Michael is an avid pet-lover and content writer on topical themes related to dog care, training and behavioral development.
Why All Dogs Require This Training
Training your dog to sit on command is a fundamental behavioral lesson that should precede other forms of instructional training including learning to ‘stay’ or ‘come’. Actually, the latter two should be introduced only after the dog has had days of practicing and mastering the sitting command to the level where it flawlessly obeys without your intervention.
The sitting command has tremendous advantages for both pet and owner. There are many situations where this comes in useful, for example, if the dog is doing something that is reckless or dangerous. The command immediately puts an end to the behavior gives you an opportunity to correct the situation. if the dog is untrained in this way, it will continue misbehaving irrespective of whether its actions are injurious to itself or to others.
Despite how long you have been acquainted with a dog, it is not always possible to predict how it may behave in a given situation much less what its thoughts are. At the same time, dogs have a keen sense of smell thousands of times more sensitive than humans. This gives them acute awareness of what is going on in the environment and will tend to react to things before a human has even grasped the situation.
You may be out walking with your dog peacefully and then suddenly, something in the air causes such excitement that it forgets about your presence and rushes off on its own volition. It could break away from you to go investigate, or if you have on a leash, drag you off with it. Sudden, unexpected actions of the dog can be quite risky if, for example, they were to take place in the wrong setting, like darting off into a busy intersection or confronting a larger animal.
There are other times when you cannot physically supervise or control your dog, for example, if you are busily working on an engaging project at home or carrying heavy items. The dog could be running amok through the house, creating a mess on the floor, ruining furniture, or escaping into the street through an open door.
Alternatively, it may be that the dog has a tendency of jumping on people and decides to so employ itself when that special, well-dressed visitor arrives at your house. Or, it may just be that you are keeping a pack of dogs and cannot control them all at once.
These and many other instances can be easily and quickly managed if the dog is well trained to obey the sitting command. The good news is that this process does not require hiring a professional trainer as you can simply do it at home.
The objective of this training is simple. Assisting the dog to associate the sit command with the action of putting its hindquarters on the ground. There are two essential characteristics that can be used to work to your advantage during this training. One is the natural tendency of our canine companions to please their owners and the other is that they typically retain rewarded behaviors.
Preparations for the Training
1. Understand the Process
Before embarking on any type of dog training, it is always essential to first understand the way dogs process situations and receive instructions. The fact that a dog has done something commendable does not necessarily mean that the action will be retained or that it will become a part of its behavior.
The actions that a dog will learn to repeat are actions that result in them getting what they want. Therefore to properly train your dog, you need to incentivize it correctly, establish a clear connection between the behavior and the reward, and use the system to continuously improve its development.
2. Consider the Attention Span
Without previous training, a dog will have an attention span of between one and two minutes. In order to maximize on this attention span and improve it, the area where the training is to be conducted needs to be free from all distractions.
Activities, noises, movements and smells can disrupt concentration such that a dog is unable to retain lessons learned or even the memory of acquired skills for future reference.
3. Assess Your Pet’s Overall Condition
You also need to take into account the energy levels of the dog. Has it been well-fed? Are there any biological issues that could complicate or prolong the training process unnecessarily?
What mood is the dog in? If it is an excitable or agitated state, then it should be engaged in an activity that moderates its disposition before the training begins. To avoid interferences and delays, it is best to conduct the training when the dog is in a relaxed and calm mood.
4. Mind Your Own Disposition
As the trainer, you need to be in the right mindset and the right mood prior to starting the training. Trying to do the training when you are under pressure or stress will complicate the process for both of you and your pet.
You need to be fresh, invigorated and settled. Allow your mind to let go of the week’s challenges. If you have just arrived home from an exhausting day at work, rest first or postpone the training to a more suitable day.
A dog can sense when you are angry or frustrated. If, during the course of the training, you feel fatigue or disappointment taking over, simply take a break and resume the session later.
1. Using a Clicker
The key to using a clicker is to train your dog to the point where it associates the sound with a treat or praise. Once this association is established, you can train your dog to obey any instructions.
For the sitting command, ensure that you only click and provide the treat after the dog’s hindquarters rest on the ground. In case you click accidentally, remember to give the dog a treat immediately.
The advantage of using a clicker is that it is a neutral sound devoid of any subjective distractions such as human intonations. For best results, the treat and clicker need to be hidden from view, for example by holding them behind your back or in your pocket.
2. Using a Hand Gesture
Another method is to train the dog using both the command and a hand gesture simultaneously. Determine the form of hand gesture suitable for your sitting command and ensure that the dog’s attention is fixed on you each time you use it.
Immediately the dog obeys and sits, hand over the treat. Next, begin to instruct it the same way, but this time without using any treat. Once this has been mastered, you can now train your dog by using your voice command alone, without the use of the hand gesture.
Once this level of learning has been achieved, begin to spontaneously pick moments during the course of the day where you practice the command with neither the hand gesture nor the treat.
3. Using a Lure
Luring is the process by which you deliberately coax the dog into a sitting position by raising a lure over its head. The idea is to pass the treat above it so that its eyes follow this backward movement of your hand, automatically bringing it to a sitting position.
When it does so, issue the command ‘Sit’, then release the treat and compliment the dog when its hindquarters come into contact with the ground. Take care when using this method not to put too much distance between the hand holding the treat and the dog’s head. This will prevent it from leaping up to snatch the treat out of your hand.
The key is to ensure that you use the lure if the dog does not respond to your command directly, if the previously mentioned training methods fail, or if the dog takes to a different position, like lying down instead. Once the dog has mastered the use of the lure, you can replace it with just the hand signal and the voice command.
Once you have established the association, keep repeating it several times over the course of a few days until it becomes second nature to the dog. After your dog has learned how to sit on command, you need to apply the training in different locations and in varying circumstances.
This process is what is known as proofing. Proofing is a way of guaranteeing that the dog will be able to respond to your instruction correctly, irrespective of the context. Changing the time and setting is crucial. Practice the lesson with the dog in different rooms at different times and eventually outside in the garden or in the backyard.
The final stage of the training is to move to an open area with a high level of distraction. This could be a public park, a dog park, or other frequented venues. If the dog does not immediately respond as well as it did indoors, don’t be discouraged but instead repeat the process from the start. When it is able to obey the sitting command in an environment with the highest level of distraction you can find, you will have succeeded in your quest.
5. Essential Points to Consider
1. Exercise Moderation
Bear in mind that training can be exhausting for the dog, so you need to allow for sufficient rest periods, especially if you find that the dog is not catching on too well or heeding your instructions promptly.
The key is to ensure that you do not train the dog continuously over an extended period of time. Instead, keep in mind the limited attention span dogs have and make each session brief, allowing for breaks in between. Also, progress through this training in stages, without trying to introduce everything all at once, as this may only serve to confuse the pet.
2. Avoid Compulsion
Some owners try to train their dogs to sit by pushing down their rump or to compel them in other ways. However, it is always best to allow your dog to exercise its own volition without feeling coerced.
Rather than forcing the dog to do your bidding, allow it the freedom to learn the lessons at its own pace. Only then will it actually own the skill and the latter will become part of its nature.
3. Use Affirmative Reinforcement
Remember that you do not have to limit yourself to using treats as a means of rewarding your dog. Favorite toys, playtime, petting, verbal praise, or any combination of the above can be just as effective.
On the other hand, don’t punish the dog when something goes wrong, since this will be negative reinforcement which is counterproductive to the process. If you find the dog is not catching on, there could be other reasons for it. One could be the motivational appeal of the reward. So test the incentives you have available and see which ones are most effective for the training.
If the dog fails to sit after you have issued the command, remove the treat from your pocket or from behind your back and hold it before the dog. But instead of giving the dog the treat, replace it in your pocket or retain it in your hand and move away. In this way, the dog will begin to recognize to distinguish between the effects of its behavior.
4. Refrain From Overfeeding
Giving your dog treats as a way of reinforcing desired behavior is perhaps the most commonly used method and a lot of trainers stick to it. But as stated before, not all dogs respond to snacks the same way.
If you decide to use treats for training, ensure that you comparatively reduce the daily portions of food that the dog receives so that there is a balance and your dog is not overfed. As this training is based on repetition, there will be several sessions, so you need to be conscious of how much ingestion is taking place and organize the diet appropriately.
5. Control Movement
Your dog’s movement during the training needs to be managed properly. Bear in mind that it would be best to do this training without using a leash. There are two reasons for this.
First, a leash can become a distraction, interfering with the dog’s attentiveness. Second, you may inadvertently apply tension on the leash during a training session, thereby restricting the dog’s freedom of movement. If you must use the leash (especially during the final proofing stages while practicing in busy environments), ensure it is completely slack.
It may be that when luring, the dog fails to sit but instead moves backwards in the effort to follow your hand. If this happens, change the location of the training to a place with a wall or other fixed obstacle behind it. This will limit the dog’s space when you move your hand and it will adopt a sitting posture instead of retreating away from you.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.