Test Item 6: Sit and Down on Command/Stay in Place
This test will demonstrate that the dog has training, will respond to the handler's commands to sit and down, and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to make the dog sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler's commands. The handler may not force the dog into either position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward 20 feet, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side.
So Your Goal: To master a sit, a down, and a stay in either position.
Most people have already taught their dog how to sit. This is one cue that all owners seems to be able to get their dog to master. If you haven't taught it to your dog yet, the easiest way I have found to teach it, is to hold a piece of food in front of your dog's nose and lift the treat up over its nose and forehead, keeping it relatively close to the dog. The premise - head goes up, butt goes down. Look there's a sit! Remember to praise instantly and give your dog the treat :). Also remember, these cues can be taught several different ways and I am only going to cover one for each here.
Once your dog has started getting the hang of sit, you can introduce the down. Have your dog in a sit, put the food in front of the dog's nose and lower it slowly straight down to the ground (slightly in front of the front paws) and then move it slowly out away from the dog (at floor level) so the whole movement is in the shape of the letter "L". Down is a bit trickier for most dogs, so you might have to lure your dog for a longer period of time than you did the sit. Don't worry, just work on fading out the lure as soon as your dog understands what you are asking.
Consistency with your cues and hand signals is key to help facilitate your dog's learning. Once your dog is comfortable performing sits and downs in your house, take your show on the road! :) Practice these skills in places where people and other dogs are present. The more you practice in the face of distractions, the better your dog will get.
Now onto the hard one - staying! My dogs hate to stay so I already feel your pain :). I've found that my dogs stay better when they are in the down position, but it differs for each dog. So find whichever position your dog feels most comfortable staying in and use that one for the test, but please plan to teach stays in both positions to your dog :). Have your dog in the position you want them to stay in by your side. I use a hand signal when I teach stay (lowering my hand, palm toward the dog's face) and I recommend that for this stationary exercise. Then pivot so you are toe-to-toe with the dog, standing directly in front of them. Remain there for only a few seconds, then pivot back to the dog's side and release them. Remember praise and treat! :) Once your dog is reliable for the short stay with you right in front of them, you can start adding time and distance, but ONLY ADD ONE CRITERION AT A TIME. So if you increase the time, make sure you stay close to the dog. If you increase the distance away from the dog, make sure you keep the stay short. A note to remember, keep your dog on leash or a long line while practicing this so you have some measure of control (and they can't get away if they are in an unenclosed area!).
If your dog breaks the stay, put them back in the place you started with very minimal interaction. No scolding, no rough handling to put them back, just matter of factly return to them and put them back where they started and repeat your stay - just use lower criterion this time when you leave (either less time or less distance away). Stay can take a while to master so be patient and make sure you get a strong foundation built before moving on to the next step. Remember they have to pass kindergarten before they can go to first grade so apply that to your dog training. Master each small step before building on it.
Next week we'll discuss CGC Test Item 7, Coming When Called.
Don't forget to check out the other CGC test items we've covered: