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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday's Training TIP: SIT

Your puppy is never too young to start learning how to "SIT" on command.  One of the best times to introduce "SIT" is at meal times.  You will be amazed at how quickly your puppy learns to drop his/her little butt down to the floor when food is involved!

  • Begin at mealtimes, the first day you bring your puppy home!  Holding a "SIT" before eating not only teaches your puppy to "SIT" on command, but establishes your LEADERSHIP immediately.
    •  Hold your puppy's bowl full of food just above his/her head and say, "SIT."  This motion alone sometimes causes your puppy's rear end to drop.  If not, slide your other hand along his/her back (never push down on your puppy's back), tucking his/her tail under to encourage the move to a "SIT."  (You might be able to handle this by yourself, but it is easier if someone assists with the food bowl.)
    • Set the bowl down a distance away.  If your puppy pops up, pick up the bowl and start over.  At first, hold your puppy's collar to prevent him/her from bolting to the food.
    • If your puppy doesn't pop up, say "OK" and let him/her go to the food.  Praise.
    • Be patient.  It might take several days before your puppy starts to understand the connection--"Oh, I have to hold my sit and wait for the 'ok' before I can eat!"
    • As your puppy starts to understand, use less physical prompting.
    • Gradually lengthen the time he/she waits.
  • Intersperse "SIT" training lessons throughout the day.  Use your hand over your puppy's head as a prompt at first.  Reward the "SIT" with a treat, but be careful not to "lure" with the treat--give the treat from your other hand.
  • Gradually wean your puppy off of treats, but always reward with verbal praise.  Give physical praise when your puppy "SITS" for the first time on his/her own.  If your puppy is rambunctious and tends to over-respond to physical praise, refrain from petting and use lower-keyed verbal praise only.


I started helping FLD Mike "SIT" for his food the very first day he came home from Leader Dogs for the Blind.  He was seven weeks old.

As with any training, timing of praise is crucial.  In the beginning, if Mike "sat" for even one second, I would quickly say "OK" to release him to eat.  Gradually, he held his "SIT" longer and longer.  I added the command "WAIT" while I put kibble into his bowl; Mike learned to remain in his "SIT" until released with "OK."

VIDEO "Mike. SIT."

Here is a short video of FLD Mike sitting on command at just over 11 weeks of age.  It is evident that he knows the command--there are distractions around him (it was our family's annual "cookie bake") and he returned to a "SIT" from a "DOWN."  Later, Mike held his "SIT" for his dinner.

If you watch closely, you might notice that Mike anticipated my "DOWN" command (a fairly new command for him).  This is a sign of "programming." (See " Definitions.")  I had been working on "DOWN" after sitting, so although Mike was starting to learn "DOWN," he was more likely learning the "routine" of Mike, SIT.  Mike, DOWN.  I needed to alternate commands as I continued to work with him:

Mike, SIT.  OK!

Mike, DOWN.  OK!

Mike, SIT.  Mike, DOWN.  OK!


VIDEO "Mike. Name Recognition, SIT."

This second video takes place three days later, after I concentrated on mixing up the commands.  (I started with "NAME RECOGNITION.")  You can see that FLD Mike is not "programming" any longer, but he doesn't fully understand the release, "OK."

My "OK" here was too quiet; you can tell by Mike's tip of his head that he knows I want him to do something, he's just not sure what.  When your puppy first starts to learn the "OK" release, make it a "party!"  

Can you identify the one other thing I did wrong in this video?  


Answer tomorrow....  

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