How to Teach “Sit”
©2010 Jerry D. Patillo
Phoenix Behavior Consulting
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Have a food treat in one hand, between your thumb and index finger. Make sure your palm is open and facing the ceiling. Hold it just in front of your dog’s face at nose level. Lift the treat slightly above your dog’s eye level. If you raise the treat too high, then your dog will have a tendency to jump up to get the treat. Push your hand away from you slightly over your dog’s head. When your dog looks up at the treat, it will probably put its butt on the floor to maintain balance. As soon as it sits, click! and then treat. Praise your dog warmly.
Don’t say your puppy’s name or the word “Sit” just yet. Just watch it follow the food lure. The click (or your “Yes!”) will tell your dog that putting its butt on the floor is what earned it the reward. The click will automatically release it from that behavior. So, you don’t really care what it does after the click (unless your puppy is jumping up or chewing on your shoe!). You can give the treat directly to your dog. Or, you can toss it on the floor a few inches away from your dog. This will get it out of the Sit position. This will give your pup another opportunity to practice the behavior again.
Once your puppy is sitting reliably 80% of the time, you can start issuing the cue, “Sit!” Think of it in terms of A, B, C — Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence:
A – Antecedent. This is the cue, prompt, or command that comes before the desired behavior. Call your dog’s name to get its attention, then tell it what you want it to do. “Rover, Sit!”
B – Behavior. With the treat in your hand, lure your dog into the desired position, in this case, “Sit!” The instant your dog’s butt hits the floor, click!
C – Consequence. AFTER you click, then give your dog a treat. The click is actually a “bridge” between the behavior and its consequence. It tells your dog (1) which behavior (2) earned your dog the reward.
Say the command only once; don’t repeat it over and over. You don’t want your dog to learn that this is the “Sit, sit, sit, sit, SIT!” command. And, you don’t want it to learn that “Sit, sit, sit, sit, SIT!” means “I can ignore Mommy and continue doing what I was doing.”
Say the command once. If your dog does not sit immediately, give it 45 seconds to respond. If it does not sit within those 45 seconds, then stop saying the word “Sit” for a while. Lure the dog into a Sit position ten more times without saying the word. Then try A-B-C again: (A) Say “Sit.” (B) Lure the dog into the Sit position and then click! (C) AFTER click, give your dog a really delicious treat. A little patience usually makes the light bulb go on in your dog’s head. The moment your dog’s behind hits the floor, click! AFTER you click, give your dog a treat.