Daycare: Monday 3/5

Sending to bed continued...

I am unsure if you have done any of this at home but he is progressing quite nicely just from the repetitions he has put in here. If you can continue really rewarding that down at home that will help this drill substantially! 

Daycare: Monday 2/26

Sending to Bed

I understand my videoing and trying to give an explanation is way too confusing. This is a shaping drill. When I say shaping I mean a drill where the dog is figuring everything out on its own (no luring, no verbals, etc) and when the dog "guesses" correctly, a reward comes. 

Rocky accelerated into getting his entire body on the bed and offering a sit. Most dogs do not do this. Therefore, the criteria for me is him driving to the bed and offering a sit. Anything short of that will not get anything. 

General Progression:

  1. dog looks at bed = reward
  2. one paw on bed = reward
  3. two paws on bed = reward
  4. three paws on bed = reward
  5. four paws on bed (standing) = reward
  6. offering, asking, or luring into a sit = reward
  7. offer, asking, or luring into a down = reward
  8. dog driving to bed and turning around offering a down = reward
  9. adding distance, distraction, duration and holding the down until release = reward

Daycare: Tuesday 2/13

Keep on working that down - taking off the lure. 

Add in distractions - minimal and on leash so he does not make a mistake reinforcing himself. 

Let's make sure we are helping him by sticking to our criteria - waiting for crate release, waiting at doors, waiting to be pet, etc. 

Daycare: Tuesday 2/13

Let's make sure we are on the same page. I wanted to go over a couple of things that will help you and Rocky along as he is learning. 

  • Let's try to remove our negative verbal cues as much as possible (negative tones, the word "no," using his name negatively if we are upset, etc. 
    • Instead, let's replace any frustration with redirection to his crate, or simply ignoring him or the behaviors when possible.
    • I can tell that negative use of his name is becoming demeaning for him. He knows when he has done something we don't approve of - but instead of fixing it and being excited about it, he sulks down. I still want him to be happy and confident despite making mistakes
  • Incrementally crate him while you are home. Any time he is released from a crate door, car door, house door, gate door, it has to be on a release cue "ok"
    • This all leads into impulse control and him shaping his own behaviors and training us. If we let him get away with bolting out of a crate door, car door, etc, that is what he will do because it works. With him, we cannot give him room to make these choices because he will. 
  • Make him wait for his food when the bowl is put down. If he goes after it, simply pick up the bowl. Again, impulse control...which is something he has worked on here. He will start learning that self-control leads to good things
  • Let's really work hard to get him his down without a food lure. He is getting there - but we need practice in my home, your home, new areas, etc for him to understand the value...then we can work on duration 
  • Make sure that you understand YOU are a reward. Looking at him, talking to him, touching him is a reward. If he wants to be pet or he wants engagement (inside in controlled environments) he must sit first. If we are outside, that is a different story - we have to lower our standard since right now the environment is more valuable than us. 
  • Make sure if he is on leash - always - whether dropping him here, walking him, or going to the bathroom, he has that gentle leader on. When the gentle leader is on it helps control the pulling. When it is not on it reinforces that pulling gets us what we want. 
  • Hopefully these items will put us on the same page as to what he is doing here compared to what may be happening at home. Overall I think he is doing great, but due to the impulsive behaviors and wanting to get his way - those are the things that as frustrating to you. 
  • If he still is getting into things (your hat) at time he will still try to get into things here

Daycare: Tuesday 2/6

If you recall at the very beginning of training (bottom of this page) there is discussion with regard to DISTANCE, DISTRACTION, DURATION. These are the elements we add to basic behaviors (foundations) in order to make them better and more applicable to the real world. Before we add these elements, we must make sure our dog can perform the behaviors in a comfortable environment with minimal outside factors happening. 

So now, we will go back to some of the basic behaviors (sit, down, stay, focus, hand touches, and start adding in DISTANCE, DISTRACTIONS, DURATION. Will your dog "sit" when you ask them to with your back turned? Does he KNOW the command sit? Or just your body language? Will your dog hold a stay when a door opens? Will your dog hold a sit or a down for duration with an open container of food on the floor? Now we slowly add these items in and start rewarding for focus despite a DISTRACTION being present. We also want to build a duration for the behaviors before the dog releases itself, and put some distance in between. 

We will start with food/toys on the floor in the work area, and again on the floor to cover the distraction if the dog decides to go for it.


Start with a container of food on the floor. Makes sure what you are rewarding with is HIGHER VALUE than what is on the floor. If he is not staying back - keep the container covered to prevent self reinforcement if he goes after it. For me, keeping it covered was where I had to begin. 

Start sitting, and move into kneeling and eventually standing straight up. You want your dog to perform various behaviors DESPITE the open container of food. This is working through distractions! Yay! Since he is still strengthening his foundational behavior - I would also be doing this WITH NO distractions as well.

As he gets better and better you can up your distraction (favorite food, toy, etc). Right now, he is just now ready for this. 

For now, work your sits, downs, and hand touches, with a container of food on the floor. If he won't leave it alone, think about the placement of the container. Be in between the container to prevent excessive sniffing or interaction with the container itself. 

Ideally, we do not even want him sniffing the container, we want him to leave it and focus on us.

It is no surprise we need stimulus control with Rocky. He is ambitious, energetic and enthusiastic. While I understand these mannerisms have a time and place (opposed to pulling/lunging on a leash, jumping of the the car, and not coming when called)....we talked about how awesome it is to have a dog that WANTS to work. 

We just need to make sure he has structure and boundaries in his life so he is a productive member of the household despite whatever excitement is happening. 

I would say he is fairly well-balanced in the house and generally well-mannered. He does at times try to get into stuff or chew things he should not, but for the most part his struggle is controlling himself when there is distractions. 

This impulse control drill called "it's your choice" is a drill I would do regularly along with your sits and downs and now the distraction tin drill. It took me a couple of sessions to get to the point where he stayed backed, but....he stayed back! He caught on because he is smart and wants to work....and it was rewarding. 

Daycare: Monday 1/29

Foundations, foundations, foundations. I think it is imperative we continue Rocky on the path of foundations. He is still very young and impulsive so overtime we want to build up his stimulus control. Right now he acts on however he feels in that moment and does not always think about his choice or what is expected of him. Before we move on we NEED to get focus and the basic commands:

  • Understanding of name
  • Focus when we call his name OUTDOORS (he is doing well inside)
  • Sit (he is doing great inside and outside)
  • Down (inside and outside)
  • Luring into heel position
  • Sit & Down in heel position

This week, every opportunity you have, step aside for 2-3 minutes for a couple of sessions working the more challenging behaviors. Work them in your garage if outside is too difficult. I would really like to see him get the basics nice and strong so we have a solid foundation to work with as we progress.

The stronger the foundations, the better everything else. It will directly help his impulse control and he will WANT to please you and offer behaviors. He is great to work with and does put a lot of effort in. 

Keep up with the basic skills to build that focus and engagement. As he gets older he will mature as well, but he is doing great :-) 

Daycare: Thursday 1/25

Daycare: Monday 1/22/2018

Take the time to read the articles below. I want to really focus on the jumping and greeting habit that has been made. The less this is reinforced, the quicker the behavior will stop. Every single time it is allowed to happy, it reinforces the behavior. 

Make a strong focus on really ignoring Rocky when he has this behavior - every one in the family. If you are going to actively work on it, I have posted below what the drill should be. Since I am only one person I can only work on this at pick up - however it is tough since we are challenged for time. 


Make sure not to neglect the foundational skills of sits and downs. We will need these in the long run and all of the foundations and focus will help us with our long term goals. 

He understands the behavior of down, but we need to get some repetitions in at home. He is not going down on cue yet, but if you are able to work some sessions, he should have it by next week without a treat lure. 

Eventually we want to then increase the DURATION of the behaviors. It is nice that he sits when we ask him to, but we want him to stay seated, or stay in a down. 


In addition to practicing focus, sits, and downs, and lure to heel, let's be conscious of the jumping. Try to set up multiple sessions this week amongst your family to work this behavior. Remember, a few minutes of work and consistency at home is going to go a long way. Think about how fast the crating made an adjustment just from him working in and out of the crate here and whatever you did at home. 


Daycare: Wednesday 1/17/2018

Reflection: Progress & Goal Setting

  • Where do you feel your dog is now compared to where you would like it to be?
    • Have you taken into account behaviors that have been created/allowed vs. behaviors you have actively and consistently worked on? Example: leash pulling. Do every time you go out on leash are you consistent to not allow the dog to pull, or do you allow the dog to pull to get it where it wants to go, reinforcing this behavior? How long has your dog been getting away with behaviors you do not like? Have you done anything to change those behaviors?
  • Do you feel the time, energy, and consistency you are putting in on a regular basis lines up with your long term goals?
    • What is a realistic amount of time per day or per week that you are willing and able to set aside to set up specific training sessions with your dog? Do you have 5 minutes per day to choose a skill? Can you only commit to a few times per week?
  • Do you have a clear understanding and specific plan for your short term goals leading to your end behaviors

Recall. Focus. Value Building. 

  • If you want your dog's attention, you need to be valuable. Your dog should WANT to interact with you because it is rewarding and fun. If you want your dog's focus, you need to teach that focus pays off! In order to get a recall, you need both of these. At the same time, you, as a human being, should be pleasant. If you are unhappy, angry or frustrated you are not fun to work with and you should avoid working with your dog in this state of mind (or stop a lesson if you are getting this way)
  • All of these dogs in the video are here for training. A lot of them are very young. You can see we are in a CONFINED (and familiar) area, off leash. They have a choice to sniff, pee on stuff, play with each other, or interact with me. However I am rarely saying anything but I am rewarding when they interact or when I recall and they listen. I am letting them do what they want but am value building as they choose ME! I am rewarding from focus. 
  • You should be able to identify which dog's have a foundation/value for focusing. Which are more food motivated, which are more distracted, etc. In the beginning I DO want to reward generously and eventually food moves off my body, but regardless of a FOOD motivator I still remain fun and rewarding. 
  • DRILL: take your dog to a confined and familiar area (or leash) and allow your dog to sniff and do what it wants, but REWARD (4 types of rewards) when your dog chooses you. DO NOT FORCE YOUR DOG'S ATTENTION!!!!

Daycare: Monday 1/15


  • Just awesome on the crate! Pleasantly surprised at his improvement this morning. Keep it up. It WILL carry over to self control as well.
  • When he is not overstimulated he wears the gentle leader with no problem (working drills...not walking yet)

Assignment 4:

  1. Continue your sits, and begin your downs. Try, try, try to spend a couple minutes PER DAY on these skills, especially the down so he gets that behavior. We will use these behaviors for the stay, sending to a mat/bed, etc., so the foundations are imperative.
  2. To change things up (since he has a sit and is getting a down) you can also begin performing these in HEEL position which will also build value down the line for walking at your side
  3. IF you get a gentle leader, I would suggest doing focus, sits and downs in the leader to increase value in it. Just working in it by wearing it is a bonus


Daycare: Friday 1/12/2018


  • Very anxious in crate still. Constant barking and whining. I am needing to fully cover crate. How often are you crating him WHILE YOU ARE PHYSICALLY HOME? ---> I would increase time, especially during times kids are home and there is increased activity so he learns to settle. I would have him sleeping in his crate, eating in his crate, and crated when you leave the house. I would not put him in the pen until he has graduated from his crate. He should have the ability to go into his crate, lay down, and be silent without any trouble. That is our goal. 
  • When crated, and you arrive back home, the first thing you SHOULD NOT do is let him out of his crate. Make sure he is able to settle at least 5-10 minutes after you return home. Same thing when you get up in the morning. 

Assignment 3:

  1. Because Rocky's behavior can be frustrating to you, I would consider a harness or gentle leader to see if you can manage some of his behaviors and not reinforce the ones we do not want. Harnesses do not always work, gentle leaders seem to have better results if you spend the time getting the dog to wear it. That is what I used today.
  2. Work sits & downs. 
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Daycare: Wednesday 1/10/2018

Extra: Bully Stick

Here is a sample drill you can do with the bully stick. You can do a "get it" and "give it" to make sure Rocky does not resource guard from you. You want to make sure you can take objects from him. When you give them to him, make sure he is sitting nicely.

If you are offering something else when he has a bully stick...and he does not want what you are offering, that means the bully stick holds more value and you need something better.

Be sure you are never tugging things out of Rocky's mouth. Then, like the "chase game" it becomes a fun game of keep away and causes the dog to hold onto it tighter or run away with it. 

I do not generally recommend just going up to any dog and taking something. Trade it out as some dogs resource guard and that is what causes them to growl, nip, or bite. The Dalmatian in the video the left started guarding at 11 wks old so I was diligent about this drill.

I try to tug things out of my dog's mouth when I am trying to get a reliable hold, or duration to hold onto an don't tug or force. Trade. 

Assignment 2:

  1. Continue Assignment 1 on a daily basis right now. Remember, you are always training, even when you are not training. Whatever you allow is reinforced. What you ignore or change will make a difference. BE CONSISTENT. I am crating incrementally while he is here because he is barking and whining and does not have the ability to relax yet. The more you do this at home (while you are home) the faster the habit will break. Put him in scenarios where he can and cannot see you from his crate. 
  2. TRY as best you can to set 2-5 minutes aside 2-3X per day and complete Video 1. We are building value and beginning to teach FOCUS. Great for the kids. Kneel, sit, stand, sit on couch, etc. Also can move to higher distraction areas as gets better. If NOT taking food....environment too distracting, or your dog is stressed.
  3. TRY as best you can to set 2-5 minutes aside 2-3X per day between Video 1 and 2 (depending on where he is at) to reinforce him for addressing that you have called his name and/or offered focus.


Video 1



Once your dog starts understanding you are valuable and it is important to check in you can start associating his name with the reward. When he looks, he will be rewarded. 

I refer to this as "name game" and when you call the dogs name you are simply rewarding for attention. Eventually the dog will offer its attention because it is rewarding to do so. 

We start inside and eventually take this drill outdoors. Focus is the foundation to everything. If you get stuck, refer back to the bottom of the page for information on expectations. 

This is a great drill anyone in the family can do.

Keep in mind I am starting LOW to the ground at his level. Therefore he has no need to jump up. As you progress and are standing giving "free food" only the EXACT behaviors you LIKE should be rewarded. DON'T FEED FOR BEHAVIORS YOU DO NOT LIKE. He jumps because my timing is too slow for the treat and he does not understand impulse control to stay down (jumping gets him what he wants generally, that is why is does it)

If he would start barking, jumping, mouthing, or getting too rambunctious the drill simply stops, the dog is ignored, or is redirected to his crate for a few minutes before resuming. 


Video 2

Sample of the "marker" word and its importance: your dog NEEDS to know when they are doing something correctly so they can continue to perform the appropriate behaviors.

Instead of using a "yes" marker I am simply clicking with my mouth (same thing as use of a clicker). My dog understands that both yes and/or click means YES I like what you are doing.

I was teaching my dog to retrieve my sandals. When teaching a behavior, there is a behavior chain. We must reward the little behaviors that bring us to the end result. 

:05 (I am STARING at the sandal, not my dog because I want him to touch the sandal...again not asking/telling/showing him anything) As soon as he touches the sandal, I click and reward. TOUCHING then leads to putting TEETH on, which then leads to PICKING UP, which then leads to BRINGING to me.

:08 touches again so I reward. YES, this dog has a STRONG foundation of behaviors that have been rewarded so he is easy to train because I have put time into distributing free food (Wrigley video above), rewarding for him responding to his name and offering focus. Therefore, training him to do this is something HE WANTS and ENJOYS doing. He is not being forced. No leash, no shock collar, no correcting, no punishing, no getting upset. He is CHOOSING to do it because it is fun, therefore it becomes more reliable.

:10 he puts teeth on and moves it. That tells me in my mind THE CRITERIA RAISED. NOW YOU UNDERSTAND I WANT TEETH! I move the sandal to stimulate prey drive (prey drives my dog's excitement, so I mock that). Once I realize he understands teeth and bringing to me, that is what I expect every time. When consistent I can name the behavior "bring it to me" etc.


Daycare: Monday 1/8/2018

This is a little game you can do. Be patient. You are just looking for Rocky to CHOOSE to go into the crate (without force) and reward him for that, closing the door behind him. 

Once you are getting this behavior where he is patiently waiting, you can start expecting this behavior at your house door as well. YOU SHOULD exit first while he waits and then you can release him out your door. If he crowds the door (I will try to take a video of my dog when I set him up for a failed behavior) you can eventually get a "back up" so he moves out of the way for you first. 


Rocky is a bit anxious in the crate so it took him about 45 minutes to settle (I fully covered the crate so he could not see out and he settled). Any time I get a new dog or puppy for training I start them in the crate as I want to make sure they have the ability to be separated from me and do not show signs of separation anxiety or stress. I also use the crate as a confidence building tool as well and gaining independence. 

While I understand you communicated with me "he hates his crate" I would make sure we are positively using it (Assignment 1) and not just when we leave the house or are going to bed. We want the association with the crate to be fun. It is also important that barking and whining doesn't get him what he we are training him, not the other way around

Assignment 1: 

*"Assignments are highly recommended suggestions for you to do once your dog returns back home. Each assignment has a purpose and it needs to be understood that skills and drills are done for a reason as many relate to one another. If you have a question about any suggestion, please ask! 

  1. Start incrementally crating Rocky WHILE YOU ARE HOME anywhere between 10 minutes to a few hours, at least 3-5 times per day. Ignore (includes talking to/making eye contact) the whining and never let out if whining or barking. 

  2. When releasing out of the crate, start utilizing your "OK" release cue. This will teach him impulse control...doing one thing to achieve another (or reach the reward...which would be getting out of the crate) VIDEO BELOW: "OK"

  3. Anytime Rocky jumps up (on any family member) he needs to be completely IGNORED. Do not talk to, do not touch. Simply walk away. If he is persistent he should be kindly redirected to his crate (positively!) Grab his collar and walk him there to prevent the hiding underneath the bed.



Before you begin training, it is important to understand the foundation to your training should be engagement and relationship. Teaching behaviors and cues is a lot easier when a dog is willing and enthusiastic to participate with you. Your training should be force-free with a strong focus on foundational skills.

  • Keep your expectations fair and realistic.
  • Unpredictability is probably the worst trait a dog owner can possess.
  • If you expect something, then expect it every time you ask for it.
  • Think about treats in terms of ‘units of a reward’ for effort.
  • Remember repetition, NOT duration. Five 1-minutes sessions can be better than one 5-minute session.
  • Mark for action, feed for position.
  • Name a perfect behavior, not an imperfect behavior. Get the quality you want before you tell the dog what it is called.
  • Work on generalization to work on getting the behavior to happen in a variety of environments and situations.
  • The challenge level should always be that in which your dog can succeed.

Ask your dog what they are capable of doing. Over-facing our dogs by putting demands on them that they cannot possibly meet will not only mean we make no progress towards our training goals, but it will erode a dog’s confidence and enjoyment of working with us.

Perfection is not a permanent condition. The more criteria, the more maintenance.

It is important to think about the behavior you are training and the tools you may need. Are you "marking" for the behavior and feeding for position? Are you working a release and can utilize tugging when your dog gets up?

What motivates your dog?

  1. Food (what is the least your puppy or dog will work for?)
  2. Toys!
  3. Verbal Praise
  4. Petting

In what order are your rewards most valuable?

  • What does the dog like least?
  • What does the dog like most?
  • What types of behaviors require certain rewards? Ex. placement of rewards and marking for position, calm behaviors vs. high drive
  • What environment are you training in which may require a more valuable reward or motivator?


Recommended Skills for Training to Start With:

  • Housebreaking (generally for new puppies)
  • Crate training/waiting at a crate door, house door, gate door
  • Addressing separation anxiety, attachment and independence/confidence
  • Exposure to noises and the real world/surface exposure
  • Touch sensitivity & collar grabs
  • Marker word/clicker training
  • Learning name, focus, engagement
  • Addressing barking
  • Recall or "come" 
  • Impulse control/leave it
  • Resource guarding/trading objects/"give"
  • Sits & downs
  • Release cues
  • Hand touches & touching objects
  • Heeling & walking
  • Stay
  • Shaping (sending to bed/mat)
  • Socialization
  • Addressing jumping
  • Addressing play biting/mouthing
  • Proofing

Owner's Requested Skills:

*Please note some of the skills requested may require additional skills or behaviors BEFORE achieving a specific skill or behavior requested

  • Jumping
  • Recall
  • Release cue
  • Waiting at the door
  • Counter surfing (food on counter, mat drill)
  • Mouthing
  • Loose Leash Walking


Keep in mind when you are teaching a behavior, skill, or cue  you must build upon that skill adding elements in such as:

  1. Distance - how far away can you be and ask for that behavior?
  2. Distractions - can your dog perform the same skill outside in a public park as in your indoor kitchen?
  3. Duration - how long will your dog hold a sit, a down, or a stay?

BEFORE ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS ARE ADDED, YOU FIRST WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GREAT FOUNDATION OF THAT BEHAVIOR! If your dog cannot sit in the kitchen with no distractions, do not expect to take your dog outside and get a reliable sit.

How to mark behaviors you want:

In the initial stages you may need to have a collar/harness with a 4-6ft leash attached to your puppy or dog so they do not wander. You can hold the leash or just step on it.

Once you have a strong foundation with the behaviors in a low-key environment you can start building upon the behavior by asking for a longer duration of focus, moving food off your body, reducing the reinforcer, requiring eye contact (not staring at the reward), putting distance between you and the dog, and eventually moving into environments with increased distractions (controlled and not controlled).

In order to communicate with your dog when they are doing something you like or are asking for you will want to have a "marker word" or clicker. If you do not have a clicker you can use the word "yes."

Initially you are just "charging the click" to allow your puppy or dog to start associating your marker with the reward which is to follow. As your dog progresses you can always mark the behavior, but you can reduce your reinforcers (you do not have to give a treat every time).



Skill: Marker Word = YES! (or a clicker)
Exercise: Name Game

Criteria: Call your dog’s name, when they look mark YES and reward
Progression: Offered focus (call if needed) but reward for paying attention. If your dog looks away to sniff, you can call their name and reward for looking at you. Young puppies may only glance up for a hot second...don't forget to reward that! 
*Remember you do not ALWAYS need to use food - think about other types of rewards



How does your dog know when it is "ok" to move out of a cue or behavior?


  1. Dog is in crate (chooses to, or lured in at first)
  2. Door closes on dog
  3. The reward or motivator is coming out of the crate
  4. If the dog tries to bolt or barge out, the dog loses access to that reward and the door simply closes quickly
  5. Very quickly a dog will start catching on to the behaviors that are linked together; dog holds position (even for a second) and is released out!
  6. Repeat

There are many scenarios where a release cue is important. For example: a start-line stay on the agility field. 


It's amazing how much can be learned by both human and dog hardly saying anything at all. I can go through an entire training session with my dogs, or my horse, or donkeys without saying many words but rather just praising and reinforcing what I like. 

I want my animals to think for themselves and do things with enthusiasm because they want to, not because they are forced to.

One reason I am a huge advocate of crate training (beyond potty training, confidence building, or ruling out anxiety) is because it is the foundation of my release cue

Time out of the crate or time spent interacting with us is rewarding. Anything that a dog wants can be used as a motivator. A dog will do what works for them to achieve that motivator and it is up to us to set boundaries and be consistent with our messages. Many times we are reinforcing things we do not like and we do not even know it!

"Ok" simply means you are free to move.

Very quick durations to start. No distractions that may cause the dog to get up early. You are with the dog so there is not much distance in between you. 

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Impulse Control

If our dog shows a sense of self control, generally we will then allow them a reward or access to their motivator. .

  • a dog sits and waits at the door, the door opens (gains access to the outdoors!)
  • a dog keeps all four paws on the floor, we reach down to pet it (gains access to praise!)
  • a dog holds position when the food bowl is placed on the floor, we release and it eats (gains access to food!)

There was a time when my clumsy self knocked an entire bottle of ibuprofen off my counter and every single pill fell onto the floor. Imagine how dangerous that scenario could be for the dog that has no impulse control and as soon as something falls...well, eats it. 

Had it not been for this specific drill, perhaps that day would have went differently. My dogs understand they need to exhibit self control. When they want to access something they need to engage with me and make eye contact for a release that it is "ok" to move. 

Carrying a plate of food? Kids carrying a stuffed animal or dragging a blanket? A puppy or dog needs to understand that in order to get what they want they should show some patience. Now, of course, we do want to eliminate temptation when a dog is learning as we want them to succeed as many times as possible. 

However, as we teach these behaviors consistently we no longer have to view the behavior as a "problem" or challenge. 

Sits & Downs

If you want your dog to sit politely while company enters the door or a stranger greets you in the streets...first you need a strong sit! 

Build strong foundational behaviors. Does your dog understand sit only when you lure a cookie in front of its face? Or can you spin around in circles with your back facing and cue your dog to "sit?" 

A lot of times the behavior is: owner standing straight in front of me lifting up their hand and that posture and signal means to sit. Perhaps your dog does not understand the word itself.

If you want to send your dog to its bed and down, first you need a reliable down. 

Do your motions trigger your dog to get up and move? Can you walk a fill circle around your dog while they remain in a down? Will your dog hold a down while you throw a steak on the floor?

A large part of the foundational skills of behaviors such as sit and down are proofing those behaviors. 

Proofing: the final step in training your dog any new behavior. It involves practicing behaviors in a variety of situations with different levels of distractions