How to Teach a Puppy to Sit, Stay, and Wait

Updated on February 29, 2016
Puppy sitting.
Puppy sitting. | Source

Basic Puppy Training

Any keen dog lover will know that there are many techniques and tips out there when it comes to training puppies. It is always advisable to read widely and talk to other owners, specifically owners of the same breed, and if possible speak with professional dog trainers. That said, there is a set of principles that apply to all breeds and all ages. You will not go far wrong if you keep these in mind when training your puppy:

  • Give the verbal command only once and expect your puppy to do as requested on the first command. Do not for example tell the puppy to "sit" and then, if he doesn't sit on the first command, continue saying "sit. sit; SIT! " If you try and train your puppy this way you are actually training him to ignore you.

  • Give clear commands. This may sound obvious, but make sure your command is a simple one word spoken in a clear voice. Your puppy does not speak your language. He must learn to recognise the sound, so make sure he can hear it.
  • One step and activity at a time. Dogs, and particularly young puppies, do not respond well to information overload. Keep your training sessions simple at first. It is your role as the trainer to help him succeed. It is not advisable to try too many activities or repetitions of an activity in the early stages of training. Every success, no matter how small, will give your puppy confidence and he will be eager to do the same thing again and again.
  • Keep the training session short. Puppies have short attention spans and become tired very easily. Don't overdo your training sessions and always finish on a high point. It is a good idea to have a goal in mind for each session. When it's reached, stop and let him rest.
  • Do not practice failure. Simply put, if he ain't doing it stop the session and try again later.
  • Do not shout at or scold your puppy. Shouting and scolding only ever serve two purposes: You will frighten him, potentially making him a timid dog, and you will teach him how to be aggressive, which is not an acceptable trait in dogs.
  • Remember your puppy is a blank canvas. It is likely that when you bring a puppy home he will be 8 weeks or so old. He will have learned how to feed, pee, poo, and a little about socialising. Apart from that, he knows nothing. This is why training him early and in the correct way is so important. You will be helping him for the rest of his life and you should not forget that.

Memorising and utilising all of the above will give you and your puppy a solid foundation for successful training. Training a puppy is a journey for both of you and will take as long as it takes. Don't rush. Be patient, and most of all enjoy it.

Training a Puppy to Sit on Command

The goal of this section is to achieve a quick sit on command and for him to stay there until you tell him to do something else. It is always a good idea particularly with young pups to train him in a quiet confined space to avoid unnecessary distractions. He will not be able to ignore you or escape to do something else without your permission.

There are many ideas about how to achieve a quick and consistent "sit." The aim of this article is to give you the simplest steps.

  1. Get his attention. He is too young to "sit" at a distance, so get him in close. When you command him to "sit" you expect him to have his bottom on the ground, his legs underneath his bottom, and his head high. Any other position is a slouch, not a "sit." Note: When you say the word "sit," it needs to be pronounced "ssssit" this way he will associate the sound with the activity and then the praise which he craves.
  2. Get your puppy's favourite treat or toy. Hold it above his nose and move it upwards and backwards over his head. He should naturally move his body into the sit position. When he does, say the word "sit" and praise him. Not too much praise, because you don't want him all excited and running all over the place. It is as simple as that, all you need to do to reinforce this command is do it often and be consistent with the outcome: quick sit=praise; slow sit/slouch/sloppy=nothing.
  3. Over a period of time, vary the length and location of the "sit" as this improves consistancy. As he gets better at the "sit," think of a word to release him from the "sit" position. Mine is "fun." He will love sitting there waiting to have some fun. One tip: Don't use "play" as your release word as it is too close to "stay" and will confuse him.
  4. Practice is the key to this activity. Once you have him sitting for differing lengths of time and in different locations you can move onto the "stay" command, which we will now teach you.

Training a Puppy to Stay on Command

Training a puppy to sit.
Training a puppy to sit. | Source

We should start by explaining the difference between "stay" and "wait," as this is very important. They seem to be very similar, but in puppy terms they mean two distinctly different activities.

When commanding your puppy to "stay" you are actually telling him to "stay put" and not to move under any circumstances until you come to him and release him from his position. Normally you would train him to "sit" and "stay," as this can prevent him from getting into danger. For example if he is away from you and is about to jump into a busy road, the "sit" and "stay" commands will keep him out of harm's way.

The "wait" command however is used when you need him to stop temporarily. Maybe you are opening the garden gate and you want him to wait before going through. This is when the "wait" command comes in handy.

Teaching the Stay Command

Once your puppy is consistent with the "sit" command, "stay" is generally easy to introduce. The main problem you will have in the early stages of training is that your puppy will want to follow you. To combat this you need to do all of your training at close quarters until he is happy to be separated from you.

As mentioned earlier; if you practice varying the length of the sits you are already on your way to teaching him to "stay."

  1. Have your puppy in the "sit" position then simply stand in front of him and don't move. At this point you need to introduce the word "stay." Show puppy the palm of your right hand and say "stay." If you have been practicing the varied length sit he should "stay." If he doesn't and starts to move around, re-seat him and try again.
  2. If your puppy is now sitting for varied lengths and not moving (don't forget he will be waiting for his release command) it is time to introduce the "step back." Take one step backwards, still showing him the palm of your hand and stop. Stand for ten seconds and return to your puppy and release him. Don't forget the praise. Do this exercise over and over gradually increasing the length of the "stay" and the amount of "steps backwards." Remember he is a puppy. His natural instinct at this age will be to follow you, so don't get frustrated with him. Just return to the spot were he is supposed to be sitting, re-seat him, and try again.
  3. The next step is to stand at his side and get him to sit/stay. Take one "step forward" and stop. Your puppy may find this a little more difficult as he is unable to see your face and to him it looks like you are leaving him. If he stays, turn around to face him, pause, then return to him and praise. Gradually increase the distance by taking more steps forward. Always turn to face him, pause, return to him and praise before releasing him from the "sit" position.

All puppies need practice, some take longer than others to learn a new skill. One thing you can be sure of is that consistency will soon have your puppy sitting and staying whilst you are able to move a fair distance away from him.

Introducing the Wait Command

As mentioned earlier, the "wait" command is a temporary pause in the puppies movements and not a controlled "stay." For this reason "wait" can be either sitting down or standing up. The main point is that your puppy stops what he was doing and waits for you to give him permission to carry on. "Wait" should only be used for temporary stops. If you need him to stay put for a while use "stay."

If your puppy has been practicing "stay" he will be used to waiting.

  1. When you want your puppy to "wait" show him the palm of your right hand. Say "wait." At this point you may find he automatically sits down. If he does, great. If he doesn't, that's fine too. What does matter is he recognises the palm of your hand as a command to stop doing what he is doing.
  2. When he stops, give him a few seconds and then call him to you and praise him. Do not go to him as with the "stay." He will soon recognise the difference and see "wait" as a slight pause before the fun can continue.

Training Summary

OK! There we have it. The quickest ways to teach your puppy sit, stay, and wait. The secret is repetition, practice, and praise. Please bear in mind the age of your puppy. If he is very young, start slowly but start, as it is never too early to build the foundations for a sociable, stable, and happy dog. Your puppy will see all of this as a game. It will keep his little brain active and it will build a strong bond of trust between both of you.

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    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you Laura I really appreciate comment. it's some time since I wrote this article and it's nice to see it's still useful.

      Thanks again


    • Laura Schneider profile image

      Laura Schneider 6 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

      Excellent, unresistable article! I've read many descriptions of these commands and learned them from many teachers, but yours is the most well-rounded and complete that I've ever seen. I'm definitely going to read your other articles. I'm also more than half-tempted to put my 3.5-year-old Lab and myself through "basic training" again based on your articles (not all in one day, obviously :-) ). We're good, but could be better of course. (voted up, excellent, etc.)

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom


      Thanks Linda

    • lindatymensky profile image

      lindatymensky 7 years ago

      Again, a well written and informative piece! Where were you when my doggies were pups?! Linda

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks Sally's Trove

      I generally prefer dogs to people :)

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Stellar article on the simple commands and the owner's relationship to the puppy in order have a positive training experience.

      It breaks my heart to see a young dog screamed at in an effort to teach positive behavior.

      I've felt lately that owners who can't engage with their dogs on the dogs' terms (to your point about language), have trouble engaging with people, too.

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      April, congratulations on getting a choccy lab; they are beautiful intelligent dogs. Out of the three colours they can be a little less cooperative and strong willed but will reward you with so much love. Enjoy this time with your puppy as they do not stay that way very long.

    • profile image

      April  7 years ago

      I just got a 3 month old chocolate lab and she already completely potty train and knows how to sit.. I'm working on stay and come.. I'm a proud new mommy

    • profile image

      Springer Spaniel Forum 7 years ago

      Some really good advice for new puppy owners - well done for sharing this great advice.

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi miss-nicky, welcome to hubpages.

      Thank you for your question, don't worry a 9 week old puppy is doing very well sitting on command, stick with it and follow the advice above about training the stay; your puppy is a breed that learn quick. There is no "normal" in dog training, predictable outcomes yes but "normal" no.

      Have fun and persevere.

    • profile image

      missy-nicky 7 years ago

      my nine-week-old border collie knows how to sit, but doesn't yet know the command of 'stay'. Can I tell him to sit, sit, sit, sit, until he stays, then call it stay? When I bac off and say stay he moves, but if I repeat 'sit' he stays. Is that normal?

    • profile image

      Dog Supplies 7 years ago

      Thoughtful review..Really interesting and helpful tips for the training of pets..


    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Dog obedience tips thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Training a dog with hand signals is easy to do and very rewarding, if you think about it we actually use hand signals subconciously so it makes sense to focus the signals you are already doing. Dogs and puppies read body language and tone so they are programmed to follow hand signals.

      Thanks again.

    • profile image

      dog obedience tips 7 years ago

      My puppy do understand some basic sign language. Tagging along with my pet will surely make this training a little easier. Thanks so much for sharing some ideal ways in puppy training.

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks the secret to training a puppy is little often and make it fun. Good luck.

    • profile image

      jojo 7 years ago

      Hey Aiden, I just got a pup from my friend. hopefully I can do all your recommendations to train him ;)

    • profile image

      Payday Loans 7 years ago

      This is really amazing. Thank you.Nice Post. They are very nice to teach with. They are superbly enjoying.

    • profile image

      trucking insurance 7 years ago

      I have 3 puppies at home and I really want to teach them tricks and teaching them how to sit, stay and wait could be a good start. Thanks for your helpful information. Looking forward for more related posts.

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you for your for your kind and positve words.

      My articles on puppy training have been very well received and are turning into a full puppy training program. I will take a look at your writing.

      Thanks again

    • profile image

      witwriter 7 years ago

      This is excellent training information. extremely detailed, clear and well presented. Obviously, you care about dogs and their owners enjoying a quality relationship. I'll refer people to this hub. Keep up the great work. I have a few short pieces re: dogs if you're interested. Witwriter

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi gramarye

      Good luck with your new puppy.

      I am writing a full series of dog training articles covering puppy basics up to advanced dog handling.

      I have published here on hubpages basic puppy training, puppy recall, how to teach your puppy to sit, wait and stay. In the next few days I will be publishing another 3 articles in this series. Thank you for bookmarking this hub and please do follow me so you get notifications when my new hubs are published.

      Thanks Again.

    • gramarye profile image

      gramarye 7 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

      Aiden, I'm looking at a puppy tomorrow, so naturally this is bookmarked. You did say a "series of articles" will there be more?

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 7 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Thanks Aiden! My puppy now sits on command... and she gives me her paw on command too. lol. It's so funny. Now if only she can use the potty in the right place on command. *sigh*

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom


      Puppies sit natrually, when they do as there bum hit's the floor, say "sit" and praise, they soon associate sit with bum hitting floor.

      Have Fun

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 7 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      I thought my 7 week old puppy sat on command today. She did it twice on my command... but it was just a coincidence. :(

      Anyway, thanks for the tips. Congrats on your HubNuggets nomination by the way.

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I know it is very exciting I just hope people follow the link and vote for this hub.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Aiden, I am always amazed at how dogs become trained. Wonderful! Thank you for this hub to help puppy lovers. Well, I may not know much about puppy training but I do know how to bring you to this place of excitement and adventure~! Follow me! This way to the Hubnuggets lair. Yes, because your hub has been nominated in the Hubnuggets! Wooohooo!

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Great hub! My daughter has a minature schnauzer that is really nervous and does not mind very well. I'll pass this to her. Aloha!

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you so much, I for my sins am doing gun dog training ( field trials not shooting ) with my two chocolate labradors. We are having a lot of fun and heartache at the same time.

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      I used to show Shetland Sheepdogs in Obedience Trials. I now have three Papillons. This hub is, in my view, excellent. Well Done!

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

      Great advice and very useful. One of our dogs was stone deaf and we had to take to a training school and learn hand signals. It was amazing how they trained him. He was very jumpy and anxious and they cured a much of it.