Once you have established that your puppy/dog will sit in front or next to you on command, the next stage is to increase the amount of time that your puppy/dog will remain sitting.
A few pointers.
- You are the reward and source of praise, not the treat which is just a lure and motivator if required. Praise is; looking at, touching, under the chin or top the chest, not over your pup’s/dog’s head, (they don’t like to lose eye contact as happens when your reach over or to the top of a pup’s/dog’s head) and talking to your puppy/dog, i.e. “Good sit, (emphasis on the sit), thank you. Praise should be done quietly and calmly so that you keep your puppy/dog relaxed and ready to try another exercise if required.
- Be careful not to use a reward trigger word such as, “Good boy/girl”, in the middle of the exercise, this usually means, “Ah the end, I can move” to a puppy/dog.
- Use a finish word that alerts your puppy/dog to the end of the exercise, “go play”, or “finish”, are good choices, as they do not confuse the use of any other words in other commands.
- Use your peripheral vision, if needed, so you don’t encourage your puppy/dog to move, eye contact is a very powerful part of reward and it is enough to trigger some puppies/dogs out of the sit.
- Keep any treats that you will need to use initially as part of the treat/praise-reward method out of your pup’s/dog’s reach.
- Do not expect too much too soon, try 2, 3, 5 seconds, then aim for 10 etc. As you increase the degree of difficulty, re-introduce a treat if needed.
- Vary the hand that your give the treat from and that your contact praise with, so that your puppy/dog doesn’t target a particular hand in anticipation.
If your puppy/dog is likely to wander, put it on a lead and stand on the end of it, so that you have both hands free.
With a few treats in your hand, tell your puppy/dog to sit and treat/praise when it does. Ensure than your puppy/dog is sitting looking straight up at you, not positioned across you and that it is in the sit when you give the treat. If your puppy/dog jumps up out of the sit to take the treat when you’re moving it towards your puppy/dog, move your hand back to your start position, calmly, not jerking it away, (this will only encourage your puppy/dog to snap for the treat), then wait for your puppy/dog to sit, try again, keep repeating until your puppy/dog remains in the sit to receive the treat and your calm sincere praise.
Once your puppy/dog will do this consistently on command, put the treat to your pup’s/dog’s nose and then move your hand to your waist, or higher on your chest depending on the size of your puppy/dog, remain still, watch your puppy/dog and wait for it to work out that you want it sit. Hopefully your puppy/dog will think, “Hmmm, how do I get that treat”, will pause and sit, then that’s your jackpot moment, treat and praise as above.
You are now teaching your puppy/dog to sit in front/next to you without being given a command to do. It is essential that when you have worked with your puppy/dog on an exercise such as this, that you acknowledge the times when your puppy/dog comes and sits next to, or in front of you in anticipation, that you will say, “Good boy/girl”. If you don’t do this, your pup/dog will be confused and start to stop doing it.
When your puppy/dog is consistently sitting in front of you using the method above, start to increase the time that your puppy/dog sits until you treat/praise. Be realistic, start with a few seconds, building up to longer. Use a treat to reinforce the correct behaviour with your praise, removing the treat when your puppy/dog fully understands your expectations.
Once your puppy/dog is consistently sitting in front of you, ask other members of your family and/or friends to try this exercise, so that your puppy/dog learns to sit in front of anyone standing in front or next to him/her.
Progressing this exercise.
When your puppy/dog is sitting in front of you without moving and it shows no sign of doing so or you needing to stand on the lead, start to increase the degree of the challenge by moving your feet up and down, on the spot.
The mistake that some people make at this stage is to move about too much, which encourages the puppy/dog to move. This is completely new to most puppies/dogs so don’t rush through the stages. Before you move your feet, remind your puppy/dog of what it should be doing, “Sit”, so that it doesn’t assume that you and it are going to walk.
Each time you do this exercise you should finish by standing in front of or to the side your puppy/dog, do not call it to you, if only from a few feet away, that is not the point of this exercise.
- Start with moving your feet up and down on the spot, slowly and calmly.
- Move your feet from side to side.
- Speed up the up, downs and side to sides.
- Move half a pace backwards with one foot, move that foot back, and then try it with the other foot.
- Try stepping forward and back with both feet.
- Mix it with up, down, side to side, backwards and forwards.
- Move further back and in an arc in front of your puppy/dog.
- Eventually try stepping back and walking around your puppy/dog. Be aware that when your walk behind your puppy/dog, it is the vulnerable moment and it is likely to move, so as you move around, put in another, “Sit” reminder.