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Sit, Down, and Stand

Sit means, "sit with your bottom on the floor until I release you."
Down means, "lay down with your elbows touching the floor until I release you."
Stand means, "stand still on all four feet until I release you."

Step 1. Get the Behavior; No Cues Yet!

Sit - You can use a food lure, a toy lure, or wait for your dog to sit on her own. To use a lure, put the reward close to your dog's nose, and move it slowly straight back so that her head raises and her bottom lowers. As soon as her bottom touches the ground, click and reward with the food, the toy, or anything else your dog loves.

Be sure to use your release word before your dog gets up. You can do this by giving her several treats one after the other and releasing her before she finishes the last treat.

Down - Down is the most useful control position that we teach. Dogs can and do spend long periods of time lying down anyway, so it is the position we use when we need control over a longer period of time.

Similar to the sit, you can use luring or capturing to get this behavior. To use capturing, simply mark with the clicker or click word when you see your dog lying down, and deliver a treat while he is still in the down position. To use luring, place the reward close to his nose and slowly move it straight down to between his feet. If your dog appears "stuck" with his front legs braced in front of him, move the reward slightly off to one side as you slowly lower it so that his body curves and his elbow can drop to the ground.

If your dog is having trouble, you may choose to try two other methods: Sit or kneel on the ground so that one or both of your legs forms a low tunnel. Lure your dog under your legs, and click and treat when he drops to a down position to crawl after the treat. Alternatively, you may use shaping, rewarding successive approximations to get the desired behavior. If your dog is not yet able to follow the treat all the way to the ground, click and reward for the lowest head position you can get. Once you are getting a reliable head drop, click and reward for a slightly lower position, when his elbows drop toward the ground. Once he is reliably lowering his elbows, you can reward lower and lower drops until you are rewarding only after his elbows touch the floor.

Be sure to use your release word before your dog gets up. You can do this by giving him several treats one after the other and releasing him before he finishes the last treat.

Stand - Stand is a useful behavior for wiping off muddy paws, brushing hind ends, and positioning your dog at the vet without force. It can be tricky to train because it is so easy for the dog to move into a walk from the stand position. To help your dog be successful, move your signal hand slowly, and be ready to click and treat as soon as she reaches the standing position but before she has taken any steps forward.

To lure your dog into a stand, place the reward close to her nose while she is sitting. Move the lure slowly forward, parallel to the ground. As soon as her back legs are extended, click and give her the reward. Holding three or four treats in your lure hand and delivering them one at a time after the click will help her maintain her position. Before she finishes the last treat, use your release word.

Step 2. Add a Visual Cue

We use visual cues when we are first labeling a behavior for the dog because dogs pay more attention to what we dog than what we say. It is easier for them to master a visual cue before introducing a verbal cue. Our goal in switching from a lure to a hand signal is to teach our dogs to follow cues even when the reward is not present. In doing this, we move from "bribing" the dog (showing him the money up front) to "rewarding" the dog (producing the reward only after the behavior has been presented).

To fade the lure, you can use several steps. The easiest step is to keep a reward in your signal hand, but deliver a different (better!) reward from your other hand. The next step is to smear your signal hand with a little bit of cheese, hot dog, peanut butter or other smelly treat, and deliver the real reward from your other hand. As your dog becomes fluent in following a treatless hand into position, you may gradually move to an empty, open hand for your hand signal. Instead of luring your dog by sweeping your treat-laden hand up from his nose, you can use an upward sweep of an empty open hand at a distance to signal a sit.

Step 3. Teach a New Cue

Once your dog is moving into position reliably with the visual cue (you signal a sit 10 times with a single signal from an open, empty hand and she sits immediately at least 8 of those times), you are ready to teach a verbal label to the behavior.

Add your new cue ("Sit," "Take a load off," "plant it," etc.) by saying it before your old cue. Say your verbal cue once clearly (it's hard, I know-we primates like to repeat things!), and then give her the visual cue. As always, click or say your click word at the instant she complies, and then follow with a reward. Be sure to give your new cue before your old cue, not simultaneously. If you give both cues at once, your dog will respond to the cue she knows and ignore the cue she doesn't know.

To see if your dog has learned the verbal cue, pause for a moment between saying your verbal cue and giving your visual cue. If she has learned that the verbal cue always predicts the visual cue, she will start to respond to the verbal cue without waiting for you to give her the visual cue. You may now use either cue when asking for the behavior!

Dogs are very good at learning patterns-that is why we use the pattern: verbal cue-visual cue-click for behavior-reward behavior to teach new cues. However, be sure to avoid falling into a pattern in your training that restricts you to asking for behaviors only in a certain order. Practice moving from a stand to a sit, a stand to a down, a sit to a down and so forth. If you always ask for sit-down-sit-stand-sit, your dog will not learn how to lay down from a stand.

Step 4. Build Duration

To build duration of each position, give multiple treats after each click. For example, if you ask your dog lie down, you will click when his elbows touch the ground. Follow the click with a treat, and then another treat, and another treat, releasing him before he finishes his last treat. To build great duration, start to vary the number of treats you give after the click, and increase the pauses between treats. You will be teaching your dog that until he hears his release word, it might be worthwhile to hold position because another treat might be on its way!