Pet Expressway for Dogs

How To Teach Your Dog to Sit Stay Come

How To Teach Your Dog to Sit Stay Come

There is one more command to teach from our beginner’s level dog obedience commands.  It is actually a command combination and it’s Sit Stay Come. When teaching your dog this “sit-stay-come ” command combination you will be using:

  1. Verbal signals 
  2. Hand signals.

1. Verbal Signals /Tones 

Most dog obedience commands are presented verbally in a monotone voice in order that the trainer may execute a high or low voice to show approval or disapproval after a command is given. This means the dog can understand when he’s getting things right with a higher pitch for approval. We can break down the verbal signals into the 3 parts of this combination command

Verbal Tone for Sit:
The first part, the Sit Command should be verbally done in a monotone voice.

Verbal Tone for Stay:
The next part, the Stay Command should be done in a more firm voice. This slight abruptness in your voice just about teaches the dog how to react due to its sound. The sound of your voice, when you say Stay, almost makes the dog feel as if he should not move.  Yet your voice should not be too overpowering because it could cause fear.

Verbal Tone for Come:
The final part of this combination, the Come command should have a higher pitch than the Stay command to draw the dog over to you.  The Come command should be vocally inviting.  Do not make it too high or else you will not have any vocal range to use to praise the dog for coming over to you.

Summary of Verbal Tones
  • Sit in a “monotone voice”
  • Stay in a “firm, abrupt voice” 
  • Come in a “happy inviting voice”.

2. Hand Signals

There are 3 different hand signals for each part of the “Sit-Stay-Come” Command.

Hand Signal for Sit:
The hand should start from the front of your dog’s nose and move over the head like an arc or rainbow.

Hand Signal for Stay:
The  Stay hand signal typically is a ‘Flat Palm’ in front of the dog’s face.

Hand Signal for Come:
And the hand signal for Come, is generally any hand signal that is low and moving, such as gesturing your hand up and down close to the ground while wiggling your fingers. Or even tapping your lower leg. This is because dogs react to ground motion, (like squirrels running). It is an old hunting instinct. Take advantage of canine instinct and use any hand signal that is low and moving. 

Summary of Hand Signals
  • Sit ‘like a rainbow over the head”
  • Stay ‘flat palm to dog’s face’ and
  • Come ‘any hand signal that is low and moving’.

So we know our words, Sit Stay Come, our tone of voice, and our hand signals for this command combination.  Now, let’s put it all together.


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Initial Training Method:  Sit Stay Come

When first teaching this command combination, we simply want your dog to understand the concept of what it means to Sit, to Stay, and to Come. For this reason, we will be using very little distance and very short duration when first teaching Sit Stay Come. We can easily build distance and duration later once the dog understands the command combination.  This strategy will make the learning experience less confusing for the dog; ultimately much easier for you to teach.


Steps To Teach Sit Stay Come Command

  1. Start by putting your dog in the sit position and praise him for sitting.
  2. At this point, if a treat is in your command hand, either give the dog the treat or place it into your free hand. Although you will need to deliver a treat immediately at the end of this command sequence, the treat must be out of the dog’s sight and mind at this point.
  3. Next, tell the dog to stay. Remember, the stay command hand signal is a flat open palm toward the dog and your voice is firm.
  4. Next, tuck your command hand against your chest and take one or two steps back. Once you stop moving, repeat the command stay and gently unfurl your command hand and display the stay hand signal once again.
  5. Wait for one or two seconds only (this fir
  6. st time around). Then call the dog over to you by giving the come command with a happy, inviting voice. Remember to make your hand signal low and moving.
  7. As the dog is coming over, transfer the treat from your free hand to your command hand.  Once the dog reaches you, praise him for coming when called and give him the treat.

The goal of this initial training is to teach your dog to Sit and Stay from one or two steps away for one or two seconds and then Come over to us.  Drill that sequence into your dog for a few repetitions or for as long as it takes to ‘click’.


Review Our Initial Sequence

  • Verbal: Sit, Good Sit (praise)
  • Stay (firm voice)
  • Repeat Stay (firm voice)  after you have taken the distance
  • Come (inviting voice) then praise once the dog reaches you.
  • Hand signals:  Sit (rainbow over head) praise, transfer treat into free hand or give to the dog, Stay (flat palm), tuck hand against the chest, move one or two steps away when movement stops show Stay hand signal again, wait one or two seconds, call your dog with the Come command (treat from freehand to command hand), praise and give the treat.  That will be the initial method.

Use this short distance and duration for 5 to 10 repetitions in your first training session of Sit, Stay, Come, or until the dog catches onto the sequence.  Some dogs may require you to begin several training sessions with this initial training method in the beginning. Be patient and don’t push the distance and or duration until the dog is ready.  Before we morph this Sit Stay Come initial training method into the finished product, let’s explain some details you may be questioning.


Sit Come Stay Command

Tips & Common Handling Errors

For most commands, it’s advisable to have a treat in your Command hand. This is due to the fact that a dog learns a command by following a hand signal.  He initially learns to follow the hand signal because he is following the treat. However, in some instances having a treat in your command hand can be a detriment.

With the dog training command combination “Sit Stay Come “you do not want a treat in your command hand when you deliver the Stay command. This is due to the fact that you will be moving away from the dog after you tell him to Stay. It would be natural for the dog to want to follow you if you have a treat in your command hand.  This is why, after the Sit Command you will either give the dog the treat for sitting or just give him praise and slip the treat into your free hand before you deliver the Stay Command.

If you choose the former, just know you will need a second treat stashed away in your free hand for when you give him the Come command.  He will definitely need a treat for coming when called.  And the treat must be delivered immediately upon coming when called, so it must be at the ready.

Another training tip along the same lines with stay is to fold your hand and tuck it against your chest momentarily while you take your distance. Once you stop moving, open your hand up again into the stay hand signal (flat palm). Here as well, if you are displaying the Stay Hand signal,  the dog may want to follow your hand signal as you move away from him. Picture it from the dog’s point of view. You are moving away with your arm and hand extended. To the dog, it may look as though he should follow.  Therefore, in the beginning, stages of training this command combination, it makes sense to adjust your hand signal.

To recap, if we have a treat in our command hand as we say Stay and back away or if our Stay hand signal is engaged as we back away from the dog, it could possibly invite movement. And we want the dog to Stay.  At the very least either of these handling errors could cause confusion.  The dog will want to follow the treat and/or your hand. We want the dog to Stay.


Sit Stay Come Command Combination
– Expanding on the Method

At this point, your dog knows how to sit and stay for one or two seconds from one or two steps away and then come over to you.  The good news is that the hard part is over!

To expand the distance and duration of the “Sit Stay Come Command” you should slowly increase the distance by one or two additional steps at a time.  Similarly, increase the duration by one or two seconds at a time. So for example tell your dog to sit take 3 or 4 steps back, wait 3 or 4 seconds then call him over with the Come Command. Next when ready move to 4 or 5 steps away for  4 or 5 seconds. etc.  Continue to build upon this with each repetition of the command combination until you get to your desired distance and duration. Remember that some dogs understand distance better than duration and vice versa.

You may find that you build these things at a different pace and that is okay to do.  For example, your dog may be able to Sit and Stay for 20 seconds but only your being  5 steps away.  Conversely, the dog may only be able to Stay for 8 seconds but with you 3 feet away!  This is not unusual for the dog during this learning process.  Do not feel that you need to build distance and duration at the same pace.


Sit Stay Come Training Tip – Common Handling Error

What to do if your dog ‘Breaks The Stay’.

Now that we have expanded on the method, your dog may be doing a Sit, Stay from a few feet away for 20 or 30 seconds before you call him over to you with the Come command.  Or he may be doing a Sit, Stay from 6 or 7 steps away for 5 or 10 seconds.

Wherever you are in the process, you need to know what to do if the dog does not Sit and Stay for the amount of distance and duration you are at. Maybe your goal was to deliver the Come command once you got 10 steps away, but he broke and ran over to you before your were at step 10. Or perhaps you managed to get your 10 steps of desired distance away from the dog and wanted him to stay for 10 seconds, but he got up and ran to you after 5 seconds.

In either of the above scenarios or any such scenario your reaction to him ‘Breaking the Stay’  should be as follows:

  • Say ‘No” is a low pitched voice
  • Bring him by the leash or collar back over to his original spot
  • Tell him Sit, Stay and try again.

It is important that your dog be brought over to the same place where he “Broke from”. Otherwise, he may learn that he can get increasingly closer to you by breaking the stay.  He may learn he can edge up a little at a time in order to be near you or in order to get the treat sooner. The dog needs to learn that there is no benefit to breaking the stay. You get scolded and brought back to where you started from. You must do this every time he breaks the stay command. Consistency here is very important. Sometimes, dogs learn from their mistakes. You are teaching the dog ‘what not to do’.

Also important,  if your dog is breaking the stay repeatedly, you should reduce either the distance you are taking or the duration you are waiting or both depending on the situation. For example, if the dog breaks the stay while you are still taking your steps away, then obviously don’t take as many steps away on your next attempt. Similarly with duration, if the dog stayed but broke at 8 seconds when you were shooting for 10, then the next attempt shorten up the time.

If he is getting thoroughly confused, then shorten up both distance and duration. Go back to basics. Remember when training your dog especially with complex commands or command combinations such as Sit Stay Come, you need to think of it like a loaf of bread metaphorically!! The whole loaf may be overwhelming, but if you teach it ‘one slice at a time’ it is much easier to swallow!  Teach in increments. Sometimes dogs will break the stay right at the moment that you stop moving. It helps here, if you verbally say stay at the moment you stop moving to reinforce what you want.

Now, with our Initial Method and Expanded Method for the Sit, Stay Come command combination explained, let’s give some uses.


Uses for Sit Stay Come Command Combination

There are so many uses for this command combination, especially as your dog is further along in his obedience program. As your dog skills improve you can use this combination command when Attention Training and Obedience with Distractions. This is because the dog needs to focus on you in order to Stay. This command combination is also the foundation for Off-leash work and Recall Training because it gets the dog in the habit of moving independently and making the decision to follow a complex series of commands.

Some specific uses for this command combination include:

Your Dog Learns Not to Jump

Sit, Stay Come Command Combination is a crafty method that you can use in your Beginners Level Training to teach your dog not to jump on people. Preferably in the very early stages of teaching your dog Sit Stay Come you should give the dog the sit command once the dog comes over to you. So the combination can be re-named “Sit Stay Come Sit .” If you commit to this, the dog must execute the Sit Command each and every time they come over in order to be rewarded.  This will help to achieve consistency.

So by teaching Sit, Stay, Come, Sit, the dog learns that every time I approach a human, I Sit.   This is the beginning of teaching your dog not to jump on people.

In future articles, we will be discussing the method for not Jumping on people, which is essentially to say Off and Sit.  Your dog will learn that when I run over to a human and jump on them to greet them, they scold me and make me sit.  However, when I  come over to them and  Sit, they are pleased. We are using Sit as a Replacement Command, which will be discussed more in future problem-solving discussions.

It’s a Method of Rehearsing

Another use for Sit Stay Come Command Combination for a Beginners Level Curriculum has to do with practicing what you have learned.  Performing a series of repetitive commands using consistent praise and intermittent treats is a method of rehearsing. For example,  Sit Stay Come Sit Down Stay Come Sit Watch Me Stay Come can be performed for 11 “pieces of praise’ but only 3 treats!


Coming When Called Dog Command

Please note that the Coming When Called Command is one of the most challenging commands to gain 100% consistency. Inside the heart of every dog, is a wolf looking to explore, hunt, chase and identify sights and sounds.  Due to this instinctual behavior, coming when called can be difficult to obtain consistency from;  no matter what age your dog may be.

Additionally, some dogs are bred to be independent and run away from the owner in order to hunt.  Having a dog such as that is double the work to achieve success within this department. Volumes could be written on the topic of Running Away,  Coming When Called.  However, for a beginner’s level discussion, we are going to focus on basic Do’s and Don’ts.  This will shape the foundation of your dog’s entire mindset on this topic.


Do’s and Don’ts for Coming When Called

When Do You Praise?

We need the dog to have the mindset that coming over to you, is always,  100% of the time a good thing to do. That nothing bad, or ‘not-fun’ or unpleasant happens when he comes over to you. For example, let’s say your dog gets away from you at the dog park. You then start running all around looking and chasing after him for 20 minutes. As you approach him and are just a few steps away at that very last moment, your dog comes over to you!!!.

You must praise him for coming over to you because the last thing he did was the right thing. The last thing he did was a good thing.

The dog will connect your pleasure or displeasure with what he “Just Did”. He will not connect it to all of the naughty things he did for the previous 20 minutes.  If you did so, you would be scolding him for coming over to you. He will interpret this as Not to Come When Called in the future because something bad happens. If in this scenario, you had caught up to him and grabbed his collar,  hence going to him, then you could have scolded him for running away because he was still actively resisting your call to him.

No Negatives during Activities of Daily Living

The next life experience to avoid that could completely interfere with your dog’s desire to Come when Called has to do with Never doing anything negative to your dog during Activities of Daily Living.

For example, you are running late for work and you call your dog over. You then abruptly put him in his crate and hurriedly leave for work.  You have just taught your dog that coming over to you, especially in the morning,  is not a good thing because as soon as you get your hands on him, you put him in his crate and then leave him alone. Next time the dog will be sure not to come over to you during your morning exit ritual.  And over time, your dog may even learn your exit cues and understand that the crate beckons.  This could cause him to start running away from you when you call him. Without realizing it, you are making the consequence negative for coming when called.

Solution To This Dilemma

  • When it is time to leave the house, don’t call your dog over and put him in his crate; rather you approach your dog and then bring him to his crate.  That way he will not connect going to you with something negative. 
  • An even smoother transition would be to then give him a treat or pet a/o play with him for a few moments before you put him in the crate. Maybe even a bonus cookie after you close the crate door!


Never Do Anything Negative To Your Dog If He Is Coming Over To You.

Another Beginner’s Level of advice for the dog command Coming When Called is to never do anything negative to your dog if he is coming over to you. Some examples and their solutions would be :

Don’t call your dog over and then give him a bath or put in his ear medicine.  You have just taught him that going over to you is not a good thing. Something unpleasant will happen to him as a result of approaching you. If you have to do one of those things or anything unpleasant to your dog, it is best to approach your dog, play for a bit and then perform the potentially unpleasant behavior.

Human  Error At The Dog Park

Coming to your person when called should have a positive consequence 100% of the time. One final example would be the classic human error at the dog park.

Picture it, your dog is playing with dogs or running and experiencing outdoor sights and sounds. You then realize it is time to go home.  Don’t call your dog over to you and slap on the leash and pull him away to the car.  If you do so, he will learn very rapidly that if he comes when called at the dog park that ‘the Fun will End’!!  He will learn very quickly not to go anywhere near you when you are at the park.

Remember, that dogs connect a positive or negative  consequence with the ‘Last Thing They Just Did’.  Always analyze your actions based on this knowledge.

Instead, call the dog over to you several minutes before you need to leave. Put on the leash very subtly but continue to play and walk with your dog for a few minutes. Perhaps even then perform some obedience commands before you leave the park. With this scenario, the ‘Fun’ does not end as a result of Coming when Called.


Further Training

Try and practice these dog training commands as often as possible. As the old saying goes the more practice the better. It can be fun too for your dog and he’ll enjoy the one-on-one attention. Your own self-confidence as a dog trainer will build too.

For easy-to-follow instructions on dog training techniques and canine behavior check out the Secrets to Dog Training. It’s a comprehensive A-Z manual on all dog issues and easy-to-use training techniques.

Knowing that you trained your dog to perform obedience commands should give you that “feel-good factor” and perhaps you can proudly show off your dog training skills when around friends and family. Of course, you can proudly boast that you taught your dog those commands that will become ingrained in his memory as your dog grows to become a well-trained companion.

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Keith Byrne

Keith Byrne

From an early age Keith has been around dogs. He has been involved in dog grooming, dog walking, dog sitting and dog showing as well as voluntary work in animal shelters. His aim is to help all dog owners especially newbies learn about dogs and care for them in a loving, caring and fun way.


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