Playing the Sit Stay game

The following steps, using the leash on the dead ring of the collar, involve testing your dog's understanding of "Stay," while extending the time and distance of the "Stay" command:

1. Starting in Heel position, with your left hand holding the leash and placed against your belt buckle, say and signal "Stay," and then step three feet in front of your dog, with no tension on the leash.

2. Slightly rotate your left hand downwards, against your body, to apply tension on the leash.

This is called the Sit-Stay test. If your dog moves to come to you, reinforce the Stay with your right hand. Test three times, increasing the tension until you get physical resistance on the part of your dog.

Your tension needs to be commensurate to your dog's size and weight. In other words, small terrier-strength tension applied to your Golden Retriever isn't going to produce the desired results.

For the Sit-Stay test, use a downward rotation of the left wrist. Maintain tension for a few seconds, and then slowly release tension. You're looking for physical resistance from your dog. From now on, practice this quick test before you do a Sit-Stay. Remember to release at the end of the exercise.

3. Starting in Heel position, with the leash now on the live ring, go three feet in front of your dog.

The goal is to have him stay for one minute. If he moves, reinforce the Stay.

4. Move six feet in front, to the end of the leash.

You need to practice the Sit-Stay on a fairly regular basis, but you don't want to bore yourself or the dog. After Buddy understands what you want, once or twice a week is perfectly adequate. Start with the Sit-Stay test to refresh Buddy's recollection of what you expect from him. When he's reliable on leash, try him off leash in a safe place. First practice three feet in front, and then gradually increase the distance and the time you expect him to stay.

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