Teaching a Puppy to Sit – Food Reward Method
What type of food should you use? There are many brands of prepared food rewards available in pet food stores, but you can also use “people” foods that are particularly enticing to dogs, such as cheese or hot dog wieners. Vet and animal behaviourist Dr. Sophia Yin has a unique approach to food rewards she calls “Learn to Earn” in which the puppy earns his regular daily meals throughout the day during training sessions. But whatever type of food reward you use, make sure the bits are small bite-sized pieced according to the size of your puppy. You need larger bits for a Great Dane puppy for example, and much smaller bits for a Yorkshire Terrier. Use your puppy’s kibble bits as a size guide.
You can make access to the treat rewards easier and faster If you attach a small cloth bag full of the tidbits to yourself somehow, such as on a belt loop or in a pocket.
Get down to your pup’s level. Hold a treat between your thumb and forefinger in front of your pup’s nose so he can smell it. It’s okay if he licks at it.
Lift the tidbit up and over his head slightly. His nose and mouth should follow this movement. As you are doing this, say “Sit” in a firm tone. Don’t lift it so high that the pup has to jump up to get to it, just high enough so that his bottom end automatically lowers, while his head goes up. You don’t want to teach him to jump for a treat.
When his bottom lowers, praise him enthusiastically and give him the treat. If his bottom doesn’t lower, use your free hand to gently press it down. Then give him the praise and treat.
As with the praise only method, your pup is likely to leap back up out of the sit position when being praised. That’s okay. You can refocus his attention again very quickly once you bring out the next tidbit.
Eventually, your pup will sit on command. In fact, after a few sessions, he will probably sit his little butt down as soon as he sees your hand reaching for the next treat, before you have even said a word! This is good. Say “sit” anyway and give him the treat and enthusiastic praise. It is time to wean him off treat rewards. That will be covered on another post.