‘Sit’, what does that mean to you? To me it means put your booty on the ground and be still until released from the exercise or to do another action. In the beginning it means pup will sit with her right shoulder next to my left leg in heel position. You pop up on the collar and guide their rear end to the ground. You should concentrate your pressure on the collar, your hand is a guide so they will sit straight. Learning to sit straight is huge for retrievers so they will be able to take a straight line on a mark, blind or waterfowl. This position is where I will teach pup 90% of everything she will learn. Later sit will be transferred to a place board or a hunting stand or anywhere I ask her to be.
Not a difficult exercise to teach at all, but it pays dividends in the field and at trials and hunt test. There is a lot of controversy over this command. To me it means just that “to sit” to others it means myriad of things. It means sit, stay, wait and the list goes on.
This can be a very heated debate among trainers. For those of you who know me or for those of you that have read my articles you know that for me and my way of training sit means just that “sit”.
I believe that it takes more than a hammer to build a house and I believe that it takes more than one word to train a dog. The more tools you have in your tool box the better equipped you are to build your house, the same with a dog. I believe that your dog should have a clear understanding of commands and what is expected from them.
For example, when I was young if my Mom told me to sit down I would.. But if no other instruction was given as soon as she turned her back I was off and running. If she told me to sit and stay there till she got back, then that is what I would do because I knew what would happen if I didn’t. You could say that I needed clear direction with no grey area because I would take advantage of the grey area. Same with a dog
If I tell Sky to sit, she does willingly but if I don’t tell her to wait or stay or heel, what do I expect from her next? So for her and all the dogs I train I give them another command for what I want after sit. For instance if we are doing field work with bumpers or birds ,I will give the command to “sit” and then tell them “wait” which means that there is something getting ready to happen and they will be given another command to be sent after the bumper or to the back pile for beginning blind work or after waterfowl from your hunting blind. I also tell them to “watch” if I am throwing marks, again this teaches them that something is going to fly through the air. Eyes on the sky. If I just give the command sit and then wait they learn quickly that there will be something on the ground, running blinds for instance, nothing from the air.
If I tell her to sit and “stay” that means she will be there till I come back and release her from that exercise. I never ask dogs to do another command from the stay command. Stay means stay. Just as sit means sit.
I believe in being very fair and the more they understand what you want they more they will comply. So why not use different commands for what you want. They are smart and can learn as many commands as you teach them. This way there is no confusion in what you are asking them to do.
Yet, on the other hand,I don’t believe in verbal dysentery where you are just blah blah blahing the dog to death. Straight forward commands are the best. I try to think of what commands will be needed while I’m duck hunting. Sit, wait, watch. From the time they are puppies they can be taught and to understand these commands. Of course a release word is necessary for the next action. I send dogs after bumpers or ducks on their name. From a stay position I use the release word “OK” as I do for all my obedience commands. This is another tool for your tool box.
I have seen trainers come unglued when their dogs break on retrieves at hunt test and in the blind. I will say that a big percentage only use the word sit which is supposed to mean sit and wait and watch. I have also seen trainers use very heavy collar correction for this, is it the dogs fault? Now think of the dog, she’s all jacked up on the sights and sounds of the hunting blind or the hunt test. They act as if they had Red Bull on their Fruitloops for breakfast. When you get to the line or that first volley of ducks come in all you have told them is sit. So when they explode out of the blind or off the line when that duck is shot or hits the ground who’s fault is it? She is doing what she was bred to do, get it and bring it back. It’s our fault for not adding the extra commands to help pup understand clearly what is expected. Will teaching the wait and stay commands make your dog 100% reliable, yes, if you train train train. You get out of it what you put in it.
Add as many tools to your training tool box as you would if your building a house. It will pay dividends in the long run and your dog will be happier knowing what is expected from them.
Dogs are not defiant by nature, these our our companions, we should strive to be a team. So let’s do all we can to make each trip to our favorite hunting spot or event a successful one. It all starts with training.
Until next time keep your nose in the wind and your eyes on the sky!
For video: TEACHING YOUR DOG TO SIT
For more please go to: Lynne Frady