Apr 10


"Taking a seat" is something quite different than just "sitting". If you invited a visitor into your home, and asked him to "take a seat" as you pointed to your couch, you would expect that he would sit down and stay politely seated while you engaged in conversation. You might offer him a piece of candy from the dish on your coffee table. Most likely your guest would say thank you as he took the candy, while still remaining seated.

However, if a visitor to your home was asked to take a seat and he simply sat quickly on the couch, grabbed a candy from the dish, popped up and then started to wander off, instead of staying seated and engaging in conversation with you, you would think he was pretty rude, right?

Yet we tolerate this behavior from our dogs all the time. Just a quick sit and pop-up for a treat is not an acceptable behavior for a dog when we ask them to sit. Is the dog being taught a "sit" or is he being taught a "sit, treat, pop-up"? From this point forward, when you tell your dog to "sit" think of it as asking him to "take a seat".

Taking a seat (remaining in the sit position) is essentially the same as a sit-stay, but it is not necessary to add the verbal word "stay" if you teach the dog that sit means sit until I give permission for you to get up. If you do wish to use a verbal command in addition to saying "sit", consider using the word “wait” for the sit-stay, reserving the word “stay” to mean remaining in a down-stay position.

Begin to teach the dog to remain seated by teaching the sit for attention (watch me) exercise very early in the training process. Have multiple tiny treats in your left hand. Lure or place the dog into a sit (with or without food, depending on how well your dog understands the exercise at this point) and bring both your hands up to your face, underneath your chin, w hile saying “watch”, “watch me” or “look”. As soon as the dog focuses on your face, mark the behavior with a quick one-word of praise (good!) bring a treat down from your face with your right h and to his mouth, while your left hand remains under your chin. At the beginning, you’ll have to use lots of tiny treats to keep the dog focused, but within a few days the exercise will be sit (verbal command only, or lure if ne cessary), “watch”, gooooooooood (see explanation of bridge below) wait 2-3 seconds, give treat, repeat “watch”, wait a few seconds, treat, repeat. Within a week, most dogs can watch for several minutes before the treat is given.

Always use your release word (okay! or all done!) before allowing the dog to get up – remember, you decide when sit is over. The decision to move out of place belongs to you, not the dog. If you have a dog that is not overly food motivated and cannot stay focused on you just because you have a treat, then have a leash on him, so you can step on it to prevent him from just walking off. With this type of dog, you may need to start with a small squeaky toy held near your face in order to teach him to focus on you when you say the word "watch".

At the beginning of the sit for attention exercise, you will be using a quick word of praise to mark what you want from the dog (which is for the dog to look up and focus on your face). You will soon want the dog to wait longer before he gets up, and perform without a treat, so we will start making our praise more of a longer sentence, using it as a bridge between the behavior and the reward, so that the dog will not get impatient and get up. Bridging is simply doing something to let your dog know he is on the right track, that he is doing the right thing. In this exercise, it looks like this:

“Figi, sit.” Dog’s bottom hits the floor.

“Figi, watch me.” Dog remains sitting, looks up at owner.

Couple seconds pass (length of time depends on how much impulse control you know your dog has at this point). Your hand or finger is still on your face, helping the dog remember what to do.

“Goooooooooood, gooooood watching, good, watch me.” We are providing a bridge to let the dog know that he is doing the right thing, speaking in a very calm soothing voice, not high pitched or quick and upbeat, so the dog does not misread it as a signal to get up.

“Yes!” Dog is given treat.

“Okay, all done!” Dog is allowed to get up, we then re-direct the dog to another exercise or allow him a break from training. Do not give rewards at this point (after the dog gets up) because we want to reinforce sit while the dog is sitting, not after the dog is released from the position. Also, keep your "okay" release word upbeat but NOT overly excited (a release word given in a way that causes the dog to become overly-excited will cause the dog to anticipate getting up, because he will be looking forward to the feeling of being released, versus using a release that is a bit less enthusiastic, which will simply be a cue to let the dog now he is released from staying in position).

Using the watch me command to teach static attention is a very simple exercise, but it can work wonders in teaching impulse control, as your dog learns to focus on you for longer periods of time. It is a great way to teach a food-motivated dog the concept of "take a seat" on a positive note.  Click on the "Read More" link below to read the rest of this article and find out how to keep your dog in the sit position....


(c) 2010, Melanie Schlaginhaufen, all rights reserved. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.


When teaching "take a seat" you must be very consistent. Your dog is never asked to sit without the release word being part of the exercise, even as the dog is left sitting for longer and longer periods of time before being released. There should always be a beginning to the exercise (the beginning is when you ask the dog to sit) and there should always be an end to the exercise (when you give the release word).

If (perhaps we should say “when” because all dogs do it) the dog gets up before being released, simply physically place him back into a sit by lifting his face upwards, with or without holding his collar. If you are using a slip collar, and you have a dog who understands a collar pop, you can use this technique but all correction must be immediate (never correct, verbally or physically, if the dog has already gotten up and is coming towards you, because you do not want a negative association attached to coming to you). A very effective verbal correction for a dog that is popping up from a sit is a quick “annnnkk!” given the instant the pop-up occurs or even as the dog is “thinking” about popping up (thus preventing him from making the mistake).

Some people are totally opposed to corrections, in which case they simply reposition the dog if/when he gets up. I'm not opposed to correction as long as it is timed perfectly. The only time a collar correction is effective is if it is given the very instant the dog thinks about getting up (sequence--give quick tiny pop of the collar while saying "annnkkk" and redirecting the dog back into the sit position). How to redirect back into sit? A dog who has been taught to sit when the owner touches his "magic sit button" along his back should be cued to take a seat by once again touching this spot. If the dog was taught using a food treat to lure him into position, just lift your left hand as if you had a treat, to get the dog to sit back down.

If the dog is just learning the command, and you are using treats to lure the dog’s head up, as opposed to using a collar, it is fine to lure him back into a sit with food the first few times, just so he will understand what you are expecting of him (and what he must do to get the treat). But if you continue to do this, a smart dog may start getting up just because he knows that getting up will make you give him another treat to get him to sit back down. In most cases, treats during a sit stay should not be necessary for any length of time, since we usually wait until the dog understands the sit exercise before we start asking for longer sits before releasing. At the beginning the dog is expected to sit and focus on our face for just for a second of two, then he is released with "okay all done".

Consistency is the key – if the dog gets up, immediately replace him into a sit (preferably by using the "sit button" on the lower portion of his spine to gently position him into a sit or you can lift his head up, which usually causes the rear to plop back down as you repeat "sit". Or if your dog is dependent on the food lure, use your hand to lure him back into position as mentioned above). The "sit button" is simply a place on the dog's tailbone that you can locate when you run your hand along his spine. At a certain point, with very slight pressure, your dog will start to tuck himself into a sit. This is much more effective than pressing on the dog's rear quarters with the palm of your hand, which can cause the dog to put energy into remaining standing (because we have triggered the dog's opposition reflex--we push one way, he pushes the other).

If your dog is easily distracted, or strong-willed, and it is very difficult to teach him the concept of “you might as well stay sitting, because if you get up, I’m going to place you right back into a sit” or if you are having trouble when you start adding distance, then the E-touch method of using an e-collar may be used to obtain compliance very quickly. Keep in mind that dogs who are very bonded to their owners, have high pack drive and are not the least strong-willed may be the ones who have the most trouble staying put when their owners walk away (simply because they feel most secure when they are close to the owner).

Regardless of the reason for getting up, you can obtain understanding quickly, working even a fearful dog into a long distance sit stay with minimum stress, with an e-collar. Since timing is extremely important, and techniques vary based on the collar you are using, be sure to work with an experienced trainer in a private e-collar lesson, or attend an e-collar class or workshop. An e-collar is a valuable tool if used correctly, but if used incorrectly, can damage your relationship with your dog. This is true of any collar – even collar correction with a buckle collar can be done in an inhumane or not wisely thought-out fashion, hurting the dog and damaging the relationship. With any type of training aid, it is important for the owner to understand its proper use. Understanding proper timing and the importance of teaching the dog how to quickly turn off the unpleasant sensation of any needed collar correction is very important. Use a balanced approach, making sure there are plenty of things that make the dog happy added into the training sessions so the dog does not become overly stressed, distrustful, or simply start dreading upcoming training sessions. E-touch workshops, by Martin Deeley and Marc Goldberg, are very comprehensive and helpful. If you want off-leash control and you do not have an experienced e-collar trainer in your area, it is worth the drive to attend one of these workshops,

Which brings up an often asked question – can’t you teach a dog to sit and stay without the use of corrections? Yes, you can teach them to do this in a controlled environment, with minimal use of correction (technically, replacing a dog into a sit is not a positive in the dog’s mind, so just having a “do-over” is one form of correction). But probably less than 1% of dogs can be taught to stay in position around distractions without some consequence for not doing so. This is no reflection on a dog’s character, it is just canine nature, just like we have certain weaknesses in human nature. Probably less than 1% of human beings would have perfect attendance at work if there was no consequence for staying home when they didn’t feel like working!

Teaching your dog the concept of "take a seat" when he hears the word "sit" has many advantages in everyday life situations. Here are a few examples:

1. Have your dog sit to greet people when they come to your door, instead of leaping up on them.

2. Have your dog sit before you put their food bowl down, reinforcing the fact that you are the leader and the food does not go down until they say “please” by sitting and watching you.

3. Have your dog sit before you give petting or toys, same principle as #2.

4. Use extended sits with a place command to teach your dog to run to a specific safe place and sit when the door is opened, as opposed to charging the front door when visitors arrive.

5. Use extended sits with the “wait” command, to keep your dog from bounding out of the car, or out of your doors in the house when they are opened.

6. Use the sit command to enforce your leadership, such as insisting upon an extended sit some distance from the table, while the family is eating.

Be sure the dog is always released and rewarded with praise, petting, or even a play session once you start asking for extended sits, so that you do not build stress or resentment into the relationship. Taking a seat, learning that sit means sit until told to do otherwise, is not something the dog has to view as unpleasant. Working with him on other things during the same training session will keep his attitude positive and upbeat.

So....come on in, take a seat! Happy Sitting!

(c) 2010, Melanie Schlaginhaufen, all rights reserved. May not be reprinted in whole or in part without author's permission. For permission to reprint or post on your blog, get in touch with us by using the Contact Form on our home page.


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