Sit-Stay and Down-Stay - Direct Health Life

Sit-Stay and Down-Stay share the concept of being rewarded for not moving,
but they require the dog to remain in a slightly different position. While training just one behavior can be enough to cover applications in day-to-day life,
once one behavior is trained, the other is rendered easier (i.e. larger increments
in the training plan). It’s so instructive for beginner trainers to see a very specific case of this learning-to-learn effect, that I advocate training both.
Sit-Stay means the dog sits and
remains sitting—he does not get up
out of his Sit, does not rotate in place
or creep forward—in spite of distractions. It’s the single best behavior
vehicle I know to improve trainer
timing. The trainer must not only
cancel rewards pointedly for mistakes, but must identify the moment that the dog makes good on the Stay contract—in other words, when he decides not to break his Stay—and reward at that
moment. It’s also instructive for what trainers call feeding for position the delivery
of the actual reward while the dog is still in position, sitting in this case.
Sit-Stay I
1. Cue your dog to Sit, and pay him when he does.
2. Immediately after paying, dangle a treat in your fingers two feet in front
of him at nose level. This will cause him to stand up and move toward
the treat.

3. As he starts to get up, say “Too bad” and quickly cancel the reward by
snatching it abruptly upward.
4. Repeat—he needs to learn that moving scares the treat away.
5. After several repetitions, your dog will stay sitting for just a second
when you dangle the treat. Pay immediately, feeding for position (he
must collect his reward while still sitting).
1 “Excellent!”
2 3 “Too bad!”
123 “Excellent!” “So good!”
Remember how counterintuitive it was in the Premack Recall when your
dog had to move away from something in order to get it? Stay is also counterintuitive insofar as the right answer is don’t get up, even if it looks like a good
idea to move. We’re going to teach your dog that not moving can be very
productive indeed.
Push on five for five.
Sit-Stay II
1. Set up the same way as Sit-Stay I.
2. This time, your dog must remain sitting for three seconds while you
dangle the treat.

3. At the end of three seconds, pay immediately, feeding for position.
4. If your dog moves out of his Sit at any point in the three seconds,
snatch the reward away.
Push on five for five.
Sit-Stay III
1. Sit your dog and pay the Sit.
2. This time, move the treat in your hand to the floor two feet away (if he
mistakes this for a Down cue, don’t worry—just re-Sit him and try again
slightly farther away).
3. If your dog remains sitting for one second with the food on the floor,
pay him, feeding for position.
4. If he breaks out of his Sit, instantly cancel the reward and repeat.
Push on five for five.
Sit-Stay IV
1. Now try the same thing with the food temptation on the ground for
three seconds.
2. Be sure to feed for position.
3. If your dog finds this difficult (fewer than two for five), drop to Sit-Stay
III or split and try two seconds.

Walk-Around Sit-Stay
1. Sit your dog and pay the Sit.
Take a step to your left and
then step right back in front
of him (no delay).
2. If he remains sitting still
(doesn’t get up or rotate with
you), pay, feeding for position—then immediately take another step
(without re-sitting him).
3. If he breaks his sit or rotates to keep facing you, say “Too bad,” pivot
back, and start over at Step 1. Head movement is fine.
4. Once your dog has done five in a row without moving, repeat the exercise, this time taking two steps before pivoting back to reward your dog.
5. Once he’s five for five, try three steps—you are working your way
around your dog in a circle one step at a time, as though he were the
center of a clock.
6. After you reach the halfway point directly behind your dog, and have done
it successfully five for five, complete a full circle around him all in one shot.
Once you reach
halfway, go all
the way around
“So good!”
The Clock.

Watch your dog closely and cancel the reward (“Too bad”) the instant he
Remember to drop to fewer steps if you are getting zero, one, or two
out of five.
Sit-Stay V
1. Repeat the clock process in the other direction.
2. Get five for five with one step before progressing to two, and so on.
3. Mind your timing—keeping your eyes on the dog will allow quick “Too
bads” if he breaks, which will really help him learn.
Sit-Stay VI
Now do a full circle in each direction for one reward at the very end.
Reward the trainer—you!—heavily here.
You have nailed a key exercise!
Enter your reward in the 2 boxes below.
Having completed a Double Walk-Around Sit-Stay,
a splendid foundation for other impulse control
behaviors, and proof that I am on my way to highly
skilled training, I win:
Your reward (fill in)
Why Train Distractions First on Stays?
The three parameters in Stay are:
● Distance—how far away from you
● Duration—for how long
● Distraction—around what kinds of distractions
I prefer to train distractions first for a few reasons:
1. Rate or the frequency with which the dog is rewarded—A brief distraction can be presented, the dog rewarded or told “Too bad,” and a new
repetition commenced all within a few seconds, allowing for a high rate
of reward, critical for beginner animals. Distance, by contrast, is more

Sit-Stay VII
1. Sit your dog and then take one step backward. Step back in
2. If your dog remains sitting, pay, feeding for position.
3. If he breaks his Stay, say “Too bad” and try again.
4. When your dog is five for five
on one step, try two steps.
Keep your eyes on him at all
times in case of breaks. Then
progress to three steps, four,
and so on, up to the maximum distance in the room.
Remember to add another
step only when your dog is
five for five.
time-consuming, and duration will greatly sink your rate of reward even if
the dog has uniformly correct responses. For this reason, duration is best
trained last, when your dog is at a more intermediate level and so will
better tolerate longer dry spells between rewards.
2. Trainer timing—By working up close, it is easier to spot the earliest
muscle contraction when the dog is about to break the Stay and to get
the “Too bad” in.
3. Overlap with other impulse control exercises—Research has shown that
animals pick up new tasks more quickly if they resemble tasks they’ve
learned before. By training Stay this way (the active way), Stay has more
in common with and will feel more similar to Wait, Leave It, Walking on
Leash, and even Premack Recalls.
4. Pay now versus Pay later training strategies—For most people, resisting
distractions is the most important part of Stay, as well the trickiest.
Distractions will have to be addressed sooner or later. By front-loading
part of the distraction training (without sacrificing rate of reward), a strong
foundation is built.
5. Free duration priming—By cranking out trials and sets without breaking
off and resitting the dog between each set, the dog gets a bit of preduration training along the way.
Bungee Stays
Imagine there is a bungee cord
attaching you to your dog. As soon
as you reach your target distance,
snap right back to the dog. This
will prevent you from double dipping (adding duration to this distance-only exercise).

1. Do a short bungee Stay (four or five steps away), and when you snap
back to your dog, add a walk-around before rewarding him.
2. If he breaks, say “Too bad” right away, re-Sit him, and start again.
Sit-Stay IX
1. Do a full-distance Bungee Stay with a walk-around.
2. Do a short-distance Bungee Stay (four or five steps) with a double walkaround at the end (both directions).
3. Do a full distance Bungee Stay with a double walk-around, all for one
reward at the end.
Sit-Stay X
1. Warm up your dog with one
long-distance Bungee Stay with
a walk-around at the end.
2. Head back out, but only to
half the distance this time—
wait there for a count of five
seconds, then go back, do a
walk-around, and pay, feeding
for position.
What Is the “Too Bad” For?
Timing is critically important in dog training. Rewards have to be within one
second of the action you are rewarding. And so does feedback about errors.
“Too bad” signals to the dog that the action he just did ruined his chances for
a reward. This signal, called a no-reward marker, is especially valuable in Stay
exercises. The instant the dog starts to move, you can inform him that that
choice blew it for him. He will learn that whenever he hears “Too bad,” there
will be no reward and the exercise will start over from the beginning.
● Train in sets of fi ve.
● Push—go on to the next exercise
when your dog is fi ve for fi ve.
● Stick—do another set of fi ve at
the current level when your dog
is three or four for fi ve.
● Drop—go back to the previous
exercise when your dog is two
or fewer for fi ve.

3. Keep your eyes on your dog in case he breaks, so you can mark the
instant he breaks with “Too bad.”
Push on five for five.
Sit-Stay XI
1. Repeat Stay XI for
● Ten seconds
● Fifteen seconds
● Twenty seconds
● Thirty seconds
● One minute
● Two minutes
2. As soon as you get up to thirty seconds, things get more complicated.
You must start mixing it up. Between the long Stays, throw in some
one- to ten-second stays so that your dog doesn’t learn that every single
Stay is a long one. This means your set, rather than being five repetitions of thirty seconds in a row, will look something like this:
Duration Got It or Didn’t (mark ✓
for got it, X for didn’t)
Push, Drop, or Stick?
Thirty seconds ✓
Four seconds X
Six seconds ✓
Thirty seconds ✓
Two seconds ✓
Thirty seconds X
Thirty seconds ✓
Nine seconds ✓
Three seconds ✓
Two seconds ✓
Thirty seconds ✓
How many thirty-second
Sit-Stays done?
Four for fi ve Stick

The dog got a four for five on the target duration, the thirty seconds,
which indicates a stick: another round like this for the next set. The
short stays in between don’t count. It might seem like these extra stays
are adding a lot more work, but they are over quickly, and so are cheap
for both you and your dog.
Notice the absence of a pattern. If you always did short-short-long, your
dog would learn that sequence and possibly break on every third trial,
on the long one. Dogs are very, very good at noticing these kinds of
continuity things.
3. Drops and splits are common in duration stays. If your dog is two or
fewer for five, drop back to the previous duration or split to a duration
between the one he’s good at and the target. For instance, if you’re
having difficulty getting from thirty seconds to one minute, throw in a
set of forty-five-second Sit-Stays.
The hallmark of a good trainer is an easy willingness to drop and split.
Push on five for five.
Sit-Stay XII
1. You’ve been working duration at half distance. Now practice Sit-Stays
at the greatest distance you can in the room at following durations,
splitting as needed:
● Fifteen seconds
● Thirty seconds
● Two minutes
2. Throw one- to ten-second Stays randomly between the long ones.
Push on five for five.
Why Are the Increments Larger Now?
Notice that in Stay XII, the increases in duration are steeper than in Stay XI, even
though the former is at a greater distance. There are two reasons for this. One
is that even though you’ve upped the distance, it is your second rung up the
duration ladder. The other reason is that your dog is now transitioning to being
an intermediate learner and so is increasingly tolerant of dry spells between
rewards. Just like kids who get enthusiastic about Hooked on Phonics, your dog
is getting hooked on this interesting puzzle we call obedience.

1. Practice long-distance Stays for one and two minutes (with random
one- to ten-second Stays in between) in a new room in the house.
2. Keep your eyes on the dog. As the duration grows, the trainer’s mind
can wander, which will wreak havoc with timing.
3. If your dog falls apart (three or more breaks in a row) when you switch
locations, stay in the same room but warm him up with sets of shorter
Push on five for five.
Sit-Stay XIV
1. Practice one-minute medium-distance Stays with added distractions. Be
ready with your quick “Too bad” when your dog breaks, which he will
likely do the first few times. Between the one-minute Stays, throw in
the short ones randomly, as you did before. Try these distractions:
● Bounce a tennis ball.
● Roll a tennis ball.
● Squeak a new squeaky toy that your dog has never seen.
● Sit in a chair.
● Sit in a chair and eat a snack.
● Lie on the floor.
● Do jumping jacks.
2. Long distance, one minute, same distractions.
3. Long distance, two minutes, new distractions. Your dog may handle this
double dipping (increase of both duration and distraction parameters).
If not, split.
If you use a fabulously interesting toy as a distraction, whenever your dog
gets five for five, along with your praise and food payment let him have the toy
(deliver it to him in position) and break off for a play period. This degree of
impulse control is not easy and so deserves a celebratory game afterward.
When you can no longer stump your dog in the house, it’s time to
move on to Part III. You can also continue to add duration (in
increments of thirty seconds) in the house.


leave a Comment