The Star-Herald

Teaching your dog to ‘sit’

Just a reminder that this Saturday, June 1, will be our annual “Paws for the Cause” Walk that benefits the Central Aroostook Humane Society.  Registration at 9:30, walk at 10:00. Hope to see you there.

As pet lovers, we all know (or possibly have) a dog that could use a few lessons in good canine manners.  According to the American Humane Association, 10 percent of owner-relinquished animals in shelters are there because of behavior issues. Just as teaching good manners is part of responsible parenting, teaching our dogs to mind their manners is also a part of being a responsible pet parent.  Enrolling your dog in a basic obedience class taught by a professional is a great option, but these lessons can be taught at home as well.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) gives these four steps for teaching your canine companion to master the “sit” command.

Step 1: Teach Your Dog to Sit on a Verbal Cue.

Stand up, say “Sit,” and then guide your dog into a sit with a treat placed right in front of her nose. To effectively guide your dog into a sit, follow these steps:

  1. Hold a treat between your thumb and fingers, clutching the treat as if you’re holding a pencil.
  2. Keep the treat within one inch of your dog’s nose. Don’t let your fingers and the treat get any farther away from your dog.  If the dog jumps up when you try to guide her into the sit, you’re probably holding your hand too far away from her nose. If your dog backs up, you can practice with a wall behind her so that she can’t back away from you.
  3. Guide your dog into the sit by moving the treat toward the top of her head, arching it up over her nose so that she has to raise her nose straight up to follow the treat. Most dogs will track the treat with their eyes and follow it with their noses, causing their snouts to point straight up. Usually, when a dog’s nose goes up, her rear will move down toward the floor.
  4. The instant your dog’s rump hits the floor reward with a “Yes!” or “Good Dog!”, and give the treat in your hand.
  5. Encourage your dog to stand up again. Then repeat the steps above until your dog readily follows the food lure and plops into the sit position when you say “Sit.”

Step 2: Remove the Treat from Your Guiding Hand.  

Once your dog catches on and sits when you guide her with the treat, leave the treat in your pocket (or have it in your other hand). Repeat the same sequence as in Step 1, but this time your dog will just follow your empty hand.

Step 3: Fade Out the Hand Signal.  

Gradually lessen the amount of movement with your hand. First, say “sit.” Then hold your hand about 8 to 10 inches above your dog’s face and wait a moment. Most likely, she will sit.

Once your dog responds to the word “Sit” and the sight of your hand a foot from her nose, begin holding your hand out with your palm up. Your goal is to eventually just say “Sit” without having to move or extend your hand at all.

Step 4: Teach Sit to Greet.

Once your dog reliably sits on cue, you can ask her to sit whenever you meet and talk to people. Give your dog the cue before she gets too excited to hear you and before she starts jumping up on the person she wants to greet. Reward your dog the instant she sits. Give verbal reinforcement and treats every few seconds while she holds the sit.

Ask the person you’re greeting to help you out by turning and walking away if your dog gets up from the sit and lunges or jumps toward him or her. With many consistent repetitions of this exercise, your dog will learn that impolite lunging or jumping makes people go away, and polite sitting makes them stay and give her attention.

Please consider finding your next companion at The Central Aroostook Humane Society.  Our hours are Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a lunch break from 12 to 12:30. Check us out on Facebook.  Please be responsible: spay and neuter your pets.

Amanda McQueen is a member of the board of directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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