One of the first commands one teaches a dog is "sit." This seems an extremely simple command and shouldn't ever cause any difficulty, right? Wrong. Some dogs (like our Lucy) have a dozen questions about the command. "Oh, you mean NOW? Oh, you mean HERE? Oh, you mean keep sitting? Oh, you mean watch you? Oh, you mean I can't just get up when I want?" She had similar questions about every command. We had to use a more stern training approach with her to let her know these commands were not optional and not open to discussion, especially with her.
While not trainers, we have learned one very important thing about training. Dogs simply do not translate activity allowed (or disallowed) in one area to the same behavior in another spot. For example: we expect our dogs to do a "sit/stay" when a guest is at the door. We first trained them at the front door. Surprisingly enough, if someone came to the garage door the dogs did not understand they had to sit/stay. So if you want to train your dogs to sit/stay at the door, you have to repeat the training at every outside door in your house. And if you move to a new house, you have to repeat the training at every door in the new house.
We also need to give the command from other areas as well. They obey the command if we are also inside the house with them. So we have to teach them the command applies even if we are the ones outside the door. Here they are at sit/stay while I am outside the door.
"Down/stay" is a natural follower of sit/stay. If the dogs are expected to remain for any real length of time or if we have children involved, we give them the down/stay command for two reasons. First, it's more comfortable. More importantly, it puts the dogs in a true submissive position. Some dogs have great difficulty with the down/stay command. It just goes against their nature.
The sit/stay command must work outdoors as well. Periodically, we will simply tell one or both of the dogs to sit/stay while they are doing different activities. This helps to reinforce to them that sit/stay means sit/stay no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing. Here is Lucy on a bench. She obviously doesn't like it that I told her to sit. She looks as if to say, "I have no clue what you are thinking."
Before we went inside, I told them to sit/stay on the porch. They both turned toward me and sat down. From the looks on their faces, I don't think they like it very much either.
Even these two basic commands require regular re-inforcement. Our dogs don't really forget these commands, it's that sometimes they would just prefer to ignore them. That's why we regularly repeat them and let them know they are not optional no matter the circumstances. Consistency is an absolute. It may seem silly to some to require that a dog consistently follow commands. Perhaps it is with a command like "sit." But if you have a command to bring your dog to your side it must be obeyed. Dogs don't know that some commands are more important than others. And their very lives may depend on whether or not they will follow your command to come to them away from danger if they are off lead. So, like other commands, you must practice when the command is unnecessary so the dog knows to follow when it is. BTW: "come" is not usually the best command when the dog must return to your side. That command has almost always been corrupted within weeks of bringing your puppy home. Use a new command that the dog has not heard before when you teach him or her to come to your side immediately.
I'm showing you this photograph because our dogs usually look so well groomed. It's nearing bath time, and we've had some rain so the girls have been wet a couple of times. This is what they look like before they are brushed. Poor little parallel strays