Train your dog to sit part six

We are now getting to the exciting part of ‘sit’ training.  In ‘Train Your Dog to Sit Part Six,’ we introduce other people to your training sessions. The owners of friendly dogs often find that their  ‘sit’ command goes to pieces when other people are around. All it takes is a passing stranger saying hello to your dog or a small child wandering past with an ice cream, and your dog is off!

Train your dog to sit part six - training, dogs -

Well, it needn’t be this way.

In this part, we will teach your dog to sit still even when people walk up and stroke him,  talk to him,  or wave food about in front of him.  And you are going to need some help. Initially, you will need to choose your helpers quite carefully. Children under ten are rarely very good at this.

The ideal ‘assistant’

You need a person who will follow your instructions to the letter. Because you are going to put the dog through a series of increasingly challenging sits,  and the person helping you must not give your dog any feedback if he makes a mistake. One poorly timed kind word or any attention from your assistant, and you may have inadvertently rewarded an error in your dog.

These exercises are suitable for dogs from about five months old that have completed part five of this training series.

Make it easy for your dog to learn

Various factors increase the difficulty of sitting for your dog. These ‘variables’ range from the ‘duration’ of the sit,  through the ‘distance’ between the dog and his handler, to the ‘type’ of distraction (e.g., children, dogs, etc.) to the proximity of the distraction from the dog. And include a whole range of environmental factors once you begin training outdoors.

Here is a rule: When you make one variable harder,  make the other variables easier.

You can read more about balancing variables in ‘making it easy for your dog to learn.’ Still, in brief, when you introduce new distractions to the dog,  you will reduce the distance between you and the dogs and make sure that the site is as easy as can be in all other respects.

Once the dog has mastered the new distraction at close quarters,  you can increase duration/distance again. In this case, we will take the training session back indoors to where you first started training. And we will introduce the following distractions, one at a time.

  • Person enters the room
  • Person circuits the dog
  • The person strokes the dog
  • The person feeds the dog

 Exercise One: Increase sitting to 30 seconds

You know how to do this now. Teach your dog to sit at your side for 30 seconds. In the same way, you taught him to sit for 20 seconds in Part 5.

Exercise Two: Sit while a person enters the room

You will need a pre-arranged signal with your helper. Tell your helper that he is not to enter the room until you give the signal  ‘enter’ or ‘come in.’

Step One: Head around the door

When you say ‘enter,’ all your helper will do is open the door enough to pop his head around, then close it again (after removing  his head, of course!)

Sit the dog next to you with his lead on in the center of the room. Say ‘enter’.

Once your assistant has closed the door again, mark and reward the sit. If the dog gets up, he gets no reward. Repeat until he gets it right. When your dog can remain seated throughout,  you can remove the lead before you say ‘enter’  and replace it again once the assistant has disappeared and before you mark and reward the sit.

Repeat several times, especially if the dog seems excited or keen to get up.

If the dog has problems with this, take the dog as far from the door as possible, keep his lead on throughout,  and ask your helper to repeat the exercise but just to open the door a crack this time,  keeping his head behind the door. Say ‘enter’ and remind the dog firmly to ‘sit’ as your helper opens the door.  Mark and reward all good sits,  make the exercise as accessible as necessary to succeed and then build back up until the dog can sit still while your helper puts their head around the door.

Step Two: Entering the room briefly

In this step, your helper will enter the room, pause briefly, and then withdraw. He will not approach the dog. The dog must remain seated throughout, and if you have any problems, you will need to break the exercise down into smaller steps

The following steps are all achieved in the same way. Break it down into as many small steps as necessary to enable the dog to succeed. Here are the remaining steps you need to work through

  • Step Three: The helper enters the room, approaches and circles the dog, but does not touch him.
  • Step Four: The helper approaches the dog and strokes him gently once or twice
  • Step Five: The helper approaches and gives the dog a treat before withdrawing

Ask your helper to keep each repetition brief. Remember that your dog only knows how to sit for 30 seconds.  If your helper takes too long, the dog may get up simply because he doesn’t realize a sit can last this long.

 Exercise Three: Separating dog and handler

It is one thing to expect a dog to sit still next to you while your neighbor coos all over him,  but what if you want to walk away from him and have him still sitting there. You can teach your dog to remain seated when other people approach, even when you are not beside him.

All you need to do is repeat exercise one,  but insert this little extra step and take one action back from your dog after removing his lead and before you say ‘enter.’ Once you have this ‘off pat,’  then it is time to increase that one step to two steps. And so on. Take it slowly. Your dog is doing great!

Exercise Four: Sit outside for one minute

This is a much longer sit for your dog to learn; he will do it indoors and in your garden. It is just a simple sit at your side. Nothing fancy and no distractions. Practice until he can sit for one full minute beside you, anywhere in your house and garden.

Exercise Five: sitting outside while people approach

This does not mean you should go out into a public place. You must remain in your garden and ensure no distractions besides those you arrange with your helper.

In this step, you will work through exercises two and three above, but your starting position will be standing in your garden with the dog seated next to you. If you have one, the helper can appear and disappear through a door into the house or a garden gate. Practice until it is perfect.

Exercise Six: a new helper

If you can rope in another helper at this point, so much the better. Preferably not a member of your family.  Simply repeat exercise five with your new helper.

Exercise Seven: Helpers become more interesting

This exercise is all about replicating a more realistic situation for your dog. Consider some scenarios you will encounter when practicing the sit-out and about in public. People will sometimes run past your dog. They will engage you in conversation,  wave, shout,  laugh, eat, or pass food in front of your dog, and generally behave in ways that might make your dog decide to break his seat and go up to them.

Get your helpers to ‘act out’ these distractions gradually,  and always back up a bit if the dog starts to struggle. Once he is competent, mark and reward some sits, not others. Gradually reduce the number of seats you cite to about one in three. Be unpredictable. Read up on the gambling effect if you are unsure why this is important.

Practice as many of these scenarios as you can with your helpers.   Get as many people as possible to run through this exercise in this controlled situation.  Especially people who do not know the dog very well.    You are starting the process of ‘proofing’ your dog’s sit. Proofing, or lack of it, is often all that lies between a well-trained dog and a disobedient one. Most people do not bother to prove their dog’s training. All successful trainers demonstrate their dog’s training thoroughly.

All this action and interaction is excellent preparation for the day when you and your dog are thrust into a situation that you have not set up and cannot control. Taking this kind of training into more advanced and unpredictable conditions is another challenge, and we will be looking at this in a future article. Meanwhile, practice makes perfect!

Jennifer Barker

I'm Jennifer. My passion for dogs lead to this blog's creation in 2014. I share tales of life with my pups and insights on natural dog care so fellow pet parents can nurture the joy and wellbeing of their furry friends.

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