During a class on canine behavior with Jean Lessard, he used this example: “Say hello in Chinese! No one in the group knew how to say it. Then Jean repeated impatiently: “Come on! Say hello in Chinese!” Of course, the request went unanswered. Dogs, like humans sometimes, only understands his own language. Sit, lie down, stay, all these words are completely meaningless to Fido. For him, the word “sit” has as much meaning as the word “unconstitutionally”. You will then have to teach French to your dog, or at least teach him the words he should understand to facilitate your cohabitation.
When you ask a dog whether to sit down or to lie down, we actually ask him to work for us. Your dog is not crazy (not that he is against a little volunteering, but he has his limits…), he will prefer to work for a “salary” which can take the form of a treat or a play session. And he will only repeat the profitable behavior! By understanding this, we can take advantage of his capitalist tendencies to teach him what we want, through positive reinforcement.
The basis of positive reinforcement
First, understand what the word positive means in this context. In training, it means to add something. So: we ask the dog to sit, he does it, we give him (add!) a treat. The dog quickly learns that when he does what he is asked to do, he receives his salary. If every time he sits at our request he then receives a treat, you can rest assured that he will repeat this behavior! And yes, he will have learned the meaning of the word “sit”.
Before you start, arm yourself with patience, sit in a place without distractions, and grab his treats or Crocx toy.
Sit means put your buttocks on the floor
There are two ways to teach “sit”. The first one is to reinforce what the dog is already doing by himself. When you see your dog sitting down, name what he is doing, “sit”, then give him a treat. As the dog often sits in a day, you will have several opportunities to reinforce this behavior while teaching him that when he puts his bottom on the floor, it is called “sit”.
The second way is to lure the dog into a sitting position. By placing a treat in front of her muzzle, a little higher than her head and backing your hand towards her behind, she will be forced to lift her head, wanting to follow the treat. She will not have the choice to put her buttocks on the floor and at that moment you will tell her “sit” followed by a treat.
In both cases, make sure your dog has his buttocks firmly on the ground when you reward him! You do not want the “sit” demand to equal “do the pogo dance”!
Lie down, stay, shake hands?
If you understood the principle used to teach the word “sit”, you will have understood that these two methods apply to all requests. Come on, be creative and soon your dog will be a dictionary on four paws!