Positive reinforcement training teaches your dog valuable life skills while actively strengthening your bond. When you take negativity out of the training process, your dog can develop a love for learning new tasks and abilities. After adopting a positive approach, you may notice your dog respond excitedly to the start of each training session and pick up new tricks in record time. To begin your shared journey into positive reinforcement training, use the following guide to teach your dog to sit.
1. Select a Training Location
To ensure you always have your dog’s full focus, choose a quiet, secluded area for your training sessions, and return to your selected training area each time you want to introduce a new behavior, cue or command word. Don’t venture out of this area to practice training until your dog has mastered the behavior and its associated cue.
2. Choose Your Reward
You must first identify the reward that most interests your dog to make training time fun and satisfying. Although treats are a popular choice, not all dogs are food motivated. You can also try a brief tug session with a favorite toy or a quick game of fetch. If you do choose a food reward, however, break up the treats into tiny, kibble-size pieces to avoid upsetting your dog’s appetite.
3. Select a Marker
You will need to use a marker to indicate the precise moment your dog performs the movement you seek. Consider using a clicker or quick verbal praise to mark the behavior for your dog. The mark acts as to clearly reinforce your dog’s behavior and prevents the training sessions from causing frustration or confusion.
4. Shape the Behavior
To teach your dog to sit, you must shape the behavior. You can either wait for your dog to offer the behavior or use a lure to elicit precise placement. Mark the behavior by giving praise or a click the second your dog’s bottom touches the ground; then, provide the reward of choice instantly, coupled with enthusiastic praise, for a job well done. Repeat three to five times before adding a cue, and always remember to keep the training sessions short to maintain your dog’s interest.
5. Add a Cue
You will need to select a cue to associate with the sit behavior; you can use “Sit” or another word you dream up, as long as you are consistent. To add the cue, simply say your selected word as your dog sits during shaping. Test your cue by saying the command, and see if your dog offers the right behavior. Everyone in the family will need to use the exact same cue to avoid confusing or frustrating your dog.
6. Fade Out the Reward
Practice in a variety of settings once your dog masters sitting on command in your quiet training area. As you practice, begin offering the chosen reward intermittently to help fade it out, and provide enthusiastic praise whenever you do not offer the reward. The intermittent reward will help strengthen the behavior and cue without the need for compensation each time.
7. Ignore Improper Behavior
Never correct your dog when a command is ignored or wrong behavior is offered. Even saying “No” or utilizing a slight leash pop can cause your dog to withdraw and stop offering behavior to avoid punishment. Simply remain patient and ignore the mistake completely. You may need to step back a few feet to encourage your dog to abandon the wrong behavior and reengage with the training session. If your dog continues acting aloof, disengaged or confused, you may want to end the training session and start anew another time.
You can use this same positive training method to teach your dog any behavior under the sun. Make sure to remain positive and consistent to help your dog enjoy learning new behaviors and commands.