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Have you ever seen a small breed service dog performing medical alert tasks, emotional support assistance, or pressure therapy? When most people think of service dogs, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers come to mind. Those breeds are commonly used as service dogs for a number of great reasons, but many small dogs are also trained to offer specific types of assistance. These dogs may not be large enough to lead the blind, but they can alert their owners to oncoming seizures, blood sugar drops, or panic attacks. Small dogs often get the reputation of being noisy, rude, and nippy.
Unfortunately, just like any dog, your small dog could become that way if he is not properly trained, but your Havanese puppy could also grow up to be a loyal, obedient, and affectionate companion. Your puppy might even become a Service Dog, Therapy Dog, Canine Good Citizen, Emotional Support Animal, or simply a well trained best friend, who is portable enough and well trained enough to accompany you everywhere that dogs are allowed.
Your Havanese puppy can benefit a lot from training. Not only will he or she be more pleasant to live with, easier to take places, and friendlier towards others, but your puppy will also be happier when he is given the attention, mental and physical stimulation, and purpose that training provides. 'Sit' is a wonderful command to teach, especially if you are just getting started. Not only will it make other commands such as 'down', 'heel', and 'stand' easier to teach, but it is also a great command to practice around your home, to teach your puppy to pay attention to you, respect you, trust you, and learn better self-control.
Not only is 'sit' an important command to teach your puppy so that you can communicate with him in everyday life, but 'sit' is also an important command if you wish to teach your puppy tricks. Dozens of tricks involve the 'sit' command, such as 'shake', balancing treats, 'beg' or 'sit pretty', 'dance', 'high five', and 'watch me'.
If your puppy is very young or timid, choose a less intimidating method, such as the 'Lure' method, for teaching 'sit'. If you are having trouble getting your puppy to sit when you do not have a treat in your hand after he understands the command, the 'Position' method might help.
Do not use the 'Position' method if your puppy has ever shown any form of aggression or is afraid of being touched. If your puppy is showing signs of aggression at this or any age, do not wait to seek help from a dog trainer in your area. The earlier that aggression is treated, the better the chances for a positive outcome. Aggression in a young puppy is serious.
If you choose to use the 'Position' method, then do not force your puppy's bottom to the ground. You are simply applying pressure to the base of your puppy's tail to encourage your puppy to lower his bottom to the floor on his own, in order to escape the uncomfortable sensation of your fingers. When you lift up your puppy's chin, do so gently. If your puppy squirms away from your hands, then simply try again, being gentle and patient, until your puppy sits.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If your puppy is very food motivated, then you can also use his own dog food in place of the treats. If you are using the 'Lure' method then you will also need a corner, where two walls meet, to practice in. If your puppy will not stay with you while you are training, then attach a six-foot leash to him and step on it with your foot, to keep him from wandering off. If you are using the 'Capture' method, you will also need a treat pouch or a small Ziploc bag, to place your treats into. You will also need watchfulness and good timing. With all of the methods, you will need patience, a positive attitude, a good sense of humor, persistence, and gentleness. Most of all, remember to have fun!
The Lure Method
To begin, choose small treats that your puppy likes, then go to a corner in your home with your puppy. Encourage him to stand with his back end touching the walls.
Lure with treat
Show your puppy a treat, and then allow your puppy to sniff it. While your puppy is sniffing the treat, slowly move the treat toward the back of your puppy's head. This should cause your puppy to look up, and when he can look up no higher to follow the treat, he will have to sit down.
If your puppy does not sit the first time that you do this, then move the treat back to where you started from and repeat the process until your puppy sits. If your puppy still will not sit then try going even slower.
As soon as you see your puppy's bottom begin to go down, in order to sit, tell your puppy "Sit", and then when his bottom touches the floor, praise him and give him the treat.
When your puppy will sit when lured, repeat luring him into the position with a treat, until he will begin to sit as soon as he sees the treat or hears you say "Sit".
When your puppy will sit as soon as he sees the treat, then start telling your puppy to "Sit" and wait seven seconds before showing him the treat or moving the treat toward him. This is to teach him to pay attention to the verbal command rather than just the treat.
Practice telling your puppy to "Sit" and then waiting seven seconds before showing him the treat. Do this until your puppy will consistently sit without having to see a treat. When your puppy does sit, praise him and give him a treat. Over time, decrease the frequency of your treats, and instead reward your puppy with things that he enjoys in his every day life, such as going for a walk, eating dinner, being petted, being thrown a ball, or greeting another dog.
The Capture Method
To begin, fill a treat pouch or small Ziploc bag with treats. If you are using a bag, place the bag in an easy to access location, such as your pocket. If your puppy is very food motivated, you can also use your puppy's dry dog food in place of the treats.
Watch your puppy
Watch your puppy closely. Whenever you see him begin to sit down, calmly tell him "Sit", and then praise and reward him with a treat as soon as he sits all the way down.
Watch your puppy for the next two or three weeks. Whenever you see him begin to sit down, tell him "Sit" and then praise him and reward him when he does so. Do this until you have caught your puppy sitting at least thirty times.
Call your puppy
After you have caught your puppy sitting at least thirty times, call him over to you, show him a treat, and tell him to "Sit". Do this at least ten times. If your puppy does not sit when you tell him to, then work on catching him sitting for longer before calling him over and trying this again.
When your puppy sits when you tell him to after calling him over, then praise him and offer him five treats the first three times that he does it. Offer him one treat every time that he does it after that.
When your puppy is consistently sitting when you tell him to, then begin to tell him to "Sit" without showing him a treat. Tell him to "Sit" and wait seven seconds before showing him the treat. Repeat this until he sits before being shown the treat.
When your puppy sits without being shown the treat, then give him five treats, one at a time, the first three times that he does so. Give him only one treat at all other times.
Without letting your puppy see your treats, practice telling your puppy to "Sit", until he will do it every time. When your puppy will sit whenever he is told to in a quiet location, then practice around distractions, in new locations, and from greater distances, so that your puppy will be able to sit whenever he is told to in any circumstance.
The Position Method
Touch your puppy
To begin, touch your puppy on either side of his tail, where his tail meets his back. Do this while giving him a treat at the same time. Repeat this until your puppy is comfortable being touched there. After your puppy is comfortable, cup your puppy's chin in your hand, while giving him a treat at the same time. Repeat this until your puppy is comfortable being touched under his chin as well.
Place your hands
When your puppy is comfortable being touched on either side of the base of his tail and under his chin, then begin to show him how to sit. To show your puppy, place your thumb and forefinger on either side of the base of your puppy's tail, where his tail meets his back. While you are doing this, place your other hand under your puppy's chin.
With your hands in place, lift up on your puppy's chin, and apply inward and downward pressure with your fingers to the muscles on either side of the base of your puppy's tail. Do this while telling your puppy to "Sit". Do not force your puppy's bottom to the ground, simple apply pressure, so that he will lower it himself.
When your puppy's bottom touches the ground, praise him, release your hands, and give him a treat.
Repeat telling your puppy to "Sit", applying pressure to the base of his tail while lifting up his chin, and then rewarding him when he sits. Do this until your puppy begins to sit on his own as soon as you touch him, move your hands toward him, or tell him to "Sit".
When your puppy sits before you have touched him, then practice telling him to "Sit" without touching him. Do this until he can do it consistently in response to just your verbal command. If he needs a hint, then tell him to "Sit", then wait seven seconds before touching him. After seven seconds, place your fingers on either side of his tailbone and your other hand under his chin, and guide him into the position.
When your puppy will consistently sit when told to, without needing any hints, then practice in harder, more distracting locations, and for added reliability, teach him the 'stay' command also.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 03/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021