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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

How to Teach Sit-Stay

We've all experienced those moments when we're trying to have a conversation with a neighbor, check out at the vet clinic, or simply collect our mail, and instead of sitting patiently, our dog is attempting to pull us in the opposite direction. These situations can be frustrating, but the key to resolving them is teaching your dog a reliable "sit-stay" cues. Teaching your dog essential cues like "sit" and "stay" serves as the foundation for more advanced behaviors, ensuring your dog's safety, improving their behavior, and strengthening your bond.

So, how can you effectively teach your dog to sit and stay? No need to worry—I'll guide you through the process of creating the most dependable "sit-stay" behavior ever!

How to Teach Sit-Stay

Capture "Sit": Capturing a 'sit' is a positive, force-free method for teaching your dog to sit on command. This technique also establishes automatic behaviors, which means that, once trained, your dog will instinctively know what to do in specific situations without needing a prompt. For instance, they will naturally sit and wait at doors before exiting

  1. Stand quietly in front of your dog.

  2. Wait for your dog to sit naturally (Remember do not cue, lure or prompt your dog)

  3. Click the clicker the moment their hindquarters hit the ground, and reward with a treat.

Capturing "sit" reinforces the behavior and encourages your dog to offer it more often. It's one of the foundation behaviors all dogs should know.

Add the Cue to "Sit": Once you've successfully captured the 'sit' behavior, it's time to introduce a verbal cue. To determine that a behavior has been captured, your dog should be consistently offering the action without any noticeable delay in between repetitions.

  1. Start with your dog in a standing position.

  2. Wait for them to begin to sit.

  3. As their hind end starts to lower, say "sit."

  4. When they're fully seated, click and treat.

  5. Use a treat to lure them out of the sit for a reset.

Consistently pairing the cue with the action helps your dog understand what "sit" means.

Adding Duration to "Sit": The initial step toward achieving a dependable 'sit-stay' is to train your dog to maintain a sitting position by gradually increasing the duration of the behavior. It's essential for your dog to master the art of sitting in place before we progress to the next stages, where we begin to move away from them

  1. Cue your dog to "sit."

  2. After they sit, count to one second in your head.

  3. If your dog maintains the sit for a full second, click and reward. Repeat this process continuously for one minute.

  4. It's essential that your dog remains in the sitting position throughout the exercise; do not reset.

  5. If your dog gets up frequently, ignore these instances until they voluntarily sit back down, and then restart the exercise.

This exercise is the first step in teaching your dog to hold the "sit" position for extended periods. If they cannot hold a sit for any amount of time they surely won't if you walk away.

Add Distance: When your dog can maintain a sit for a brief duration, it's time to start the process of moving away from them

  1. Ask your dog to sit.

  2. When they do, take a step away from your dog

  3. Then, step back towards them

  4. If they hold the sit, click and treat.

  5. If they get up, wait for them to sit back down and try again.

  6. Work on being able to walk backwards, left, right and around your dog

Gradually increase distance one step at a time until your dog can hold a sit while you walk away in any direction.

Adding the Cue "Stay": Now that your dog comprehends the desired behavior, we can initiate the process of associating the cue with the 'stay' behavior. Keep in mind that when introducing new steps, our dogs can easily become confused. Begin with short stays and incrementally extend the duration to ensure a smooth transition when adding the verbal cue.

  1. Initiate by introducing the cue without distancing yourself from your dog.

  2. Ask your dog to sit, then promptly say "stay," and wait for a second. If your dog maintains the sitting position, click/treat. Repeat this exercise for one minute.

  3. Once you've achieved success in the initial step, begin by giving the "stay" cue and taking a step away from your dog.

  4. If your dog maintains the 'stay' position while you move away, walk back to your dog and click/treat.

  5. To provide your dog with a clear signal that they can get up from the position, introduce a release cue, such as "Okay".

In conclusion, teaching your dog the 'sit-stay' cue not only enhances their impulse control in exciting situations but also proves invaluable in everyday scenarios like mealtime etiquette, emergencies, and grooming. The "sit-stay" cue is a versatile and fundamental cue that can greatly benefit both you and your dog. Remember, the process of teaching your dog is a continuous journey that thrives on patience and consistency, not a hurried race to the final goal. Should you require further assistance with your dog's training, don't hesitate to reach out to us. You can email Jeff at or get in touch via text or call at 301-231-1907.

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