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How to Teach Sit and Stay

Step-by-step instructions to train your dog to master these basic obedience commands.

‘Sit’ and’stay’ are two of the most critical commands your dog may learn. Mastering these obedience commands can prevent annoying behavior and keep him out of trouble. Accomplishing something that pleases his owner also builds pride and confidence in your dog.

Dogs can learn at any age, but puppies may begin foundational basic obedience training as young as eight weeks. Puppies are like children; they have short attention spans, so frequent, five to ten-minute training sessions, with large helpings of patience, will be most effective.

When dogs are calm and concentrated, they learn best. So don’t try to train your puppy while he is playing and excited. Instead, please take a few minutes to stroke him quietly and allow him to calm down.

Teaching the Sit Command

  • Face your dog and show him a favorite treat.
  • Slowly move it just above his head so that he can barely reach it without lifting his front feet from the floor.
  • Tell him, “Max, sit.” If he does, reward him and congratulate him.
  • Gently touch his rump for encouragement and repeat the command only once if he doesn’t. Excessive force might create future joint issues.

If he still doesn’t sit, calmly stop the session, put the treat away for 3 or 4 minutes, and try again. Whenever he does sit, give the pleasure immediately and praise him excitedly. The wheels will start to turn in his mind. NOTHING HAPPENS when I’m standing, but when my butt hits the floor, I get the treat, and everyone is happy!

Be sure not to yell or lose patience with him. Instead, remain calm and allow him to make the connection for himself. You’ll be surprised how eager he will respond once he catches on.

Rep twice day for around a week. Once he’s mastered this so that he responds every time, it’s time he learns to obey, even if it’s just for praise because you may not always have a treat on you. Gradually wean off the treats so that he gets them only every second or third time. Then progress to the stay command.

Teaching the Stay Command

  • Stand facing your dog and have him sit.
  • While he is sitting, hold your palm in front of his face and step back, saying, “Stay.” He will realize something new is going on and should be alert.
  • Wait 5–10 seconds, then exclaim, “Ok!” That’s his release signal.
  • When he gets up, could you give him a treat and praise?

If he gets up before the release, calmly tell him ‘no’ and immediately start the process over. Then, gradually increase the time; you wait until he’s “staying” for several minutes. He can practice ‘staying’ from commercial to commercial while you watch tv, but be sure not to forget him, or he will become discouraged.


Next, he progresses to proofing, which means he learns to obey even during distractions. Begin slowly by simply walking in a circle around him while he’s on “stay.” Gradually add other things like leaving the room or having someone walk another dog by or toss a toy a couple of feet from him. Try the ‘stay’ in different places, such as the car seat or a child’s wagon. Be creative but never put him in a dangerous situation! Even highly trained dogs occasionally break a stay. Remember to progress slowly. If he fails at some point, go back to the fact he has mastered.