Dog Training

Basic Dog Training: Sit and Down

It’s probable that “Sit,” “Down,” “Wait,” and “Let’s Go” were the first things you taught your dog—even if you used different cue words—but it’s good to build them into your routine along with games or tricks. It is better to make sure that your pet stays responsive and reacts promptly to key commands instead of moving on to other exercises at the expense of the basics.

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?


Lure your pet into the correct sit position by moving the treat so that he is fully
sitting, then repeat, using the cue word, and treat him when he responds to it. If
you follow the steps, gradually the cue word becomes the call to action, and the
treat he gets becomes a reward instead of a lure. When your dog is reliably responding to the “Sit” cue, move on to “Down.”

SIT

  1. Stand in front of your pet, facing him.
  2. Take a treat in your hand and hold it slightly over his head so that he moves his head back to look at it. As he does this, his hindquarters will automatically move down.
  3. Continue to move the treat up and back until your dog is sitting.
  4. As soon as he’s in a full sit, say “Sit,” then give him the treat. As usual, timing is key—make sure that you say “Sit” as he’s in the act of sitting, not just as he’s getting back up again.
  5. Repeat a few times, then pick up a treat and wait. Your dog will be paying attention (you’re the one with the treats) and will figure out that you want him to sit. As he sits, say “Sit” and give him the treat. Let him figure it out and take his time, if necessary. Practice without luring—don’t show your dog the treat,but have them on hand, and when he sits, say “Sit” and treat him.
  6. Next, start asking him to “Sit”—and reward him as he does. The treat has turned into the reward for sitting instead of the inducement to sit.
  7. When he’s reliably sitting every time he’s asked, practice in different situations and in places where there are distractions—in fact, everywhere you go with him. Gradually reduce the number of treats; give one every so often, but not every time

DOWN
“Down” is usually slightly harder to teach than “Sit,” so practice when you’re
feeling patient. You may have to wait it out until your dog gets the message that pawing at your hand to get the treat isn’t the behavior you’re after. Note: Some breeds—in particular, sighthounds such as Whippets or Greyhounds—find the physical transition from “Sit” into “Down” awkward and will usually find it easier to go into “Down” from a standing position.

  1. It’s easiest to teach “Down” on the dog’s level, so kneel down in front of him before you start.
  2. Ask him to “Sit,” and treat him when he obliges (although see the note above about sighthounds, in which case, start by getting his attention on the treat, then go straight to teaching the “Down” command).
  3. Take another treat in your hand, making sure your dog sees it, and move your hand down to the floor in front of him. Keep the treat closed within your hand so that he can’t just pester you for the treat without lying down. As he stretches forward to reach it, pull it a little farther away and wait. He may keep trying
    to get the treat out of your hand for a while, so be prepared to be patient.
  4. Eventually, he’ll lie down. As soon as he’s lying down, say “Down” and give him the treat.
  5. Repeat until he is reliably going into a “Down” when you ask and treat; then, as with the “Sit” cue,gradually convert the bribe into a reward by using the cue word and treating when the action is completed.
  6. When he’s got “Down” mastered without distractions, practice the command when you’re out and about and there’s more going on. Reduce the rewards until he goes into a “Down” directly on request.

WHAT HE LEARNS

To sit and lie down on command.

WHY IT’S USEFUL

“Sit” and “Down” are the starting points for many of the games and exercises
that follow, so your dog needs to be completely familiar and comfortable with
them.

jasmin

I'm a professional dog trainer who is sharing my journey as I transition to positive reinforcement based dog training methods.

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