How to Teach a Puppy to Sit, Stay, and Wait
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.