5. Sit & Wait (Sit-Stay) Continued...

Exercise 5.3 - Sit Stay - Tutorial 1

Sit-Stay is such an important foundation behaviour and it underpins any number of desirables:

• Sitting dogs don’t jump.

• It’s the building block of good greeting manners.

• It’s the building block of good door manners.

• It’s the building block of good food manners, and

• It’s the building block to settle behaviour


Would you like the freedom and confidence to open the door for a visitor knowing that your dog will maintain that sit –stay?


For that to become a reality you have to teach the behaviour first and then progress to teaching it in that specific situation, first without any people coming through the door and even without the door opened fully.  Then slowly build the association between the situation (opening door), the behaviour (sit-stay) and the consequence of the behaviour (a treat).  


Once you have a strong sit-stay in the door opening scenario pat yourself on the back!  You will be well on your way to having taught your dog not only good greeting manners but good door manners as well.  Your challenge then would be to change the situation and environment in order to strengthen the behaviour.


To help you with teaching a rock solid sit-stay – here is the first tutorial which covers what we call a Double Walk Around Sit Stay in a place with no/few distractions.





With Stay exercises comes the concept of rewarding the dog for not moving and Stay is perhaps the finest behaviour to improve your own training skills and timing.  As a beginner trainer if you can work successfully through all the steps outlined here you can really congratulate yourself on learning to train like a pro!


To train a Stay you have to be able to watch your dog really carefully and be able to cancel a reward pointedly if your dog moves (breaks the Stay).  You also need to be able to work very progressively and identify when you’re moving too quickly for your dogs comfort and adjust your training accordingly.


To train Stay your dog needs to be able to respond to your Sit cue reliably.  


Will your dog sit within five seconds of you asking once and has he been doing this consistently?  If yes, you’re ready to go.


Training the Sit-Stay brings two new aspects of difficulty for our dog, that of time and distance.  


When you walk away from your dog the distance you go is a factor and so is the time it takes you.  As always, we need to factor in these difficulties for our dog separately and gradually.  


These are the Steps to train a Beginner Sit-Stay:

1. Add duration to our Sit (Exercise 1.3)

2. Add movement

3. The first step backwards

4. Add distance

5. Walk the T

6. The Walk-Around Sit-Stay (Walk the Clock)

7. The Double Walk-Around Sit-Stay


Important Note:  One of the most common mistakes I see with owners training their dog to Stay is asking the dog to Stay, walking away a distance, turning round and immediately calling the dog to Come to them.


When you’re training Stay this is not a great idea, your dog will get to anticipate being called and will get into the habit of breaking the Stay which is the last thing you want.


I highly recommend you train your dog to Stay by always returning to them at the end of the exercise to reward them.



1. ADDING DURATION TO THE SIT (Exercise 1.3 Sit & Watch Me)


In an area free from distractions and with a hungry dog:

1. Ask your dog to sit and say yes and reward when he does.

2. Draw a treat from your dog's nose smoothly up to your eyes and count out loud “One”.

3. As long as he’s stayed seated and looking at you reward with a treat.

4. If he fidgets or pops up / tries to jump up for the treat, pointedly cancel and start again.  Your pup needs to both watch and remain sitting to get his reward.

5. Proceed by incrementing the count by one each time until you can go from 1, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5-6 by which time your dog will have been sitting and watching for 25 – 30 seconds.

6. Counting out loud really helps keep your pups attention and it also helps you to slowly extend the duration of the behaviour by just a little each time.


If he gets up at any time it’s really important that you start again from 1, 1-2, 1-2-3 etc.


Will your dog remain reliably seated for 20 seconds?  If so you’re ready to proceed to 2.




When you leave your dog in a Stay you’re asking him to trust that you will return.  At this stage of your training always return to your dog rather than release and recall your dog to you.  It’s much easier for your dog to understand he needs to stay put this way.


1. Ask your dog to Sit on the left of you and facing the same way.  Say ‘Yes’ and reward him when he does

2. Say ‘Stay’ and drop your hand briefly in front of your dog’s nose

3. Lead off with your right foot and pivot in front of your dog, facing your dog and positioned closely enough so that your dog is able to touch you with his nose if he wants to then immediately pivot back to his side, don’t give him a chance to think you’re about to leave!

4. If he stayed sitting say ‘Yes!’ and reward him.


When you’re getting five correct responses in a row you can progress and stay facing your dog for a second or two longer – gently build up to a five second count in front. 


He may move and if he does just cancel the reward by putting it away, calmly and matter of factly put him back into position and repeat.  Just head movement is fine.


Always remember: if you’re getting more than one or two mistakes it’s too hard for your dog and you need to make it easier.  If your dog consistently wants to move out of position then reduce your movement until he’s successful.  Some dogs are really sensitive to handler movement and you may only be able to take the weight off one heel at the beginning – do whatever it takes to make the exercise easy enough for your dog to succeed and go on from there.


Progress when you’re getting five correct responses in a row with a five second count in front.





1. Ask your dog to Sit on the left of you and facing the same way.  Say ‘Yes’ and reward him when he does

2. Say ‘Stay’ and drop your hand briefly in front of your dog’s nose

3. Lead off with your right foot, pivot and take one step backwards away from your dog then immediately step forwards again.


Progress when your dog is not moving at all indicating he is totally comfortable with this.





Now gradually increase the number of steps you take away from your dog to five.

With some dogs this may take several days.  Don’t rush it.  Vary the number of steps as you practice and finish with a short easy one.  Each time you return to your dog and he’s been successful say ‘Yes!’, reward and praise him up.


Progress to your dog remaining seated whilst you back five steps away and return.





Now you’re going to teach your dog to stay while you walk up and down at right angles to him five paces away.


1. Ask your dog to Sit on the left of you and facing the same way.  

2. Say ‘Stay’ and drop your hand briefly in front of your dog’s nose

3. Back five paces away from your dog and imagine you’re standing at the top of a capital T and your dog is at the bottom.

4. Turn sideways and walk up and down the top of the T watching your dog carefully for signs of movement.  If he moves reseat him.

5. If all goes well, return to the centre and face your dog and return.  Say ‘Yes!’, praise and reward lavishly!


Take the time to get this right.  Don’t be tempted to rush on until the dog is completely  comfortable.  Each step builds on the one before, take it one step at a time.





Now imagine that your dog is sitting in the centre of a clock face.


1. Ask your dog to Sit on the left of you and facing the same way.  

2. Say ‘Stay’ and drop your hand briefly in front of your dog’s nose

3. Back five paces away from your dog and imagine you’re standing at six o clock.

4. If you’re confident he’s quite steady walk around the perimeter of the clock until you get to  9 o clock and then return.


When your dog is comfortable move to walking half way around the clock.  Your dog may shift his position to keep you in sight.  This is fine but he musn’t get up or move any closer to you.


Progress to walking three quarters of the clock, and finally all the way around until you’re back at 6 o clock.


This will all probably take several sessions.  Remember to reseat the dog if he moves.  If he keeps moving you’re going too quickly, make the exercise easier by dropping back to the previous stage and making a smaller increase in difficulty – plus there’s always another day!


Finish each session with a couple of very easy short stays.


When your dog remains seated comfortably while you walk all the way around repeat this clock drill in the other direction.





Now do a full circle in each direction for one reward at the very end!