When people start training their dogs, “sit” is usually where they start. It’s an easy basic. I've taught lots of dogs to sit! Then I got a retired racing greyhound.None of the usual methods worked; his back legs were pillars of unbending granite. No amount of luring or tricks would get him to fold those knees into a sit. He was, however, happy to do a down and learned that cue in minutes. Therefore, a solid “down” is the key to learning “sit” using this method. You are going to lure the dog up into a sit from a down.
Keep the sessions short and frequent. For this dog, sitting is awkward. Don’t drill him; training should be fun!
- Have handy lots of your dog's favorite treats, cut into small, bite-size pieces. It should be something special that he really, really wants.
- Put him in the down position on a rug so he'll be comfortable and have traction. He won't be able to push up on a slick floor.
- Hold the treat above his nose to lure his head into looking up. Position it so that he doesn’t move forward. If his back end comes up, quickly and calmly get him back down. Mark any upward movement of his front half with “Yes!” and reward. Don't say “sit” yet; just mark the desired behavior with an enthusiastic “Yes!” and give the treat.
- Release him after each partial sit, play with him a little, then reposition him in the down and try again. Soon he will be reaching, even getting his chest off the ground a little. Yes! Reward this! But no treat if the rear comes up. Any movement at all in the right direction should be lavishly rewarded.
- This is a good place to stop for a while. Remember, short, fun sessions.
- With the lure, encourage him to reach farther. With the front feet, he will start pushing himself up into a sit, little by little to reach the treat, because it's so delicious. Let him nibble the treat that is tightly gripped in your fist to guide him upward. Continue treating him and praising as long as he's moving up and keeping his rear on the ground. Reward lavishly every tiny bit he goes up, no matter how small.
- Two times is enough for each session, and scooting up even an inch is success. You might get lucky, but don't expect a full sit after the first lesson!
- Soon you should be luring him up to a pretty decent sit. Now you can start using the cue “Sit!” when he gets to the right position, praising and rewarding.
- Keep using the rug, even after your dog is pushing up right away. Practice the sit from a down, using the cue “sit,” until he has it down solid. He should be pushing up to a sit right away for the treat and can connect the position to the word.
- When he scoots right into a sit on cue without being lured, it’s time to try the sit from a stand. By this time he knows what the word means, and that he can indeed bend his knees, so let him know you have a treat and ask for the sit. Reward and let him know he’s the best dog in the world.
Once your dog gets the hang of it, move to different surfaces, such as grass, the sidewalk, the kitchen floor. Obviously there won’t always be a nice rug available. Be prepared with treats each time you try a new surface until he’s comfortable with it.
If it seems that this requires an awful lot of treats, just remember that sitting can be difficult for Greyhounds, other sight hounds with similar builds, and some adult dogs that have never learned to sit.
It isn’t painful; it’s just something that they haven’t been taught. You can use intermittent rewards and praise once your dog knows what to do. Congratulations! You’ve taught your dog to sit!
The AKC GoodDog! Helpline is a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by experienced dog trainers. Enroll today and get individualized advice for training your dog: www.akcgooddoghelpline.org