The aim, the first time you try this, is really just to get your dog to make the connection between them sitting and getting a reward. That’s it. You’ll eventually want them to sit when you ask them to, of course, so we’ll also start working on them understanding the connection between the word sit and them sitting and getting a reward.
The vocal command we use is simply sit. It is not sit down, that’s two commands, sit and down (lay down) it’s sit, just sit. You’ll get fed up of hearing yourself saying it but remember every time you want them to sit you must help them make the connection by saying the word.
For some training I keep Hugo and Holly together but for anything new you should definitely give them time separately. You need to be able to reward them instantly and with 2 dogs at the same time that’s quite difficult!
Once you’ve decided on a space in your home or garden where you’d like to train, put your treat bag on and let your dog see you doing this. I usually give them a treat or two to let them know what’s in the bag (as if they didn’t know already!) then they’ll be eager to follow you where ever you go because hey, you have food!
Now, following on from part 1, with treat bag and treats at the ready, it’s time to test this out!
- Get down to your dogs level, kneel or crouch if you have a small dog,
- take a treat from the bag and hold it close to their nose (so they can smell the reward but not eat it) and slowly move your hand (and the treat) upwards.
- As their head moves up, following the treat, their body should naturally go into the sit position and as soon as their bottom hits the floor say the word sit and give them the reward. This needs to be an IMMEDIATE response to them sitting, they need to connect bottom on floor with the word sit and also with the reward! Bottom on floor = Sit = Reward. Also they may not actually sit for more than a second or two the first few times you try so you really do have to get in their quickly and while they’re actually sitting!
They may not sit when you just say the word yet but right from the start use vocal commands and they’ll pick it up eventually!
Repeat this exercise over and over for about 10 minutes or until the dog gets bored if that’s sooner, then try again the next day and the next day. Remember be sure to reward immediately the command is met and if they do not sit, they do not get the reward! Throw in ‘good boy’ or ‘good girlie’ praise, be enthusiastic and animated and you should see improvement quickly.
Eventually they will know you want them to sit when you kneel in front of them and produce the treat, and when they do, you can switch it up a bit! Instead of kneeling, you can stand, and instead of holding the treat right under their nose, you can hold it a little further away. For a small dog you may need to lean in until they get the hang of you being further away though! This is where you can start using hand commands too! For sit I use a short upward flick of the index finger.
Hugo got the hang of the hand commands long before he understood the word sit but be sure to continue saying the word as you use the new hand commands to make it easier later on!
Remember that you should both be enjoying this training so if you’re not in the right mood or you’re simply too busy to fit a decent session in then save it for another day.
If you find you really love obedience training at home and you’re keen to learn more then you might want to take a look at this book from Amazon. It takes you through everything from basics such as sit, down and fetch to more impressive training like high fives and tidying up their own toys!
Good luck! Let me know how you get on in the comments below!