SIT… Say Please
Have you ever wished your dog could say please? Wouldn’t this be an awesome way for our dogs to show their manners? Imagine having a command that required your dog not only to ask for something but also to show the proper energy level when asking, before receiving permission to get or do something!
Sit is something every dog does, but we rarely take advantage of that behavior. We should be using it for more than a simple obedience command. I’m not talking about a Sit with the body vibrating or the tail dusting the floor, basically out of control. I’m thinking of a Sit where the dog is focused on you and what you are offering. Sit is usually the first thing we ask our dog to learn, but we never really use it to achieve anything else. So, how can we use this basic command to teach our dogs manners?
Simple, from this point forward, we are going to use Sit as a way for our dogs to say “please”. This command will become a condition for our dog to receive our okay as well as controlling Fido’s energy level during everyday life. Sit will now be used for specific reasons…for example; to identify who controls the food, where Fido sleeps, where he is allowed to be and how he asks for things! Up till now we have pleaded, cried, and even screamed at our dogs to get what we wanted. Some people resort to manhandling their dogs to get a behavior. As we have likely figured out, forcing our dogs to do something they don’t want to do rarely yields positive outcomes. Why not try getting our dog to present proper manners and appropriate energy to get what they want? I promise I will go into much greater detail on leadership and resource control in a future post, but for now let’s just start with, DOGS DON’T GET ANYTHING FOR FREE! In addition to giving us a wanted behavior, they must also present an appropriate energy level. Simply put, they must sit “say please” with the proper energy level before they get anything!
Unlike many trainers, I don’t like to use sit as my primary stay or duration command. I find that when a dog is asked to sit/stay for longer than 30 seconds, many simply get bored and lay down (can’t say that I blame them!) I tend to use Down for duration stays (future post on Down) and Sit for “please.” So why use Sit for Please? It’s all about leadership!
You need to be seen as the leader in your home, but leadership with dogs is created through resource control not some of the CRAP (excuse my choice of words) you have either read, seen on TV or been told. It does not necessitate scruff shakes, alpha rolls, pinning down a dog or staring them down. What this means is that before they go outside, get their food, get their leash put on, get some pets/love, or even hop up on the couch with you, they must SIT, with the correct energy, and say please! To walk you through how it works, let’s take a look at feeding time in the Deathe household. But, before we start, answer this question… if I leave food out all the time and do not require the dog to work for his/ her meal, who owns the food resource? Yep, you got it, the dog! This is not an issue for all dog owners, but if there is confusion over who owns the food resource, snippy/snarky behavior around their food and/or food bowls, can be a result! So what do we do? I ask my dogs for a SIT before I place the bowl on the ground. After setting it down, I cue the dog to wait (see blog on Wait vs. Leave It) and then release (all done) the dog to eat his meal. Fido has worked for his meal and has shown the proper energy level needed to be released to receive it. If feeding time is done correctly, your dog makes the connection that you, not him, control the food resource in this family. Where do you think the phrase “Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You” comes from? As time goes by, you will notice that Fido will offer this “please” (sit) command without being asked. This is basic Psychology…the cue becomes conditioned as a way for the dog to get the desired response (we get the manners and they get their reward.) I’ve taken this one step further by having my sons Donovan and Dylan do the daily feeding with the dogs. I do this because I feel the food resource is the easiest for a child to control. Let me be clear, at no time do I recommend a child be left alone with dogs! I oversee the process while my sons actually do the feeding. It is a great way to for me to bond with my kids and it’s also a way my sons can bond with the dogs. This is just one example of using Sit to control manners and energy levels. Here are some other times saying “Please” can be used.
• Getting the leash put on
• Going in and out a door
• The proper greet (upcoming post)
• Being allowed on a couch or Bed
• Getting pets/love
I am sure that as you begin this technique you will continue to find more everyday examples of how this can help you keep the family unit in the right order. Keep it up and don’t give in to your dog, otherwise you might have to ask yourself “Who is Training Who?” In the next post, I will specifically go over how to teach the Sit command both with hand signals and verbal cues. I will also talk about where and how to use the clicker, release word and treats.
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