By Celebrity Dog Trainer, Joel Silverman
For all of you who have read my blogs, you know that I believe wholeheartedly in training dogs based on personalities. That philosophy is evident in one of the most basic behaviors of all, the SIT behavior. I have always used three different ways to teach the SIT behavior, and I get a lot of questions from dog owners asking which one is the right one. So I thought I would take some time and help you decide which way is the best for your dog. The truth is a number of pet owners never even knew there are three different ways to teach this very important behavior.
The first way is CAPTURING the behavior. When you are capturing a behavior, you are catching a dog doing something and simply putting it on “cue”. Some people call a cue a “marker”, but to make it easier I call it a cue. What might simply happen is that you may guide your dog with a treat up onto a chair or something elevated, and he might sit immediately once he gets up there. If this is something that happens consistently, each time you guide the dog up, say the word “sit”, and give some sort of visual cue as well. As you start doing this over and over, the dog becomes conditioned to taking those verbal and visual cues, and the behavior is trained.
The second way is teaching the behavior USING A TREAT. You can simply hold your dog on a leash with one hand, and put a treat over the dog’s head. You keep the dog on the leash so the dog does not jump for the treat. By very slowly moving the treat parallel to the ground toward your dog’s tail, in order for your dog to watch the treat without jumping, most of the time he has to sit. As you perform these actions, you will always say the word “sit”. Over the course of time you will get to the point where you will drop the leash and simply hold the treat over the dog’s head without moving it. The next step would be to remove the treat but pretend you are holding it still saying, “sit”. Once you get to this point, USING A TREAT trains the sit behavior.
The last way would be using GENTLE MANIPULATION. I would highly recommend the using a treat for most dogs, but there are some high-strung dogs that need to be trained without the use of treats. Treats can actually be a hindrance for some of these dogs because they can make them more out of control than they already are. The way you want to start is by placing your hand on the dog’s chest, and the other at the base of the tail. Reward your dog using a tactile reward (petting your dog) for simply letting you get your hands in these positions. This also gets you comfortable too. Once the dog accepts this, you can gently start rocking your dog backward into a sitting position always saying the word “sit” as you do so. Once the dog gets in this position, again reward your dog using a tactile reward. Over the course of time you are going to find that your dog begins to sit without you needing to rock him back as much. You are also going to find that you no longer need to keep your hand on his chest. After a few days you are going to find you will no longer need to touch your dog at the base of the tail, and now your dog is taking that cue.
Remember that the one thing that makes dog training so fun is that it changes from dog to dog. Take your time and try to find out which way to teach the sit behavior is best for your dog!