Monday, August 8, 2011

Obedience 101 - Sit and Watch Me

In the next few posts, I will cover what every dog should know in order to become a well-adjusted individual, and how you should best go about training.

How to teach Sit

Every dog should know how to sit. It's just a given. It is an incredibly easy thing to train for, but many owners don't seem to know how to do it correctly.

Step one - Have a small bag of treats in your pocket. Only take out one at a time and put the bag back in your pocket to ensure your dog doesn't get distracted.

If you have a small dog, you should sit down while teaching this command.

Step two - Call your dog over to you. Present a treat right at nose level, so that they can smell it and give you their attention. They will be standing on all fours in the beginning.

Step three - Holding the food at nostril-level, you should begin to move the treat up and straight back slowly over the dogs head and between the ears so that they have to look up to see and smell the treat.

Step four - Continue moving the treat slowly, saying "Sit". Your dog should naturally sit down to be able to view the treat. If not, apply a small pressure on their hindquarters, gently pushing down with one hand, moving the treat over their head with the other, and saying, "Sit".

Step five - Reward for a proper sit. Give the treat and verbal praise, and some pats for good measure. Practice this, and soon, your dog will not need a treat to perform the command.

Troubleshooting: If your dog jumps up towards the treat, or, for little dogs who end up "sitting pretty" instead, say "No", and pull the treat back towards you so that they are again in the standing position. Try again.

How to teach "Watch Me"

You can start teaching this command once your dog has mastered the sit. It is an extremely useful tool that I recommend all owners teach their dog.

Step one - Call your dog over to you. Make sure you have your treats handy.

Step two - Place your dog in the sit position, making sure to let them smell the treat. Do not yet reward.

Step three - While your dog is sitting, raise the treat to the corner or your eye so that in order to focus on the treat, your dog must also make eye contact with you.

Step four - Say "Watch me", holding the treat at the corner of your eye. Start out small - if your dog keeps his focus on you for three seconds, reward promptly and give praise. Your dog should focus on only you when this command is given.

Step five- Slowly (this word being key) increase the amount of time the dog must watch you, up to ten seconds at a time. If your dog breaks focus, correct by regaining their attention with the treat and repeating the motions and command. When your dog successfully performs the command, reward and give praise. Say, "Good boy/girl, watch me".

Once your dog has mastered this command, regaining their attention or getting them to focus on you will be easy. This command can take a while to teach, so be patient and ready to continue practicing for a while.

As with any training tips I give, I also have one rule: Do not repeat yourself constantly. If your dog is not listening, saying "Sitsitsitsitsit" will not work, and defeats the purpose. Speak clearly, firmly, and repeat ONLY if the dog isn't listening, and even then you should have to repeat the command no more than twice.

Next edition: Teach Lay and Heel.

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