Whenever we teach a new behaviour we need to break the activity down into very small steps. This way we can set our dogs up for success, make training a positive experience and create good associations. Spending time training your dog will increase the bond you share, improve their confidence and it will show you just how clever your dog is. We are going to start at the very beginning with a sit.
Using food as a reward, break or cut treats into small pieces. This will help keep momentum going and your dog isn't going to get too full too fast.
With your dog in front of you, hold a treat in your hand between your thumb and fingers, place it on the dog's nose, slowly pushing the treat backwards and slightly upwards so that their bum touches the floor. If it only goes part of the way down that’s OK, you can build up to a full sit in small steps.
If the dog loses balance the treat has been pushed too far.
If they jump up, the treat needs to be lower and level with their nose.
If you have a small dog try not to loom over them.
When they are in the position you want, you are going to mark that with the word “yes”. This word will let the dog know what they have done is exactly what you want. Reward with a treat and at this stage you can tell them how good they are. Do this a few times so the dog gets the idea of what you’re asking for.
Keeping your hand and fingers in the same position as before but without a treat, lure the dog in the same way. As they touch the floor say your marker word “yes” and take a treat from somewhere else, this could be from your other hand or a treat pouch, reward. Repeat this a few times.
Now you can exaggerate the hand movement you have been using by lifting it higher and opening it flat. When the dog responds, say “yes” and reward. When your dog is responding every time to the hand signal, you can pair it with a vocal cue.
Do this by saying the word “sit” just before your hand signal.
Your dog will soon start to associate that word with the movement of sitting. You will know when your dog has got it because they will sit before you have time to add the hand signal. If you add the vocal cue too soon i.e. sit, your dog may think you only want them to hover on the floor.
Don’t rush to name things, wait until you are happy with what your dog is offering then train your new cue.
These principles apply when teaching your dog many new behaviours.
- Step 1- lure with food
- Step 2- lure without food
- Step 3- use hand signals or body language
- Step 4- add a verbal cue
Our goal is to stop using food as a lure as soon as possible. We want the dog to start using his brain and not just be following a sausage. Teaching a new behaviour takes time. Training a dog to sit could take 5 minutes or 3 weeks. It all depends on your individual dog's physical ability and health. Watch their body language, some postures may be uncomfortable or painful.
*Always seek advice from your vet if you think your dog may be in pain*