Does your dog sit the moment you give the command? If you struggle with this or any other command, and hardly ever get a rapid response, you are not alone. Thousands of homes deal with this same problem of an inconsistent response to a command.
Arlene Patrick of Corona knows all too well how challenging it can be to get her terrier mix to do anything on command. “She is hit or miss with following directions. Even if I have a treat in my hand, the first thing she does when I say “sit” is jump for the treat.” Arlene’s frustration continues on walks as well. “She doesn’t listen for squat on walks. I always have to push her butt down if I want her to sit in public. If I have a treat on the walk, she might humor me with a sit but never on the first request.”
Correcting these bad habits takes time but believe me, the time is always worth it. Set aside a time to practice learning (or re-learning) commands like “Sit”. Keep the sessions short (10-15 mins.) and make it a positive experience (happy tones and rewards). Rewards can consist of treats, toys, praise, or even a game. Whatever motivates your pup to work and keep working is a good tool. If you are using treats as a reward, be inconsistent with the rewards and don’t give a treat for every correct action. Using an irregular reward disbursement schedule will force your dog to pay attention instead of anticipating your next move. And lastly, remember that all dogs learn at a different pace. Have patience and don’t give up. No dog is too old to learn new tricks.
Learning (or re-learning) Sit
- Hold a reward in your hand and place it near your dog’s nose to let her know you have a treat.
- Slowly move your hand (with the reward) over your dog’s head, causing your dog to look up while her back end goes down. *For dogs that back up instead of sit, try moving your hand more slowly and/or gently put pressure on her back end until her bum touches the floor. This may take a lot of practice and a lot of patience before your dog performs a successful sit on her own.
- Right when your dog’s bum touches the ground, reward her and say “good sit”, simultaneously. (Replace “sit” with whatever command you choose, but be consistent or you will confuse your dog.)
- Release the dog from the sit position with a word of your choice, such as “release”, “go play”, or “carry on”. Again, it’s not about the word you use, it’s about using the same word each time.
- For stubborn dogs, repeat steps 1 – 4 a few more times until your dog becomes familiar with the idea of sitting on command and you no longer need to apply pressure to her back end.
- Clearly say your dog’s name and the “sit” command when you hold out your reward. (Example: treat in hand just above the dog’s nose, “Maui, Sit”.)
- Repeat steps 3 – 4.
Mastering the Command:
Once your pup has the “sit” command down, switch things up by:
- Going in the back yard and front yard to practice
- Interrupting walks with unpredictable sits
- Interrupting play and public outings with sits
As your pup gets better at sitting on command you can test her ability to follow directions by giving her distractions; Children playing, other animals, toys, etc. The more distractions she can resist the better. Happy Training!