When you first start to imagine training your pup, it’s easy to get caught up in daydreams of impressing your family and friends with neat tricks like playing dead or catching a Frisbee mid-air. And while these tricks are pretty darn cool and will almost certainly bring some admiration from onlookers, starting out with these showoff skills really isn’t a great idea.
Firstly, they’re far too complex for a dog who’s just learning commands. Just like your parents probably put you on a tricycle first instead of plopping you on a unicycle and letting you make a mess of it all, taking small steps to set the foundation for your dog’s training success is so important!
Not only this, but when push comes to shove, do you want a well-behaved dog or a fancy dog? A dog that’s followed a structure to his or her training is going to be far more successful at learning and meeting your expectations in all areas of life.
So what are the most important foundational skills that all dogs should know? Sit and down.
Teaching these basic commands and focus skills with your pup will not only set the stage for future obedience work, they can also help head off behavior problems that annoy you and your neighbors like jumping up and barking at the door.
And the best part of it all is that once your dog has mastered these two commands, you’ve set the stage for so many other cool tricks, playing dead included.
How to Teach Your Dog to “Sit”
Teaching your dog to “sit” on command is quite simple and can be done quickly with some dedicated practice. It is a fundamental command that every dog should know and once mastered will make teaching future commands and tricks such as “Lay Down” so much easier!
Like with all other commands, the key here is for your dog to associate the word with the action.
So here goes:
Step 1: Preparation is Key
Choose a quiet place to start the training so you and your dog can stay focused without any distractions. A great little tip here is to choose a location such as next to the front door or near the food bowl. This will make it more likely that your dog will sit quickly at important times such as when guests arrive or dinner time. You’ll also need some yummy treats ready for your dog. Preferably their favorite ones but as training can involve quite a few being consumed, it’s best if they are quite small.
Step 2: Lure your pooch with a treat
Get your dog’s attention and show them the treat. Then, hold the treat to your dog’s nose just out of reach and move it slowly over their head. As he follows the treat back with his nose, he will have to sit back to a point where his bottom touches the floor. This is the exact moment to give your dog the treat and lots of positive verbal reinforcement such as “yes” or “good dog” in a really upbeat, positive tone. Your dog will start to associate the physical action of sitting with the reward of a tasty treat and his masters approval.
Step 3: Repetition Repetition
Continue to repeat these steps in various locations around the house or at the park until your dog sits down quickly at the sight of the treat above its nose. Don’t worry if your dog struggles, just take a break and come back to it later. Learning new tricks and commands should be fun for you both and are great bonding opportunities so no need to rush! Just remember the treat and positive reinforcement as soon as that little bottom firmly touches the floor.
Step 4: “Sit”
Once your dog has the hang of sitting with the above method, get his attention by saying his name followed by the word “Sit” as you guide him into position with the treat as it’s time to start encouraging your dog to associate the verbal command with the action. Repeat this several times, using the command “sit” each time and gradually start phasing out the hand motion whilst still keeping the treat as the reward. You can always try the ‘Sit’ command without a treat as your dog becomes more competent and confident with what he has to do.
So there you go, have fun, take your time and your pooch will be sitting in no time!
How to Teach Your Dog to “Lie Down”
Now your pooch knows how to sit on command, getting him to lay down should be a piece of cake…hopefully!
Step One: Getting Started
Armed with a treat, ask your dog to sit. As soon as he does as requested, let him take a sniff of the treat and slowly move it down from his nose to between his front paws, keeping the treat touching his nose the whole time. If he lays down fully with his elbows and belly on the floor, immediately give him the treat followed by lots of praise and positive reinforcement to let your little friend know how proud and happy you are! Avoid giving him the treat until he lays down properly but if he doesn’t respond correctly, no problem, simply go back to the sitting position and try again!
Step Two: Repetition is Key
Repeat the process until your dog is following the treat lure and lying down consistently. Try this in various locations such as around the house in different rooms and whilst out on walks so that your dog gets plenty of practice even whilst there are distractions. Make it fun and take the time to bond and learn together. He’ll soon be an expert at this rate!
Step 3: Add the Verbal Command
It’s now time to link the verbal command to the exercise by saying “Down” or “lay Down” as your dog follows his treat to the floor. Continue to practice this regularly and soon enough, this verbal command coupled with your downward hand gesture will have your pup happily responding even without the lure of a yummy treat in smelling distance!
Good luck and have fun!
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