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How to teach your dog to sit, lie down and wait

  • 18, Jul 2022
  • Read time: 11 mins

Teaching your dog to sit, lie down and wait are basic dog training skills. Equipping your dog with this knowledge can help with their obedience and behaviour as they continue through life.

We've put together a handy video and guide in partnership with Dogs for Good, which will equip you with the steps in teaching your dog to sit, lie down and wait. So, grab some treats, find a space in your home, and follow our lead!

How to train your dog to sit

It’s important to teach your dog to sit, as it can help keep them safe in busy or challenging environments. 

Ready to get teaching? Follow these six simple steps to teach your dog to sit:

Step 1: Grab some treats and guide your dog to a sit position

To train your dog to sit on command, start showing them their favourite treats in your hand. Close your hand into a fist and lift it above their head so their bottom drops into a sitting position. At this point you don’t use the ‘sit’ verbal command.

Step 2: Reward your dog while they’re in the sit position

Reward with three treats in quick succession so your dog stays in the sitting position. This’ll make your dog realise that what they’re doing is positive. You can use a release word such as ‘OK’ or ‘free’ so they know they can move again.

Step 3: Repetition in dog training is key

Repetition is very important, but it needs to be balanced to make sure your dog doesn’t get bored. Try asking them to sit around five or six times, using your hand to guide them into position and rewarding once they’re there.

Step 4: Introducing the ‘sit’ verbal command

Once your dog is comfortable with the hand cue, bring in the ‘sit’ verbal command with less of the hand movement. You could try moving your hand back rather than over their head and use the word ‘sit’.

Step 5: Moving on with the ‘sit’ cue

When your dog has learnt to respond to the verbal ‘sit’ command with the hand movement, try placing your hand behind your back and asking them to sit to see if they remember.

Step 6: Practice in different settings

Once your dog has got the hang of the ‘sit’ verbal command, test their understanding by practising in different environments. You can start in your garden or in a quiet field, and then build up the distractions each time. For example, you could head to a busy park or a café.

What do to when they don’t respond to the ‘sit’ command

If your dog gets stuck and forgets the command in busier environments, don’t worry. Take it back to basics or a previous step and build up again until they’re confident.

How to train your dog to lie down

Training your dog to lie down is an advancement from being able to sit. It can help them to relax in busy situations or keep them safe from potential hazards. Before you get started, make sure your dog understands the ‘sit’ command.

Follow these seven simple steps to teach your dog to lie down:

Step 1: Starting with ‘down’ training

As with the ‘sit’ command, show your dog their favourite treats in your hand, then close your hand into a fist. Ask your dog to sit.

Let them smell your hand and then move your hand down to the floor in an L shape – straight down then away from them. Your dog should follow your hand down into a lying position.

It’s important to keep the treats in an enclosed fist so your dog doesn’t try to snatch them while learning the cue.

Step 2: Hold off with the treats

It’s important to try and wait for your dog to relax into the lying position before giving them a treat. When they start to lean to one side or on one hip, that’s the time to reward. Give lots of verbal praise and a few treats.

Step 3: Introducing the ‘down’ command

Start using the verbal cue ‘down’ when your dog consistently responds to your hand movement. Remember to use both the verbal and the hand cues at this stage. Reward with a treat when they’re lying down and relaxed.

Step 4: Moving on with the ‘down’ command

When you’re happy that your dog is responding to both the hand and verbal cues, try using the verbal command first. If your dog goes down into a lying position, reward them. If they’re unsure, keep practising with the hand movement too.

Once your dog responds to your verbal command, you can reintroduce a very subtle hand signal, such as pointing down at the floor. Practice this a few times and keep rewarding.

Step 5: How to reward your dog while ‘down’ training

Remember to give your dog their treats while they’re in the down and relaxed position. If you stand up to give them their reward, there’s a good chance they’ll get up to reach it. It’s important for them to maintain the lying down position, so you might need to move down to their level. Remember to give them lots of praise and love too.

Step 6: Testing your dog’s understanding of the ‘down’ command

Once you’re confident your dog’s responding well, get other family members to use the command and reward too.

It’s worth taking your dog to other environments with more distractions, such as parks and cafes, to test and reward their understanding.

Step 7: Repetition and finishing training

As with other dog training commands, try to repeat each part five or six times before having a break. Let your dog know they’re free to move by saying their release word such as ‘free’ or ‘ok’.

If your dog gets stuck and forgets the command in busier environments, don’t worry. Take it back to basics or a previous step and build up again until they’re confident.

How to train your dog to wait

Once your dog is fully confident in sitting and lying down on cue, you can progress to teaching your dog to wait.

Again, this is an important skill for your dog to learn. It will help in distracting environments if you need to keep their attention, or if they are in danger.

Follow these six steps to teach your dog to wait:

Step 1: First steps to teaching your dog to ‘wait’

Get your dog into either a sit or lying down position and show them you have treats in your hand. With an open or closed hand, move it away from your dog. If they don’t move and just watch your hand, reward them by giving them the treat.

Step 2: Next step in training your dog to ‘wait’

If your dog nails the first step, repeat it but this time stand up and shift your weight slightly to one side. If your dog doesn’t move, give them a treat.

Step 3: Moving away from your dog

While your dog is sat or lying down, try to take one step away. If they don’t move towards you, you can reward them. Keep practising this, but each time take an extra step and get further away each time.

If your dog follows you, take fewer steps or go back to just one step. Repeat this five or six times, and then try increasing the distance again.

Step 4: How to reward your dog while training

Make sure you return to your dog to reward so that they’re not breaking their ‘wait’ position to get their treat.

Step 5: Letting your dog know training’s finished

Just as with ‘sit’ training, use the release command ‘free’ or ‘ok’ to let them know they’re free to move. And make sure you give them lots of praise.

Step 6: Practice the ‘wait’ command

Just as with the other parts of dog training, make sure to practice in different situations. For example, ask your dog to wait while you prepare their food.

Wait vs stay training

The command of ‘wait’ tends to be used for short durations of time, such as if your dog is waiting for their meal to be prepared or before going around a corner on a walk.

The command of ‘stay’ tends to be used for longer durations, for example if your dog is in your car and you need to ensure their safety.

Dog training treats and food

Unsure what treats to use for training your dog? It’s usually best to use ones that are high in meat content with no additives such as rice or wheat. 

If your dog is struggling to grasp the training commands, you may need to use high value treats to start with – something that your dog really likes such as cheese or chicken. Make sure you research what foods are toxic to dogs to ensure you're not giving them anything that will harm them.

Our in-house vet, Istvan, says "it's always best to check with your vet if you're unsure which treats are good for your dog. Some treats can contain high amounts of calories, so take into consideration the amount used for training when you're calculating your dog's daily food allowance".

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