A variation of the ‘sit and stay’ routine is to encourage your dog to lie down, and remain in this position until called. It is usually learnt quite quickly once the initial response has been mastered. At first, though, you may well have to encourage your dog to alter its posture from a sitting to a lying position. You can do this quite simply by lifting the forelimbs together and gently pressing down on the top of the shoulders.
When the dog is lying down, stay nearby and give the command ‘down’. If this is carried out after a period of exercise your dog may readily remain in this position since it may be relatively tired. Alternatively, it may simply attempt to stand up or sit. If it does, simply repeat the procedure until it is lying down. Obviously, do not expect your pet to settle down readily on a wet or uncomfortable surface. You can reinforce the message by holding the leash close to the ground which will make it harder for the dog to stand up if it persistently tries to do so. This is possibly more effective than having to reposition the dog repeatedly in the ‘down’ position.
Again, as with the sit and stay command, you can gradually back away, leaving the dog lying on the ground. Having learnt this routine previously, then dogs soon adapt to the new version. It is important for a dog to sit and stay when instructed, once you allow it to run free off a leash; while it must also be prepared to lie down, both in the home and when waiting with you out of doors.
In an emergency this may prevent a dog from straying into a potentially dangerous situation, for example if you should suddenly encounter riders on horseback when you are out for a walk along a narrow path. If the dog drops down as commanded then it will be unlikely to disturb the horses, which may otherwise be unnerved and could even attempt to bolt off.
Another situation where the command ‘down’ is essential is within the home itself. While it may be pleasant to have a young exuberant puppy bounding out to greet you with great enthusiasm, you do not want a large adult dog behaving in a similar fashion, leaping up and bowling people onto the floor.
This again requires consistency in training from the outset. It is unfair to expect an adult dog to appreciate that such actions are no longer welcomed if you have allowed them since it was a puppy. Try to provide just a welcome pat when you return home or first thing in the morning, rather than a more exuberant greeting. If your dog does try to jump up, simply encourage it to lie down by using the technique described previously. Be calm and firm throughout so that there is no question of the dog interpreting your anger as excitement, and striving to obtain more attention by this means.
Excitable children can have a similar effect, and so they may also have to be shown how to behave towards a puppy. This applies especially with larger breeds, such as the Great Dane, because they will grow up rapidly, and may bowl over young children. Similarly, when you have visitors, your dog must not be allowed to jump up on them. It is a good idea to let the dog remain with you, however, preferably lying down at your feet. Once this routine has been established in puppyhood you should have no difficulty with your pet when visitors call.
The only alternative is to shut your dog in a separate room when there are guests, but this could result in other problems including whining and destructive behavior. Again, these problems are most likely to arise in puppyhood. It is usual for young puppies to whine to attract their mother’s attention. This in turn becomes easily transposed onto their owner, and can become a major problem in later life.
If a dog wants food, for example when you are preparing a meal, then it may well start to whine until you give it some scraps. Unfortunately, your dog will soon come to associate its whining with an immediate and affirmative response on your part. It is therefore folly to give in to behavior of this kind, and you should try to prevent it by being aware of the situation when it may arise and not responding as the dog demands. The command ‘down’ is especially important for larger dogs. so that they do not cause problems in the home. From a sitting position, the dog’s front legs will need to be lowered as shown here. The dog should then be reasonably comfortable. It is best to carry out this exercise in the home, or on a dry patch of grass. so that the dog can rest happily. Using a hand signal to show that you want the dog to stay in position, you can give further encouragement by holding on to the leash in the early stages of teaching this command.
The Command ‘Sit’
Leash training should also be linked with other basic commands which will be essential when the dog is walking along the streets. For example, it must learn to sit, rather than straining to rush across a road. You can begin this aspect of training right from the outset, encouraging the puppy to sit in advance of every meal.
Apply gentle pressure to the dog’s hindquarters to encourage it to sit. This can be repeated at the start of every session of leash training: hold the leash in your right hand and then apply a light touch with your left hand. Do not allow the leash to slacken at this point, but try to keep it taut as this will help to ensure the puppy adopts the required position rather than jumping up.
If you encounter problems, you may want to kneel down alongside the dog, keeping your hand in place over the hindquarters and the leash in an upright position. Do not be too keen to give praise in this instance, but allow the dog to settle down first for a few moments. You will soon find that the dog will sit of its own accord, before you place the food bowl in front of it, as this is a natural posture for dogs to adopt.
Having started on the leash from the sitting position, you should also break the walk with the command ‘sit’, as will be necessary when you are opening the car door, for example, or when you come to a road. You can also encourage your dog to sit when it is playing in the garden. Such behavior is essential when you are training your dog to run free outside as you will want to put it back on the leash at the end of the period of exercise. Sitting is a relatively straightforward command to teach, and because it is such an important part of many other routines you should concentrate on this command during the early stages of training.
By the time your young dog is about six months old you should be developing other commands which will form part of its outdoor training requirements, in preparation for allowing the dog off its leash. These sessions should not be too long, just five minutes or so, two or three times every day. Continuity is important, and the dog is likely to respond best to one person, especially when learning new routines.
Once these routines have been mastered, then other members of the family can encourage the dog to behave in the required fashion. As an example, whoever feeds the dog should always insist that it sits before placing the bowl down on the ground. Make sure that the same commands are given, however, to prevent confusion and a likely lack of response on the dog’s part. The word `sit’, for example, should be used at all times rather than simply saying ‘food’ in this instance, and hoping that the dog will respond accordingly.
You should be able to kneel down, keeping the leash held high, without upsetting your dog. When you are carrying out any training procedure, especially outside, it is important to select a quiet locality. This applies especially when teaching a dog to sit, because this is quite a relaxed posture, and any distractions will upset the dog’s concentration. Patience is important when persuading a young puppy to walk on the leash. They may turn round to you for reassurance in the early stages. Once the young dog has grown in confidence, then it is more likely to try to pull ahead, as shown here. A check chain can be particularly useful at this stage, before a powerful dog grows out of control. Sitting is a natural posture for dogs, and they should feel quite happy in this position. With the dog standing still, give the command ‘sit’. Gentle pressure over the hindquarters as shown may first be necessary to evoke the required response.
Concentrate on giving straightforward instructions, remembering the significance of the tone of voice. Use an encouraging, clear tone and avoid repeating the command immediately if the dog fails to respond at once. Otherwise, the repetition on your part will not motivate the dog to react at first, and soon this can become an habitual problem.
Training sessions should be fun, and the dog must be encouraged as an active participant. Once it is sitting on command, you can develop this into staying as well. This is sometimes surprisingly difficult to master, especially with more exuberant individuals, simply because they will run after you.
Start with the dog on the leash, commanding it to sit before stepping back. Repeat the word ‘sit’ to reinforce the dog’s posture. If the dog tries to follow you wait until it has readopted a sitting posture. This can be accomplished either by placing your hand back over its hindquarters, or if this fails by using a choke chain. If the dog tries to follow you wait until it has readopted a sitting posture. This can be accomplished either by placing your hand back over its hindquarters or this fails by using a choke chain. If the dog moves, your grip will pull the lead vertically and tighten the chain as the dog moves towards you.
Once the dog responds as required then offer plenty of encouragement. The next stage is to persuade it to remain in position while you move away, with the leash lying on the ground. This will be much harder to achieve if you start with the leash held vertically because the act of lowering it will be distracting for the dog. Instead, hold the leash so that it is close to the ground from the start, before the dog sits. Then you can simply release your grip and back slowly away over a few paces. If you move fast, then the dog is more likely to follow you. An extendable leash may be helpful at this stage. Repeating the exercise regularly will soon pay off.
Obviously once you are in a position where the dog remains still as you move away the basics of the command have been mastered. You can either call the dog to you or else leave it sitting and return to it. Avoid confusion, however, by adopting a standard approach at first. It is probably better to return to the dog until the ‘sit and stay’ command is well established. Otherwise, by calling the dog, you may encourage it to simply stand up and then race across the ground.
It is important to choose a place away from roads when you are encouraging your dog to stay. Neither should there be dogs or other animals in the vicinity.
Once the dog is sitting, you can !hen extend the leash on the ground. Hand signals are an important part of the trainer’s repertoire, the raised hand here indicating ‘stay’. There is no need to let your dog off the leash at first when you are teaching the ‘stay’ command. Here it is simply trailed on the ground to the trainer. Training is a sequence of lessons, and at this stage, you can move back towards the dog and slip off its leash. Always leave the collar on under these circumstances so that you can restrain the dog more easily, if it attempts to run off.