Dog Tricks: Sit, Stay, and Down
This article covers the three most basic dog tricks: sit, stay, and down. Pictures and detailed explanations to teach even the most difficult dogs!
Whether you have a fresh-faced and impressionable puppy or an intractable older dog, every owner should have an arsenal of commands at their disposal to control any situation. Luckily, the three most important tricks a dog can learn are also the easiest. An eight week old puppy can learn all three!
Below are simple, step-by-step instructions to teach the commands sit, stay, and down. Each of these should only take a few days for a dog of average intelligence to get the hang of, but remember to practice occasionally as a refresher!
The first trick most dogs learn is how to sit, and it is the most important command you can teach. Being able to instruct your dog to sit allows you to control him during dangerous or exciting situations and prevent him from running off, getting hurt, or making a nuisance of himself.
Start training with several small treats in your pocket. Stand in front of your dog and pull out a treat. Say, "Sit" in a firm, but not loud, voice. Some dogs automatically sit when they focus on the treat, others will take a little more work. Move your hand forward, so that the dog must look up to see the treat. This should push your dog naturally into a sit. Praise him like he's just cured cancer and give him the treat. Continue practicing in five minute sessions throughout the day until your pup is sitting reliably on cue, then begin phasing out the use of treats until the 'Sit' command is all he needs to park his posterior.
Teaching a dog to stay is a little tougher, especially when you're working with a wriggly puppy! There are two ways to teach this trick. One, the traditional version, involves telling the dog to 'Stay' until released. I, however, like to cut out the middle man. Instead, I teach my dogs to remain in a sit until released, under all circumstances. This comes with a little extra responsibility, you must always remember to release the dog, but I find it is much stronger and safer to have every sit be at your full command.
Because it is tied so heavily into 'Sit,' you will want to teach these at the same time. After you treat your pup for sitting, have him hold it for a few seconds before saying the release cue (I say, 'Alright, good!') and giving him another treat. If your pup moves before then, withhold the treat and try again. Always use the same release cue; remember, puppies can't speak English! It helps to maintain eye contact and face the puppy full-on while trying to make them stay put. Once your pup can hold the sit for a few seconds, begin stretching it out up to a full minute, then practice walking backwards a few steps, until you can walk out of your pup's sight and trust him to stay seated. I always try to reward this command, as it requires more discipline than most.
Dog Practicing Down
The third and final trick covered in this article is 'Down.' Place your dog into a sit, then kneel down before him and hold a treat just in front of and below his muzzle. Say 'Down.' As your dog lowers his head to grab for the treat, lower your hand at the same pace to guide him into the down position. Once he's on the ground, reward and praise him. Repeat in short sessions throughout the day. After a few days' practice, your pup should be able to lie down without needing your hand to lure him.
Many dogs tend to flop over on their sides when commanded to lie down. If you want to get fancy, you can shape your dog's down position into anything from having all four paws in the air to a Sphinx-like position. I have found that this command, for whatever reason, is one that dogs tend to dislike or forget, so be sure to reinforce it often!
There are many, many tricks to learn, but these are the essentials that every dog should know like the back of his paw. With patience and lots of biscuits, your dog can be the most well-behaved pooch on the block!
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