Last month, we taught your dog to sit and lie down. This month, we will add the cue to sit and down, as well at teach your dog to sit and wait at the door.
To add the cue, “sit” to the dog’s behavior of sitting, first have your dog do a few sits. With your dog on a leash, and a supply of yummy treats, wait. When your dog does sit, give him a treat. You may praise your dog for sitting, if you like. Repeat this a few times. When your dog is in a steady rhythm of sitting, say “sit” while your dog is standing. In order for the association to be made between the word “sit” and the dog’s behavior of sitting, you must say sit before he begins to sit.
So, you are saying “sit”, and your dog sits. Wow! It looks like your dog knows the meaning of the word sit. Not so fast. It will take many repetitions before Fido makes the association between the word and his behavior. Do this exercise fifteen to twenty five times a day for a week or two. Fido will begin to understand.
Now we need to teach your dog the word associated with lying down. As with sit, we need to have the dog lying down frequently. With your dog on leash, and lots of yummy treats, wait. Having just received lots of treats for sitting, Fido will sit, and sit and sit. Don’t worry. Just continue to wait. When Fido is lying down quickly, you are ready to add the cue. When Fido is sitting or standing, say, “down”. Wait! When your dog is lying down, give him a treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Again, it looks like your dog understands the word down. He doesn’t, not yet anyway. Practice sit and down every day. Sometimes, start with fifteen to twenty five sits, and other times start with fifteen to twenty five downs.
Now that your dog sits, you can turn that behavior into something very useful, for example, sit at the door. So many people call me, “My dog runs out the door when it is opened!” If you teach your dog to sit every time the door is opened, you will not have to worry about losing him.
To ensure your dog’s safety while training, you will need a long leash. A really long leash! The faster your dog is, the slower you are, the longer the leash should be. The leash prevents the dog from running out the door when you open it. You can usually find twenty to fifty foot leashes at local pet stores. A retractable leash will not work, you need an old fashioned leash. Attach the long leash to your dog’s harness before attempting to teach sit at the door. Treats in hand, and your twenty to fifty foot leash dragging on the ground, go to the door of your home. Ask your dog to sit, and give him a treat when he sits. While your dog is sitting, take one step toward the door. If your dog remains in a sit, give him a treat.
Did your dog get up from his sit? Try again, but be sure to take only one step. Reward your dog when he successfully remains in a sit. What? He still did not remain in a sit? Try lifting one of your feet, then put it back. Was your dog successful? Yeah! Reward him. If your dog is successful with you lifting one of your feet off the ground, try one step toward the door. A tiny step. Reward your dog each time he is successful. Try again when he is not. Slowly increase your movements toward the door.
When you are close enough, touch the door. Reward Fido for remaining in a sit. Next, touch the door handle, again rewarding your dog for staying in his sitting position. Wiggle the door handle, give the dog a treat for sitting. Open the door a fraction of an inch, close the door, reward your dog for staying. Gradually open the door wider and wider, giving the dog a treat each time he succeeds.
Should your dog try to go out the door, step on your long leash, preventing him from enjoying a romp around the neighborhood. Practice until you can open the door, even go outside, and your dog remains in a sit. Use the long leash until you are certain your dog will stay. Congratulations! You are on your way to a well behaved dog.
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