Would you like your dog to ask politely for things instead of demanding them from you? Do you have a dog that jumps on you, barks at the door or mouths your hand to get your attention? Looking for a fun way to practice manners with your dog? Try this activity to improve his impulse control, reward his focus on you and help solidify a default sit (this means he chooses to sit instead of you asking him to sit. We call it “Sit to Say Please.”
Begin by letting your dog see that you have a treat in your hand, so he knows what he can earn. Just hold the food in your hand. Your dog may try all types of things to get you to give him the treat but just freeze in position, actively ignoring him. Eventually your dog will sit. Immediately give your dog the treat once his butt hits the floor. You MUST give the treat while he is sitting; if he has already started getting up you will end up reinforcing the wrong behavior (getting up). If you give him the treat while he is in a “sit” position, then he just got his first clue as to what this game is all about. If you think your dog will get bored and walk away in search of something easier to do, start this activity in a small room with the door closed or keep your dog attached to you by a leash.
When you think your dog understands that his amazing ability to sit makes you give him the treat, you are going to walk a few steps forward with another treat in your hand. Again, wait until your dog sits before giving him the treat. Wait until he thinks of sitting on his own - resist all urges to ask him to “sit” (this is the hardest part of the game). He may try all sorts of impressive behaviors, but ignore him until you see his butt on the ground again. Practice this 10-20 times in a row.
Now, you are going to walk a few steps away from your dog (of course, treat will be in hand) and wait for your dog to sit AND look at you before dispensing the treat. You want a simultaneous sit and look at you. Practice this 10-20 times in a row. Once you feel your dog understands that sitting and looking at you equals asking “please,” then try this same activity in a different room of the house, outside, with family members around, etc. Your dog will learn that he needs to say “please” in many different types of situations. This is a fast, effective and fun way to help your dog learn that polite behavior makes good stuff happen. The best part of these games? HE thinks he is training YOU!
• Sam Kabbel, CPDT-KA, is owner and president of Valley-based Pet Behavior Solutions, serving the Phoenix area. For more information, visit www.petbehaviorsolutions.com.