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Clicker Training: Sit, Stay & More!

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Dog training is a fun way for you and your pup to bond, while providing mental stimulation to your curious pet.

If you’re thinking of training your dog but not sure how to start, please read on for some helpful tips!

Dog Training: Teach Your Dog to Sit, Stay, Come, Wait, and Lie Down

Whether your dog is an athlete, a couch potato, an apartment dweller, or a country dog, training is beneficial. Here’s why:

  • Safety: A well-trained dog is less likely to pull free from their leash and run. toward a busy street, or to swallow a turkey bone after you tell them to “drop it.”
  • Improving your bond: Training is fun for both of you, and a great way to spend quality time together.
  • Entertainment and mental stimulation: Training is kind of like “school” for dogs.

Depending on your dog’s interests, aptitudes, and lifestyle, you may choose go on to advanced training, certifications, or agility courses. Or, you may choose to stick with basic commands.

Whatever your preference, it all starts with the basics.

General Training Principles for Dogs

  • Use a “clicker” for training. With this device, you can make a clicking noise immediately when your dog does the correct behavior. This is important because dogs learn in the moment, so they won’t make the mental connection if a treat comes to them a couple of seconds later.

If your dog knows a treat follows the click, they will try to replicate the behavior that earned the click. Teach them this by simply clicking and then tossing a treat—most dogs get the idea very quickly.

  • Know what motivates your dog. Many dogs are food motivated. They’re happiest when their training success is rewarded with a high value treat.

Break the treat into smaller pieces so it lasts longer and doesn’t interfere with your pup’s balanced nutritional plan.

Some dogs prefer praise or playtime with a favorite toy as a reward.

Either way, once you know what motivates your pup, they’ll learn faster—and have more fun along the way.

  • Use positive reinforcement. Dogs learn best, and become more socially well-adjusted, when positive training techniques are used and the experience is enjoyable.
  • Be consistent. Use the same word (such as “sit” or “lie down”) or hand signal for each specific command you teach. Trying to change your signals as your pup learns causes confusion.

Also, reinforce what your pup has learned by continuing to practice commands over time.

  • Be patient. Every pup learns at their own pace, but as long as you’re consistent and make the experience positive, most dogs will catch on.

Do You Need a Professional Dog Trainer?

If you already have some experience and feel comfortable teaching your dog by yourself, by all means go for it!

If you’re new to the process or need a refresher, working with a trainer will probably make the process easier for you.

Depending on your preference, you can find a local training class, or teach your dog at home with the help of an in-person or virtual trainer.

How to Teach Your Dog a Basic Command

You’ll want to use a clicker for training, as described above. Your dog should already know a click means a treat is coming.

Then, you’ll want to use shaping or luring to teach your dog.

Luring means prompting your dog into the full behavior, then clicking and rewarding them. Shaping means allowing your dog to think and guess as to what you’re looking for.

Examples of each method are provided below…

Teaching “Sit”

For luring:

  • Say the word “sit” while holding a treat in your hand over your dog’s head. Reaching for the treat will prompt your pup to sit down naturally.
    • Click and reward when they sit.

For shaping:

  • Say the word “sit” and then watch your pup.
  • If their hind end lowers toward the floor even a little bit, click and reward.
  • Over time, shape the behavior by clicking and rewarding as your pup’s rear goes closer and closer to the floor.

Luring is usually faster, but shaping requires your pup to think more deeply about the task, rather than just thinking about the reward.

Either method is fine, so you can choose whatever works best for you and your pup for all the commands listed here.

Teaching “Come”

Using a similar process to “sit,” hold a treat in your hand as you say “come.”

When your dog comes to you, click and reward.

Teaching “Down”

With the same method, shape or lure your dog to lie down (holding a treat in your hand on the floor will help) while saying “down.”

Then, click and reward.

Teaching “Wait” and “Stay”

“Stay” and “wait” are very similar to one another, because they both require your dog to stay put—which is good for impulse control, so your pup doesn’t suddenly run out the front door after a squirrel and get lost, for example.

The difference is, “stay” requires your dog to stay in place for an indefinite period of time, until you release them. “Wait,” on the other hand, is a short pause. It’s useful for situations such as waiting politely for their food bowl, or telling your dog to slow down if they’re ahead of you on a walk.

These commands follow a similar principle to “sit” training but, you are clicking and rewarding your pup for staying put rather than for moving.

It helps to have your pup in a sitting position first before you give the command word.

For the best success, start small (just one or two seconds initially) and be patient as you gradually work up to longer periods of your pup staying in place.

As you train your pup, you’ll have fun watching your dog’s clever mind at work—and your dog will enjoy the mental enrichment and bonding time with you.

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