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Part 3: Training Tips from our Industry Expert

September 16, 2020 | Tips and Training

How do I improve my pal’s sit/stay? (He sits but will never stay for long)

Part 3 of a 3 part series where our industry expert Penny Milne sheds some light on some all important training techniques and tips.

Work on just one criterion, or aspect, of the behavior at a time. So, initially keep the distraction low (or non-existent :-)), and your distance from the dog short, while increasing the duration very gradually.

First, determine what duration your dog can do. Count only the time that he holds the stay without whining, shifting, “peddling” with his front feet, looking away… Now that you have your baseline, you can start training.

If you noted he can do 3 seconds, then food reward at 3 seconds, 2 or 3 times in a row, and only then add one second to the stay, food rewarding when he succeeds. Each success, add a second, and food reward.

Do make your stays more stable by, “aiming for the nose while watching the toes”. That is, 1) deliver your food from above, aiming down at your dog’s upturned nose, rather than from below, aiming at his chin. If your hand comes in low, he will tend to lower his head, and stand up. If he is keeping his head up, nose in a “howling-at-the moon” position, he will tend to keep his rear locked into a sit! 2) Watch his toes. If he is lifting his foot off the ground, “cancel” food delivery for a second, then begin to lower the food again only when all four of his feet are on the ground. If you feed while he is anxiously lifting his foot, you will tend to build that into the behavior. Get solid, stable stays right from the very beginning!

To get really reliable stays, once you have met your initial duration goal (say increasing the duration from 3 seconds to 30 seconds), begin to work on other criteria. Temporarily make your duration goal easy, while you begin to increase distance, a few inches at a time. Do make sure to return to the dog to reward. If you call him to you and reward, you’re rewarding the Come!

Once your duration and distance are where you want them to be, then add another criterion. Maybe motion (walking around the dog, baby step by baby step…) or, gradually add distraction, working in a new area, deliberately selecting a quiet place, then gradually moving closer to the distraction, etc.

Once your dog is reliable, begin to transition to food rewards to real life rewards, for example, asking your dog to stay before putting his leash on, then using the leashing and a release word as a reward, or asking him to stay, then giving him a release word and allowing him to greet his dog friends.

Happy Training!

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