Teaching a dog tricks will take time and effort, but the simplest way to get started is with the basics. Owners should always learn the basic commands of sit, lie down and stay from the time a dog is a puppy. Learning to sit is a simple trick that is useful in a wide range of situations. The steps in teaching the trick are easy and owners can start when a puppy is weaned.
- Find a treat for the dog. A treat can range from a dog biscuit to a small piece of meat from the fridge, as long as it obtains the dog’s attention.
- Stand in front of the dog and show the treat. Owners should always stand in front of the dog to show who is in control of the situation. It also forces the dog’s attention onto the owner, which helps when trying to teach the dog a trick.
- Say the word sit and then move the treat backwards and slightly upwards so it will end up behind the dog’s head. As the dog follows the treat, he or she will naturally end up sitting down to continue following the motion.
- Give praise and the treat as soon as the dog is in a sitting position. The praise and treat reinforce the behaviour of sitting down, which shows the dog the behaviour an owner is looking for when issuing the command to sit. Say a command, such as ‘release’ or ‘okay’, immediately after giving the treat to teach when the dog is allowed to stop sitting.
- Repeat the process a few more times to get the dog to sit consistently. Depending on the age of the dog, the appropriate amount of time will vary. As a general rule, owners should only spend about five to ten minutes at a time to avoid boring the dog.
- Watch the dog for a few days. When the dog is consistently sitting immediately after the command, start reducing the number of treats. Offer praise every time the dog sits and a treat only occasionally and at random. This will help ensure the dog will continue following the command even when a treat is not offered.
- Tap the dog lightly on the rump if he or she does not sit while moving the treat. The light tap is an encouragement to sit.
- Avoid pushing the dog. If the dog is not getting the trick right, then let it go for the day. Dogs have a short attention span and might get frustrated.
- Change the location/venue in which you train your dog so that there is no association made with a command and specific place.
Teaching a dog to sit is a basic command that is useful to the owner. The trick will take a little time to master consistently, but it is worth the time and effort.