9 July 2017

7 ways of teaching Sit

Last night I went for my evening walk with the boys. As I was walking I was thinking, I do a lot of thinking during our evening walks. And in my head last night was how many ways of teaching a behaviour do I know. I took Sit as an example. And I came up with seven ways. Some of them I have used before, some not, some I would not recommend. But there is quite a choice for anybody who is interested.

1. Luring. This is what I use most often. You take a piece of food, put it in front of your dog's nose and move it slowly over his head in such a way that he has to look up. As he is looking up his bum moves down and before he knows it he is sitting. Then he gets his treat. My dog Chester (in the photo) was taught this way.

2. Capturing. This is how my other dog, Arco, was trained. I simply watched him and any time he sat, he got a treat and praise. When he realised what was happening he sat more often, and in variety of situations. It didn't take long at all and he loved it.

3. Shaping. If you are using a clicker or any other marker you can also shape the Sit. You have your dog in front of you, standing, wait for any slight bending of his back legs. Click and Treat. He will start bending his legs more and more until he sits. I have never shaped the Sit, it requires impeccable timing and there are other easier methods. But shaping is a great technique for teaching variety of behaviours. 

4. Targeting. First you teach your dog to touch and follow the target stick. It can be anything long with a distinctive feature at one end, like a wooden spoon. You can also buy a target stick and these have a small ball at the end for the dog to touch with his nose. Once the dog knows what to do you use it the same way as luring, but instead of the treat the dog follows the stick. You click and treat when the dog's bum hits the ground.

5. Moulding/modelling. You gently mould your dog's body into position by pushing on his hindquarters and restraining on the chest. Praise and/or treat when sitting. This is one of the methods I never use. Dogs usually resist physical manipulation of this kind, they may get stressed and they don't really learn much about cooperation. They are passive in this method.

6. Forcing. You have your dog on a leash, you pull the leash up and at the same time push hard on the bum. Any resistance is met with more force. Many times the dog gets only some moderate praise and no treat. In extreme cases chock chains or prong collars are used. I probably don't have to say that I never use this method.

7. Mimicry/imitation. Yes, dogs can be taught to mimic our behaviour. Until quite recently the dog training community was convinced otherwise. The common notion was that dogs cannot even mimic each other (now, I know some of you may gasp, because we all witnessed puppies learning from their mothers, and other older dogs, but this would be called social facilitation; true mimicry is something else). Nowadays there are two names that come to my mind, people who are changing this way of thinking. Ken Ramirez, one of the greatest animal trainers in the world, trained a dog to copy the behaviour of another dog. Claudia Fugazza, a dog trainer, came up with a program called Do As I Do (there is a dvd available). The training is quite long but once you teach your dog to imitate your behaviour, you can sit on the ground and the dog will sit too. I have never tried this method, somehow it doesn't appeal to me at the moment, I quite like my clicker training.

Hope it was not too boring. If you know another way of teaching Sit please comment in the box below. Also you can let me know what is your preferred method.

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