How to Train "Sit", The Social-Cognitive Way.

By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT

This week's article will focus on one behaviour we believe is an essential component to your dog's behaviour repertoire. We will discuss and teach you how to do a perfect sit. In future weeks, we will address the infamous come behaviour.
At the Dogue Shop, we teach dogs via social-cognitive, behavioural, and attachment approach. That is, your relationship (social) with the dog will allow you to select for the desired behaviour (cognitive) and reward it (behaviourism) in various contexts (attachment). Here is how we do it.
STEP 1. LEARNING - Move around your house and encourage your dog to follow you. When your dog sits, reward it without saying a word and change spots. Go to the kitchen, the bathroom, the closet, and every other place you can think of and wait for the dog to sit. It might take a while at the beginning of the exercise, but your dog will catch on relatively fast. Make sure to count the number of times the behaviour was offered. When you think your dog sits in front of you consistently, it's time to test your dog.
STEP 2. TESTING - Take 10 treats, place them in one spot and leave them there. Now walk around your house and wait for the behaviour to occur. If you dog sits within 10 sec. (count in your head) give the treat; if the dog does not sit, put the treat aside. Repeat this process in various places in your house 10 times. You should walk back and forth to the treats each time. Do NOT carry treats with you. How many treats are left? If you have none, bravo, your dog knows the behaviour 100% of the time; if you have 3 treats left, your dog knows the behaviour 70% of the time. We want the behaviour sit to occur 100% of the time before we move on.
STEP 3. NAMING - Repeat STEP 1, but this time you will say sit when your dog's buttocks immediately touches the floor. Don't forget to give your dog a treat. Repeat this everywhere in your house. It will probably take you as many times as it took you in STEP 1. Expect anywhere between 3 and 20 repetitions depending on the breed and temperament of your dog. When you think your dog knows the word sit, it's time to move to the next step.
STEP 4 - ASKING. Repeat test in STEP 2, but this time ask for sit and wait 10sec. Give the treat if the dog executes the behaviour; if he does not, place the treat aside. The dog should have a 100%. If your dog does not score 10/10, go back to STEP 3, the naming phase.

Dogs should know ten times out of ten, wherever you are, that sit = place your buttocks on the floor. Remember that when you start to train the sit behaviour outside, you might need to go back to STEP 3. Practice makes perfect. Be consistent and patient and you will see progress, that I guarantee you.
This method of training focuses on your dog's ability to listen, focus, and trust you. It depends the bond (attachment) and promotes effective problem-solving skills (social-cognitive). This approach might seems a little long to train at the beginning, but you're teaching your dog to learn how to learn, which is very different from being obedient.

If you tried this technique, leave us a comment on how it went.

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