, dog owners prefer to have balanced and well trained dogs. It is a natural win-win situation that you only need to reinforce through correct dog training in order to create a happy, rewarding relationship with your pet for a lifetime. Although dogs learn at different rates, every dog can master at least the basic obedience commands.

Surrounded by loving and stable environment and provided with assertive, calm leadership, every dog will easily learn to listen and respond to every command you give him or her. There are various ways to train a dog to come, sit, heel or fetch. Regardless of the breed and the training method you have chosen, remember to be positive and consistent in your training; always.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • disqus_SB2xtkmm3Q

    Hey John,
    A few friends made me aware of your wonderful post. The picture of the “Husky Greeting” is actually a picture of my Japanese hunting dog, Shikoku Ken taken at the Orange County Pet Expo in Costa Mesa, CA.

    Appreciate your writing and your efforts to educate the world on dog behavior, just wanted to give a heads up on that as the woman who took that picture was absolutely floored when she had read about the rare Japanese breed only to come to that expo and find a handful of examples of the breed there for her to meet!

    Thanks,
    Jesse Pelayo

    • John Walton

      Dear Jesse,

      Thank you very much for your dog and the lady who took the time to capture that image. It was a really delightful experience and thanks for appreciate our articles as well!

  • Florence Riley

    Training puppies can be difficult but once your dog responds to your commands, you really feel such pride! I have a beagle and a Golden Retriever and these two are very intelligent. You just have to be patient and consistent in your training and they’ll get it in the end.

    • John Walton

      Oh I know that amazing fulfilled feeling. It was like a massive accomplishment for me when one of my first dogs learned the basic training sets. I was really overjoyed!

  • Dana Weather

    Training can really take it out of you, but the end results are worth it. Honestly, trying to train a mischievous dog is very difficult, but also rewarding once you get to establish a good rapport. We once had a difficult dog but with perseverance (a couple of months and tons of treats) we managed to finally train our dog and it’s very, very rewarding. Just be consistent and keep training!

    • John Walton

      Very helpful insights, Dana. I really believe that any training can be completed with perseverance and patience. I am really happy that all your hard work eventually paid off.

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