Jan 21

Training an Adult Dog: Sit, Stay, Release


You can train any dog to do most anything in 5 minutes a day with consistency, reinforcement, and repetition. Here we are focusing on training an adult dog the commands sit, stay, and release. While most of the post below is applicable to puppies also, adult dogs do have a few different issues.

Adult dogs are different than puppies. Adult dogs are more coordinated and have a longer attention span. Please note that the attention span of even an adult is not very long, especially with some breeds. However, it is most likely longer than when the dog was a puppy. Many adult dogs were rescued and may not have grown up under the ideal conditions and have had little human interaction. You may need to spend some time building trust.

Sit, stay, and release are important commands. Sit, stay, and the release command are three core commands that every dog should be taught. These are not just tricks to amaze your friends. They are key to a well behaved dog. If the dog will sit and stay until released, you can solve the problem of, for example, the dog jumping on you or your friends. It will help with dominance issues if you employ it a meal time: have the dog sit (or down) and stay until released. Only then is the dog allowed to eat.

[important]Please note that above, the words “be taught” were used instead of “know.” Dogs do not automatically know what we expect of them, and must be taught. When training a dog, please remember how kind and patient your parents and teachers were to you.[/important]

Teaching sit, stay, and release in action. The following video demonstrates how to teach the sit command. Nano is a 2 year old Miniature Pinscher/Chihuahua rescue. Since this video was taken a week after he was adopted, he is at the beginning of his training. The object is that Nano sit and stay, and only when he is given the release command does he get a treat.

As you can see, Nano is high energy, which is a Min Pin breed characteristic, but Min Pin owners already know this. Min Pins are highly trainable, though. One way to combat their energy is to walk them before training. Then they will be calmer and more likely to listen. Min Pins are also smart and usually food-motivated. Use these characteristics to your advantage.

[important]Consistency, Reinforcement, and Repetition are the keys to dog training.[/important]

Setting your dog up for success. When training a dog, you should always be consistent: when you say the command and the dog responds appropriately, you should acknowledge the dog with praise and possibly a treat. If you don’t intend to insist that the dog follow the command, don’t give it. After your dog understands what you want it to do when you say the command, you can start giving the treat intermittently.  Intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful type of reinforcement. This is the same type of reinforcement a person gets from slot machines at casinos, and casinos take full advantage of it. However, praise should be given every time. With enough repetition of the command and by phasing out the treat slowly, the dog can be taught to do the command without a treat.


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