Does Your Dog REALLY know how to sit?
I’m about to say something that might catch you a bit off guard… maybe it’ll even offend you.
I don’t think your dog even knows how to sit!
I’m suggesting that not one in 50 people reading this blog post have a dog who REALLY knows how to sit.
How could I say this so confidently?
That almost every dog owner doesn’t even have enough control over their dog to know how to train a dog to sit?
Because I think dog owners don’t really understand what sit is.
Most owners think that if their dog sits most of the time he’s trained to sit… but they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here’s how to tell if your dog knows how to sit.
And if your dog can’t pass all these tests, I’ve got some tips for you at the end of this post that you can quickly start practicing on to help your dog know how to sit better.
Does your dog pass these 5 tests?
- You NEVER have to push down on his backside to get him to sit
- You only have to say “Sit” once
- He’ll sit for you when you have your back to him
- When you ask him to sit, he sits, NOT lays down
- He’ll sit at the front door when a new stranger comes over (if you ask him to)
If you’re like most people, you might have made it past the first or second test, but tests 3, 4, & 5 are where you started to fail.
You might be saying “So What! What’s the big deal about my dog not being a perfect sitter?”
And the answer is, A LOT!
You see, we all want an obedient dog right? A dog that will obey us in almost any situation. And we all hate it when it seems like our dog isn’t listening to us.
We call our dog stubborn, or untrainable. But is this really the problem.
What if I proposed to you, that if you have a dog who doesn’t listen to you all the time, maybe… just maybe you’ve been using ineffective training techniques that don’t REALLY help your dog comprehend what you’re asking.
And that if you would focus on teaching your dog to REALLY know just a few basic commands, his behavior would immedietly improve, and he’d become more manageable and well behaved.
How do you do this? And why do so many people get this wrong with their dogs?
Because they don’t know how to prevent what I call “Derailing Cooperation”.
You see, dog obedience training is about getting your dog to cooperate with you… and be on the same mental track your on. So that when you ask him to do things, you ask them to do things that are within his ability to cooperate.
When your dog cooperates, things run smoothly… like a train going down a track.
But the problem is that not all train tracks are straight and flat. They have turns, they go uphill, they go downhill and you have to manage the speed of the train to keep the train from derailing.
Teaching a dog to sit is like this.
When you’re working with your dog in your living room, with nobody else around, it’s like a train only going 5 miles an hour on a perfectly flat surface… it’s EASY to keep things in line and running smoothly.
But when you add distractions, doorbells, multiple kids running around, other dogs, and a postman at your front door, that’s like sending a train down the same kind of track I just finished watching Tom Hanks try to ride the Polar Express to the North Pole on… it’s a rough ride.
So you need to understand that EVERY behavior that you teach your dog, even something as simple as training a dog to sit, needs to involve a process of first teaching the dog how to do the behavior, and then increasing the distractions gradually until your dog can perform the behavior even in a chaotic environment.
Your dog’s ability to focus is very much like a muscle that you never work out.
You know how you feel when you finally go to the gym after not lifting weights for months…
You get SORE! Really sore.
But in that process of getting sore, your body rebuilds your muscles so they are strong enough to handle a bit heavier load. And if you keep doing this over and over again, you’re eventually able to handle VERY heavily loads with little fatigue.
Teaching your dog to focus is much the same way. I call this, “Building Your Dog’s FOCUS Muscles”, and you can start working on this today by doing these three things:
- Stop telling your dog to sit multiple times.If you find you’re always having to repeat your dog’s commands, guess what, he doesn’t know them. So start from square one.Get yourself some treats and a clicker, lock your dog in the same room with you, and wait for your dog to sit, click… and toss him a treat. Pretty soon, he should get the idea and start sitting a LOT.When he’s sitting reliable, start mixing in the cue, and then only click and reward when he actually sits. If he doesn’t do it the first time you ask, don’t treat, take a 5 second break and try again.
- Change it UP!Once your dog is sitting regularly while you sit there and watch him, take a seat… literally. Sit down on the ground and ask your dog to perform the same behavior, you might find he doesn’t perform as well, that’s OK, keep at it. Then try laying down on your back, turning around, and lots of different body positions, even being out of the room, until your dog is sitting every time you ask, no matter where you ask him from.
- Start Flexing His Focus MusclesWhen he’s sitting every time you ask, now it’s time to add some difficulty. Take him over to a friends house with kids you know he get’s along with. And practice the same routine, in this more distracting environment. Take him to a dog park and practice there too. After a week or two of this type of training your dog should be able to sit in even the most distracting, exciting environments.
He’ll be more under your control, and ready to focus on his next steps of training, because you’ve now trained him to listen to you in different environments… and that’s half the battle!