Command Training

Whenever you teach your dog a new skill, it’s important to help your dog learn the mechanics of the skill before you start expecting them to know the verbal cue or hand signal for it. Practice teaching the mechanics of the behavior first with the lure, and after several successful tries, you can add the verbal cue to the process.

This video features trainer, Carrie Seay of PHX Animal Behavior Center, walking through all of the steps to help teach your dog “Sit”.


Step 1. Lure your dog into a sit by putting the treat up to their nose and slowly moving the treat backward toward their face and up over their head. Keep the treat lure close to your dog’s nose—if you move your hand up too quickly or too far away from their mouth, they may give up and lose interest.

Step 2. As soon as your dog’s hindquarters touch the ground praise and treat. Repeat as many times as you can, so long as you and your dog are still enjoying yourselves. Praise and treat every sit.

Step 3. Now that your dog is readily following the lure into the sit position, start saying the verbal cue “Sit” one second before you lure your dog into a sit. Only say the cue once, in a happy tone of voice.

Step 4. Repeat the exercise several times over a few days. When your dog sits reliably, it is time to take the treat out of your hand and use the verbal cue alone. If your dog doesn’t do the behavior at this point, first try luring without the treat. If that doesn’t work, put the treat back in your hand to do the lure.

Making Sure Your Dog Understands both the Verbal and Visual Cues Individually

Dogs learn visual signals far more quickly than verbal cues thanks to their fluency in body language. In order for us to make learning verbal cues easy, we must provide our dogs with cues in proper order – ​always deliver the verbal cue first, pause for a second and then give the visual hand signal.​ Your dog will pick up the pattern of the word coming before the hand signal, and you will start seeing your dog doing the behavior once the word is said!

Once your dog is consistently doing the behavior with the verbal and visual cue together, practice sets of 10 where you only give one cue (visual or verbal but not both) for one of the repetitions – 9 out of the 10 repetitions should still have both cues given for clarity. If your dog doesn’t do the behavior, do another set of 10 but with one of the repetitions do the one cue you didn’t do before (verbal if you tried visual first, or visual if you tried verbal first). Practice the 9/10 set with whichever cue is weak so you can build that recognition through repetition.

If your dog doesn’t seem to know either cue on its own, go back to the beginning and keep working the cues together so your dog continues learning. Practice mixing in other behaviors like down or a hand target to make sure your dog is doing behaviors based on cues and not just guessing.

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