Once your dog responds to the command “heel,” it’s time to add two more basic commands to the training regimen: “sit” and “stay.” A dog that can sit on command and remain in that spot is a well-trained dog indeed.
Begin with the command “heel.” After walking a few steps, stop. Give the command “sit.”
Chances are extremely good that your dog, unless he’s had prior exposure to the command, will simply stand and stare at you, or try chasing butterflies, or anything but sit down. You’ll have to show him how. Do this either by gently pushing his hindquarters down, or by slowly backing him up while pushing his hindquarters down (be careful when pushing so as not to injure his hips). Demonstration is also practical – sit on your haunches as you say the command. (Ignore curious stares from passersby.)
Practice this maneuver again: give the command “heel,” walk a few paces, stop, and give the command “sit.” When your dog follows these commands, give him lots of praise (and a small, healthy treat if you choose).
Next, “stay.” When your dog obeys the command “sit,” as soon as his haunches touch the ground, give the command “stay.” Pivot on your left foot so you are facing him directly and hold your hand, palm out and flat, in front of his muzzle. Repeat the command and gesture any time he tries to stand up.
The first goal of this command is to have your dog stay seated for five seconds. Gradually increase the time he must stay, and decrease the number of times you must repeat the command. Ultimately, he should be able to stay for three minutes, with only one command from you.
Remember to use a firm and steady tone of voice, be patient, don’t give in to frustration, and give lots of praise only when your dog obeys the command.
Recommended book: Why Does My Dog Drink Out of the Toilet? Answers and Advice for All Kinds of Dog Dilemmas, by John Ross and Barbara McKinney (St. Martins Press) – out of print, but available used through Amazon.com.
Originally in print Jan. 14, 2008.