Terrific Tip Tuesday- How to train a solid sit

Abby and I

Abby and I

A simple obedience exercise right? I mean every dog knows how to sit, all they do is put their butt on the ground…..right????

Well i guess it depends what type of sit you want, for my Fugly the pug all i wanted was him to sit when given a hand or voice command so that he could pass his CGC and Therapy certifications. Now the girls need to have fast sits, and from any distance away from me for safety reasons. Soren on the other hand has to have a perfect square sit, not rolled back onto his hips, not sloppy in any way, and it needs to be immediate and even while in motion.

So i guess the first step in a solid sit is to think about what we want, and have a plan.

One of the first questions i ask my clients is “what do you want to achieve?” For the sake of this post we will be going over how to train a reliable sit for a pet dog. Knowing this allows us to outline our plan, we want Fido to sit the first time, every time, in all situations we ask him like we want any dog to do so we can keep clear communication with him. We do not care if he rolls onto his hip or if he does it while we are walking or while out working, we just want a solid sit!

So know our thinking is out of the way we can continue with a small outline of a plan and then get started.

We will start with 4 short 5 minute sessions a day. With a bag full of hot dogs we will lure the nose up so the butt hits the ground, feeding as soon as its on the floor.

Once he has mastered this, and is offering it or performing it as soon as the cue (the hand getting the hot dog usually ends up being the cue) happens, we will  begin to pair the word “sit” with it while his butt is dropping to the ground

now depending on the dog, this will occur quickly or slower, dogs with a good reward system and moderate or high food drive will breeze through this.

Once he understands the new cue (the word sit) coincides with his butt hitting the ground, we will stop reaching for the food, give the command sit and mark (with a yes or a clicker) as soon as he sits, then reaching for the treat to reward. THIS IS THE HARDEST PART. Almost everyone inadvertently reaches for the food first or in the middle, instead of waiting till the behavior has occurred and you have marked it. This little mistake is HUGE in the learning of the dog.

If Fido doesn’t sit upon the first command, you ignore, move a few feet away re engage him and re command again in a new trial. This why he never learns to wait for your second, third or fourth command! He only gets his reward if he listens the FIRST time.

Once he is reliably performing the command in your training area you can take it on the road and add little distractions, and other environments so he can begin to generalize! (I see reliably as 4 out of 5 commands correct the first time, then i will begin to push forward, if i encounter a session where he does 1 or 2 out of 5 then i drop back again so he fully understands before challenging him to much)

And yes, all that work is just for one sit command. Training dogs is not simple and quick, it requires time, patience, and consistency!

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