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Giving your dog a task to earn attention gives him confidence as he learns to predict his environment and apply constructive behavior to achieving his goals. Teaching your dog to do puppy push ups to get your attention, or a meal, is a great way to give your dog a task which he can use to earn the things he needs and wants.
Teaching your dog to do puppy push ups is a great game for your dog that provides him with entertainment and has some great fitness benefits too. Do you have a dog that is bored, stuck inside due to weather, or needs to be distracted from a behavior that is becoming obsessive? Puppy push ups can also be used as a substitute behavior to distract your dog in a situation where he is becoming anxious or out of control by proving another activity to draw his focus. Push ups can also be a great way to provide your dog a job that allows him to earn something, like a walk, play time, or a meal. When you give your dog a job, and he understands the pay off for successfully completing his job, it builds confidence which can be used to counteract psychological issues such as boredom and anxiety.
Puppy push ups consist of three commands performed in succession, a sit, a down, and a stand. You can also mix these commands up for a bit of variety. You can teach a very young dog to perform these commands, and ‘sit’ and ‘down’ are often commands a dog already knows, so adding 'stand' and practicing these tasks in sequence is usually not that difficult for most dogs. Many dogs can be taught the sequence in one or two short sessions and then master them with practice over the next few weeks. Once they master the push up behavior, you can start using it to accomplish goals. You can then use the push up sequence to allow your dog to earn your attention, or distract him from an unwanted behavior.
You will need lots of treats to teach your dog the sit-down-stand sequence. Use patience, and do not punish your dog during training, or force him into position, as this will make your dog resistant. Also, it helps to teach your dog this trick on a surface with good traction, as slippery surfaces make it hard, and your dog can be injured. Practice this activity before your dog has eaten so he does not fill up too quickly on treats, and is motivated by his treats. Keep sessions short; 5 minutes long, several times a day is ideal. Using a clicker may be a useful way to capture and reinforce this behavior.
The Capture and Reward Method
Sit on the floor with your dog or stand next to him with a treat in hand.
Wait until your dog sits on his own, then say “sit” and reward. Practice until your dog sits in response to the verbal command.
Wait for your dog to lie down from either a sitting or standing position. When your dog lies down say “down” and reward. Practice until your dog lies down in response to the verbal command.
While your dog is sitting or lying down, wait for him to stand. Say “stand” and reward. Practice until your dog stands in response to the verbal command.
Start asking your dog to ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘stand’ in sequence, and provide a reward only after the entire sequence is completed.
Vary the order of the commands and take the game to various locations, like out in your yard, on walks, etc.
The Capture with Clicker Method
Sit on the floor with your dog, or stand next to him with a clicker in hand.
When you “catch” your dog sitting, use the clicker and then give your dog a treat.
Practice, then add the command ‘sit’ when you see your dog about to sit, click, and treat. Repeat until the behavior is established.
Eventually, you can remove the click and just use the verbal command to get your dog to sit.
Down and stand
Repeat steps 1-4 for the ‘down’ and ‘stand’ commands.
Sequence and vary
Gradually move to rewarding your dog after giving him ‘sit-down’ commands in succession, then ‘sit-down-stand’. Vary how often you give treats and the order your give commands in.
The Lure and Shape Method
Hold a treat above your dog’s nose to encourage him to sit on his haunches. Say “sit”, when your dog sits, provide the treat. Practice until well established.
While your dog is sitting, hold a treat down on the ground. When your dog lies down to get the treat, say “down” and reward, practice. If your dog has trouble with this you can sit on the floor with your leg bent, and put the treat under your knee. This will encourage your dog to reach down under your leg for the treat, resulting in him lying down.
While your dog is either sitting or standing, hold the treat out in front of you in a flat hand, not so high that your dog has to jump up to reach or so low so he lies down. When your dog stands, say “stand” and treat. Practice.
Start sequencing ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘stand’.
Start providing treats to the ‘sit’, ‘down’ or ‘stand’ commands on a varying schedules and in varying order. For instance, every 2 commands or every 3 or 4, so your dog completes the sequence before being rewarded.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 11/20/2017, edited: 01/08/2021