A Strong Stay Requires a Strong Release

If you've heard it once you've heard it 1,000 times—consistency is key when it comes to training.

Understanding human words is hard enough on its own. When the meaning of those words changes, well, even us humans can't understand each other, literally irregardless of how smart we are. (see what I did there?)

That's why, if you are going to teach sit to mean "sit until I release you" or down as "down until I release you," essentially, if you are going to teach any behavior to mean hold that behavior (something we refer to as "control positions") then:

You must always remember to release..

This means, you can't casually ask for a down and then walk away and never return. You can't ask for a sit while you're talking with someone and then ignore your dog when he gets up to sniff a bush. If you do this, you aren't being consistent with the idea that those cues mean "hold the position until I release you" and frankly, you have no hope of your pup abiding by them when you need them.

And that might be fine. A dog who holds a down during a rainstorm because his human whom he loves told him to isn't really a necessity. In fact, some might argue that pup needs to be taught to think for himself and realize that holding a down in a rainstorm is maybe a bad idea and his human would want him to actually seek shelter.

That said, here are the rules if you're going to teach control positions:

The Rules

  1. If you gave the cue... then your dog must hold it until you release him OR until you give him a different cue (you can ask your dog to sit and then say "come" without having to give your release cue)
  2. If you did NOT give the cue... in other words, if your dog went into a down just because he felt like it, you do not need to release and he can leave whenever he wants
  3. If your pup leaves the position before you release... you can't just ignore it. You can give the cue again and this time release before he decides to get up on his own, or you can give a different cue, but it must be addressed. If you're inconsistent then he'll never really understand what you want.

This Is Hard, but Default Behaviors Help

If this sounds hard, it's because it kind of is. What makes it way easier though, is when your pup goes into position without you having to ask, something we call a "default" position.

Your goal should be to only give cues for control positions when you absolutely have to, that way, your pup knows if you asked for a position, it must be really important since you're not one to make idle cues.