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Should "Sit" Imply "Stay"?



When you tell your dog to “sit”, do you expect him to stay sitting until you tell him it’s okay to move?  I don’t.


While most trainers teach a dog to hold his position in a sit or down, I teach that a dog doesn’t have to hold it unless I tell him “stay”.   While the dog could interpret my “sit” command as put your butt on the ground and then go ahead and bounce up again, most dogs don’t do that.  They will sit for sufficient time for me to get what I need from them – a short calm behaviour.  If I want a longer sit, or I need to move further away from them, I can ask for a “stay”.


I teach a “stay” separately from “sit” and “down” mainly because it helps people be consistent.


If people have an implied “stay” in their “sit” and “down” commands, they have also to be ready to release the dog from those commands.  Think of how many times in a day you ask your dog to “sit”.  It’s our go-to behaviour for those moments when we need our dogs to be calm or keep away from something.  We ask for a sit when we’re feeling frustrated or angry with our dogs and we need a moment to take a breath and collect ourselves.  We ask for a sit when we are preparing to give our dog a treat. 


If you are not consistent in releasing your dog from the sit with its implied stay in all these situations, how will your dog know when he’s expected to maintain a sit and when it’s okay for him to move?


By teaching “stay” as a separate command, to be attached to other commands such as “sit” and “down”, we provide clarity to our expectations.


Plus, I found that saying a verbal “stay” serves as a reminder to my own brain that I have left my dog in a stationary position and I have to release her from that.


(Of course, that assumes a brain which can multi-task.  One time I asked my dog, Tambo, to “sit-stay” in the barn while I was taking the horses out to the paddock.  I then got preoccupied with the horses and completely forgot about Tambo.  When I went back into the barn 15 minutes later, she was still there, in a sit, exactly where I’d left her.  Good dog!) 


So while there is an advantage to an implied “stay” – only having to teach one command – for me, that is outweighed by the need for clarity and consistency.  

 

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