How to Teach a Dog to Sit
Using Choice & Consequence To Train A Dog
Dogs don’t arrive into people’s homes understanding full sentences of English and having a built-in desire to do exactly what every member of the family wants them to do.
The is the kind of fiction that is reserved for animated cartoons and 2-hour Disney movies. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t have our happily ever after with our dogs.
It all comes down to recognizing and utilizing what your dog “values”. That is, what your dog LOVES more than anything else in the world. The BEST training does not employ physical or mental intimidation of a dog. Instead, the best training takes the value of what a dog loves most of all and transfers it into whatever it is you want your dog to do.
Dog Training Using Games Of Choice
It’s Your Choice (IYC) is a critical core foundation game because it sets the stage for teaching self-control over all future reinforcers (reinforcers = anything your dog likes or enjoys). It teaches our dogs that all things of value must be earned. The premise of the game is that the “work” is what earns the reward not just the presence of those rewards in the environment.
It’s Your Choice can be played with anything the dog finds reinforcing such as toys, people, other animals and environments (i.e., access to the couch or your yard). This game allows the dog the freedom to choose his own actions which may, through correct choices, earn the reinforcement he wants so badly. Choosing correctly earns the dog the reinforcement and teaches a strong foundation of self-control!
This approach is also less effort for you in the long run because YOU are no longer responsible for telling the dog words like “leave it!” or “aah aah” but rather THEY CONTROL THEMSELVES around things they love, waiting for the words “go see” or “get it” for great self-control choices. Our only job is to observe behavior and choices, and if an incorrect choice is made, YOU may need to control the reinforcement (not the dog), preventing access to the reinforcement should they make an incorrect choice.
How To Train A Dog To “Sit To Say Please”
1. Find something of great value to your dog (a few pieces of cheese, his favorite treat). Get comfortable.
2. Close your hand around the “treat” and hold it out so your dog can sniff your hand, lick your hand, nibble at your hand but NOT get the treat. Sit low enough that your hand will be below your dog’s head while he is standing/sitting. Anchor your arm on your knee to prevent movement.
3. Say nothing just open and close your hand in response to your dog’s choices. Wait for a choice from your dog!
4. Wait until he stops TRYING to get to the treat, and then you can give him a piece of it. The first session sets the understanding for your dog that “in order to get what you want you must first do what I want”!
5. Once your dog understands that waiting for you to give them the treat is what wins them a treat, they will soon decide to get comfortable and most probably take a seat. As soon as your dog does this, reward!
Congratulations, you’ve just trained your dog to sit by choice whenever they want something!
The IYC game starts out teaching your dog to make easy decisions. Building upon successes, you can grow this game into any form of distraction training. IYC should become part of your daily dog training routine.
Los Angeles dog trainer Alexandra Bassett is the owner and lead trainer at Dog Savvy Los Angeles, a dog & puppy training company that specializes in positive dog training and solving problem dog behavior like dog separation anxiety, leash reactivity, and aggression. She is certified as Knowledge Assessed by the Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA) and is available for online dog training sessions via Skype.