We’ve all been there… company comes over and your fur baby is super excited and you ask them to “sit.” They don’t listen… “Sit SIT,” you continue, “Ollie sit, …. Sit… SIT!” Ollie eventually sits, with his happy face on, tongue lolling. He is quite adorable, but every time he is required to do something, he has to be told over and over before he complies!
This is both annoying for you and unnecessary.
First, here is what I have learned about why this happens in the first place:
It is not that your dog doesn’t hear you! Just see how fast they come running when you drop food on the kitchen floor!
Dogs hear exceptionally well! The problem is, they don’t understand human language. Dog parents must teach their pups certain words and their meaning. If you give the command multiple times your pup is learning that the command for “sit” is “sit, SIT, SSIIITTT.” Because our language is gibberish to dogs until we teach them meaning, “sit, sit, sit” makes just as much sense as “sit” or “cabbage.” The words mean nothing to the dog until we teach them meaning.
In fact, this kind of response from your pup is called “latent inhibition.” This is a term trainers use to define the phenomenon that occurs when a neutral stimulus (calling the dog’s name, or saying “sit”) is repeatedly presented in the absence of an unconditioned stimulus (a treat or reward). As a result of the repeated, unreinforced presentation of the command, its ability to get the desired behavior is greatly impaired. Basically, repeatedly asking your dog to “sit” or “come” without succeeding in eliciting the desired behavior actually impedes your future efforts to train them to properly respond! They can learn to regard your commands as irrelevant!
Good news is, you can fix this–easily!
- You are going to need to arm yourself with some handy treats. At intervals throughout the day, ask your dog to sit. Say the word ONE time only, then watch and WAIT. Count to five – in your head – don’t speak.
- If at five he has not sat, get your treat, hold it above his head and move it backwards towards his tail until he sits. Do NOT repeat the sit command. As his bottom touches the floor say ‘YES’ and give him the treat. If you need to, place your hand on the top of their hips and help guide them to a sit by pushing their hips down.
- See if you can do this ten times a day, in between other activities.
- You’ll soon find as you count, that you are not getting to five before your dog sits. Reward him with the treat anyway. And within a day or two, he’ll be sitting straight away on a single command.
2. The next step is to ask him to sit without holding a treat in your hand. Have the treat in a bowl on a shelf near to hand though. As soon as he sits, say YES, then immediately go fetch him a treat from the bowl.
3. By the end of the week you can have the rewards in the cupboard or fridge. Just go with him to fetch one after you say ‘YES’.
Eventually you can fade the constant rewards. But it is still important to give them a treat for their compliance every once in a while. This will help them continue to comply after you ask them to do something the first time!
Just be careful not to let multiple commands creep back in again!
*My quick soap box on the dog treats–please be careful what treats you are feeding your pup! Just has health-conscious humans steer clear of unnecessary additives and preservatives, you might want to avoid treats full of preservatives and humectants. Soft treats generally contain both. Also, don’t use anything that can’t be broken into smaller pieces. You want to be able to reward frequently without ending up with an obese dog. I like to use the wholesome New-Zealand raised chicken and lamb Tasty Rewards Training Treats from Life’s Abundance for obedience training. Made from high quality real food! You can treat your dog away and not worry!
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