The first thing most people try to teach their dogs…The first place we go to (after “No!) when we run into trouble and the most misunderstood of all the commands…The “sit” command is seemingly the number one command that we attempt as amateur dog trainers and the command that owners often use to measure the level of their dog’s education…”and he has a really good “sit”!!
Let me start by saying that it is not very important to me that my own dog actually sits but his placement, attitude and attention when he does. I would like him quietly beside me, sitting, lying down or standing on his head, as long as he is quiet and well-behaved when he does it.
I need my dog to come when he is called, be quiet when told and pay attention to me when I ask him to. I like my dog to walk beside me on or off leash and wait for information about how to proceed with new situations. So you see, I have a lot of work to do before I ask him to place his butt on the ground. HOWEVER, in the interests of cultural requirements, I will bow to the general consensus that this is an important learning marker and talk today about HOW to make this happen!!
Of course, a quick article is not really going to provide all the information about this pretty tricky trick but lets go over some basics…
It is very important to set your dog up for success in this situation (or any new request). There are two basic starting sit positions – sit “side” and sit “fore”. The latter is the first sit that most owners show their dogs and is usually done in conjunction with a food reward. This is the “sit” we will talk about today.
You will start by taking your food in the right hand –(don’t use anything too rich like chicken or a hot dog, a small piece of biscuit will do) and show it to the dog without giving it up. Easier said than done sometimes, as dogs can be pretty quick about getting that delicious item into their mouths…Watch your fingers!! We are gradually going to line the dog’s body up in front of us, head towards you, body in a straight line, and gently lift your right hand until his head follows it up. This will encourage the front end of your dog to lift, dropping the back end down to the ground. This may not happen immediately. With every move in the right direction, encourage your dog with praise and allow your hand closer to his nose. Should he try to snatch the treat, CLOSE YOUR HAND. Try not to move your hand away quickly as this will encourage him to move towards it and his position will suffer. You can push the treat through your fingers and allow him to taste a little or give him small piece to allow him to see that there is more to come but do not give up the whole treat. If he moves out of position and starts to put himself sideways, reposition him. Don’t start to reward him in any old position or you will have to retrain him to assume the correct position later. I believe you will have an easier time training your dog if you start by asking exactly what you want from him. The first time his hind end hits the ground you will give him one, two or even three treats and tons of praise as the marker that he did the right thing. Then do it again 5 times and leave it at that!! Resume your next training session later that day. Try not to get boring but intersperse some of the other things you are teaching him in between. If your dog is uninterested in food, try a squeaky toy or ball but remember to line your dog up first, facing you and reward immediately when he gets it absolutely right. You may encourage and lure on the way down but the big payoff is when he achieves that final “sit” facing you with his eyes on you. AFTER you have managed to get him to comply, three or four times, you will start to add the word ”SIT” This method is called “layering” and assumes that if you add pieces of information slowly, they will be easier to absorb. Thereafter you will use the word “sit” in conjunction with your treat until you start to “phase out” your treats.
After he has successfully done this in the quiet of your kitchen, you will begin to add distractions…A different location, another person in the room, outside in the yard, at Tractor Supply, when your friends are visiting…This is called “proofing” and it will show you if your dog has truly learned this command. And yes, you will soon be asking for his compliance without the food lure so be clear and precise about what this word “SIT” means and then go practice it everywhere!!!
We will talk in the next article, about another useful command… “WAIT” which will set you both up for even better teamwork.
And I would love your opinions as to why the “sit” command is so important to us???
For more graphic and detailed information about the “sit” command and other obedience positions, contact goodladd for obedience class schedules.