Back to Basics: Teaching Sit in the Best Way Possible
So I admit, once again, that I forget how difficult it is for new people to understand the canine “gap” when they haven’t had one in a long time or have never had one.
I suppose it is not common knowledge to everyone, and once again I take for granted my 20+ years of training and knowledge when it comes to dogs.
I think, NO, no, I KNOW I understand dogs much better than I understand people.
So I “sing the song of my people” by writing articles and trying to help people understand more on canine learning and theory and even the basics.
Because after all, everyone has to start somewhere!
So recently I had a question on the “Sit” command and I realized I have never specifically written an article on “Sit”!
- And even advanced training like eye contact and focus have become the center of my writing in the past.
But I have neglected “Sit”!
So here we go! A back to basics look at the sit command.
Traditionally, way back “in the day” the sit command was taught but pushing on the dog’s rump and forcing it to the ground.
Why That is Not the Best Way
The problem with this kind of training is that it relies on you to physically manipulate the dog.
The command is given and the dog waits for you to do your part, the pushing.
Most dogs get tired of being forced and eventually learn to sit on command (so you don’t push) but these dogs typically wait for the command and aren’t as reliable.
I don’t care to force my dog to do anything as I don’t think the behavior reliability and understanding is as strong.
Now a days, most people lure the dog into the behavior.
They use a treat, put the treat to the nose of the dog and lift the treat up slowly.
The rump usually hits the ground as the treat goes up; then you can click and reward the dog.
The dog learns that sitting is rewarding.
And, although this way isn’t AS strong for teaching the dog to sit, it is pretty close!
I say it isn’t as strong because it still relies on YOU doing something to get the desired behavior.
Capturing is waiting for the desired behavior to naturally occur.
For this, I simply wait for my dog to sit (on his own) click and reward.
The dog learns that HIS action of sitting is desired and therefore chooses to “sit” more often in hopes of being rewarded.
This doesn’t require a human to make the desired behavior happen; however it is difficult for most people to be patient enough just to wait for a behavior to be shown.
And, finally there is the old classic, make your puppy sit for the food bowl.
You take your puppy, or your dog’s food, put it in a bowl and wait for him to sit.
As he sits, you begin to lower to bowl.
In most cases as the bowl lowers the rump lifts (and wags), so at that moment the bowl then begins to go up again.
The puppy or dog learns, that in order to get fed, he has to sit and wait patiently for his food to be placed on the ground.
This gives you both the sit and a bit of a make shift stay (which can be extended in time).
Personally I like doing a combination of luring or capturing and wait for the bowl because it teaches some patience.
I like the “two birds with one stone” aspect of sitting and waiting for you meal. I also like to train and interact with my dogs for their dinner, instead of making them just eat from a sterile bowl.
I like social dinners and I know my dogs do too! They actually eat more and quicker when we are working for their dinner!
So there you have it folks, the quick and dirty on the sit command!
Get out there, get training and as always have fun!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.