Before you begin, pick a marker. A marker is a word or sound that tells your pup he has done something right. Using a marker means you can give precise feedback. Common markers are “Yes,” “Good,” or the click of a training clicker. With repetition, your pup will learn that when he hears this sound, it means what he did at that exact moment is what earns a reward. This is very clear and precise feedback.
Sit, stand, and down show your pup specifically what you want him to do in a given situation. For example, you can ask him to sit or stand to say hello to people or you can ask him to lie down while your family enjoys a meal. These three behaviors are also a great way for your dog to learn about the importance of earning what he wants from you. For each of the wonderful things you want to give your pup (food, toys, attention, walking through the door for a walk, an invite to snuggle on the couch, etc.) you can ask your dog to give you something (i.e. responding to your request to sit, stand, or lie down). Think of this as a Learn to Earn Program.
Use a lure when teaching the commands:
One of the easiest ways to start out is using lure training. By holding a bit of food between your thumb and pointer fingers, you can hold that food at your pup’s nose and move him about by moving your hand. That is a lure. Let’s see how it works in more detail:
Getting Started With Sit
- Start with your puppy standing directly in front of you.
- Hold a treat out in your hand and let your puppy smell it so he knows it is there.
- Raise the treat slightly up and back towards your pups rear.
- When one end goes up, the other will go down.
- When your pup’s butt hits the ground, say your marker and follow this with the tasty treat. When you are confident he is going to sit when you move your hand, add the word “sit” right before you do so. This way, your pup will start to make the connection between the word, the behavior, and the reward.
Learning the Down
- Lure your pup into a sit. Move your hand slowly to the ground, in between his feet and slightly inwards towards his belly, so he folds back on his haunches and into a down.
- When your pup’s body slides to the ground, use your marker and reward.
- If your pup stands up, make sure you are moving your hand slightly in towards his belly rather than sliding it out in front of him.
- Repeat this in 3-5 minute practice sessions and when your pup is smoothly following your hand to the ground and lying flat, you can start adding the cue word “down” right before you move your hand.
Teaching How To Stand
- While your pup is seated or lying down, move your hand with the treat from his nose to where his nose will be when he stands.
- When your pup stands, use your marker and reward.
- Repeat this in 3-5 minute practice sessions and when your pup is smoothly following your hand to a stand position, you can start adding the cue word “stand” right before you move your hand.
- As with sit and down, it is important to wait to add the cue word (in this case “stand”) until you are confident you can get the behavior using the lured hand movement.