OK, you have your dog responding to the clicker and they love their treats. Good, your dog has made the link between clicker and reward. The next step is to start introducing basic commands. So, how do you train a dog to sit on command? Let’s take a look at one of the simplest clicker commands.
If you haven’t already ‘charged’ your clicker, do it now to get your dog in the mood. Always remember that charging the clicker is the best way to start any clicker training session. It will get your dog into the mindset needed for the best results and ultimately success. If you need a reminder of how to do this, read the How to Begin Training a Dog With Clicker article.
The first command that most dogs learn is to sit and there are two ways in which you can start…
- Capture the behaviour: Wait for your dog to sit and as soon as their rear end touches the floor – click! You might be waiting for a little while, though. Up to you, if your dog is forever up and down and fairly good like that anyway give it a shot.
- Lure the behaviour: Take a treat and get your dog’s attention. Now move the treat towards their face but slowly up and over their ears. Hopefully they will not jump up to get it. If they do just try a little lower next time. The idea is that when the treat moves over their head, they will naturally move backward and put their rear end down. As soon as they do – click!
These methods are the basis of many different commands. Most people prefer the lure technique as the best way to train a dog to sit. With this technique you can get your dog to follow a movement by using a treat in front of their nose and you can initiate at will instead of waiting for your dog to decide when they’re ready.
After each time your dog sits and you click, throw their reward nearby so they have to get up and move. This puts them into a different position so they have to begin a sit movement again.
When we first began with our yellow Lab I asked I wondered – how long does it take to train a dog to sit? I was actually very surprised; he started right away. He was brilliant and the sit command was extremely easy to teach him. Within a day I could begin to replace an action with a verbal cue. Soon after that all I had to do was to either say sit or point my finger upwards and he would sit. I am not saying that this will be a sinch for everybody and every dog. Some are better than others and it also relies on you having patience and interest.
Practice this between 5 – 10 minutes at a time and for three times a day. You will soon find that when you get the treats out your dog will already be sitting waiting for you.
When your dog is getting the idea and can sit reliably every time, you can start to replace the lure with a verbal command. Say the command ‘sit’ as they sit. After a few sessions your dog will begin to sit when you say the word. If your dog sits but doesn’t stay sitting for long it may be that you should re-issue the command as soon as they begin to move.
Repetition is key for all these commands as that is how dogs learn and as you progress you can start to ignore the lazy, slouched sitting position and only click the best posture sits.
The photo shows a good sitting position following a verbal cue. You can see the clicker in the trainer’s left hand and the dog is very alert. He is in the clicker mindset and can’t act quick enough for his treat!
Dogs work best with single word commands that sound different to other commands. So tell them to ‘sit’ in a strong, firm voice – you are in charge. From there you can gradually replace the word with a gesture, for example a single index finger pointing upwards in front of you could mean sit. Just as you may expect a flat palm moving downward to mean lay down.
This is probably the easiest and quickest command to teach your dog and is ideal as a starting point. Remember, keep it fun, praise your dog lots and be patient. Your dog will get the idea if you do it right.
Move on to the lay down command