(adoptable Bonnie, learns sit. Thanks LoveMeDo Photography)
We teach our children to say “please” and yet we don’t seem to mind our dogs nudging us with their noses for a bit of attention. Furthermore, what we don’t foresee is that what may start as a gentle nudge may well develop into more demanding behaviors.
Consider a sit to be your dog’s way of saying “please.” When approaching him in his crate, wait for him to sit before letting him out. When delivering a treat, a sit would be nice. Before inviting him onto the couch… yup, you guessed it!… wait for a sit. Before you know it, he’ll be offering this behavior with greater frequency. And it’s a great alternative behavior to the pushier ones like jumping up and demand barking.
Lure the “sit” by holding a treat in your up-turned palm above your dog’s nose and moving it back over his head, effectively placing his butt on the floor. When he’s doing this with fluency, fake the lure in the hand, signaling with the same up-turned palm, and treat from the other hand. When you’d bet your life that, when you make that gesture, he’ll sit, start putting the word “sit” before the hand signal. The word becomes the predictor that the “sit” hand signal will follow and will eventually elicit the behavior with only the word. And ultimately you want the cue to elicit the behavior in every situation and from every position, so practice cuing in the house, outside on the porch, on a walk, while you’re standing and while seated in a chair, etc.
Laura Garber, CPDT-KA
Behavior Manager, Pennsylvania SPCA
Laura believes strongly in strengthening the bond between human and companion animal. For this reason, she regards training as an exercise in building relationship rather than obedience. Such an approach promises greater understanding and symbiosis within our family packs.