Sit can be such a useful behavior. Once you have trained your dog, you can ask him to sit in many situations. Your dog can sit before leaving the house, reducing your worry that your dog will get loose in the neighborhood. Your dog can sit before exiting his crate, reducing his crazy behavior when you come home. Your dog can sit while you prepare his dinner, reducing his crying and pawing as you make doggy dinner.
To teach your dog to sit, gather his collar and leash, and some small but yummy treats. While your dog is wearing his collar and leash, stand on the end of the leash. The leash does not have to be short or tight, but should prevent your dog from leaving the training session. Treats at the ready, wait. Be quiet; remember your dog does not speak English (or any other human language). Repeating or yelling words will not help your dog learn. In fact, giving your dog a cue when the dog cannot respond causes a scientific phenomenon called blocking. Each time you say “sit”, and the dog does not sit, you are teaching your dog NOT to respond to this word. Save your cue, “sit”, for later, when you are certain your dog will sit. Wait! Your dog will soon become bored and sit.
So, you are waiting. Where you are waiting can make a difference. Some dogs, and many large breed puppies, have difficulty sitting on slick floors. If you are on carpet, or other surface that offers traction, your puppy is more likely to sit. Choose your training location carefully. Yes, at a later time, you can teach your dog to sit on different surfaces.
So, you are waiting. The activity in your training area matters. If you have other dogs, they can be distracting during early training sessions. Choose a location free of other pets. If you have active young children running around, your puppy might have difficulty concentrating. Seek out an area that is free of other people.
So, you are waiting. Patiently, quietly, hopefully. And . . . sit happens! Yeah! Quickly, give your dog a treat. You would like your dog to receive his treat while he is sitting. If you reach toward your dog and he leaps up to grab the treat from your hand, move the treat away! Do not let your dog receive a reward by grabbing your hand. Wait until the dog sits and try to give him a treat again. Be patient. This concept of waiting for the treat to arrive in his mouth is a new to your puppy.
Yup, many puppies will jump and grab, jump and grab, grab and jump, jump and grab. It seems to go on forever. That is ok. You are patient. You are waiting. You are grateful you are teaching this to your 20 pound baby, and not a hundred pound adult. Allow your baby to try and try. The dog will realize he is not getting a treat. He will try another behavior. He might even try to sit! Give your puppy his treat for sitting while he is sitting. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Do this exercise in every room in your home. Try it on the back patio. Try it in the back yard. Try in on the front porch. Try it in the front yard. Make sure your treats are good enough to compete with the busy surroundings. Examples of good treats are real meats: turkey, chicken, beef.
A word of caution: if you spend several weeks teaching your puppy to sit, and do not teach anything else, it will be difficult to get another behavior, because your dog is stuck on sit. You can use the exact instructions for sit, and use the same method to teach down.
Important note: Do not mix your puppy’s sits with his downs. Do ten to twenty sits. Then do ten to twenty downs. Occasionally do ten to twenty downs, followed by ten to twenty sits. You cannot mix them up until you have taught your pooch the cues.
Wait a minute. What about the cue, “sit”? Ah! Adding a cue to a known behavior (sit and down, you taught them both, right?) will be discussed next month .
Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed
DogS Gone Good
trainer @ dogSgonegood.com (remove the spaces to send an email)