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Reward-based training is a great way to train your puppy. Many dogs react in a positive way and learn when food is involved. However, there may be times your puppy needs to learn when you do not have treats handy or in times when you don't want to fill his tummy with treats. Your puppy should be able to perform simple tricks such as 'sit' without using treats to lure or to reward. Getting your dog to perform these simple tricks will be a matter of conditioning and rewarding with positive behaviors and activities from you. Try to teach him to sit without using treats and save those high-value treats for more advanced learning. 'Sit' is an easy command to learn and a very natural position for your puppy.
Finding something your puppy will work for won't be hard to do. He may work for toys or even for affection from you. Often times, playtime with your dog is reward enough. Your dog lives to please you, and he's eager to do so. A simple change in your tone of voice will either tell him you are disappointed in his behaviors or you are very excited that he is learning something new. Though you can teach your puppy simple commands such as 'sit' with treats, rewarding him with time with you, an incredibly warm tone, and loving words from you or even his favorite toy rope is often enough to get him excited and motivated to perform these simple commands.
You will want to schedule some training time with your puppy. Set aside a little extra time to play with him before you work on training commands, even something as simple as 'sit'. Consider bringing new toys or favorite toys to your training sessions for rewards to give to your dog during training. They should be rewards you can take away again and regift as you repeat the training and the command. Be sure you are upbeat with a great attitude so your little guy can feel your excitement and your pride as he learns the 'sit' command. You will want to schedule some training time with your puppy. That aside, plan a little extra time to play with him before you work on training commands, even something a simple as 'sit'.
The Command Only Method
Position yourself in front of your puppy and talk to him with a loving, tender voice.
While standing in front of your pup use the command 'sit.' He won’t know what to do just yet, but give him some time. This is the first step to learning.
Wait or assist
You can choose to wait for your puppy to sit or you can assist him as soon as you say the command to sit. Some dogs will automatically sit when their owner stands in front of them. Others are very patient and will happily continue standing as they wait for what’s coming next. In this case, you may need to very gently push the bottom of your dog down into position as you say the command again.
When your dog sits, whether you have assisted him or he got bored and decided to sit on his own, give him lots of enthusiasm and verbal praise. Many dogs love verbal praise like 'good boy' along with a gentle ear massage.
Continue to practice asking your dog to sit and either wait or help him into the position and then reward him with your love and affection each time he is successful.
The Playtime Method
Start playing with your dog to get his attention and get him excited. Have a little fun playing with one of his favorite toys. You can play fetch or tug-of-war.
When you have the toy in your control pause your game. Place it over your dog's head and keep his attention.
Say commands to 'sit' and keep the toy over your dog's head.
Move toy back
If your dog doesn’t sit automatically because he’s impatient, slowly move the toy towards the back of his body while keeping it high over his head. This will cause your little guy to automatically sit to avoid falling over.
You can still reward your dog with the toy. Once he sits, begin your play time again and give him control of the toy.
Once you've started, grab the toy again and play tug-of-war and then repeat your command to sit after you pause and hold the toy over his head again.
The Phase Out Method
Start with treats
Begin training your dog to sit while using treats and then phase the treats out once he is successful and understands the commands.
Hold a treat over your dog's head while standing in front of him.
Move treat back
Move the treat back towards the back of your dog's head keeping his attention and encouraging him to look up and follow the treat with his eyes and nose.
Your dog will likely begin sitting on his own just because it’s an alternative to losing his balance while looking up and following the treat. Repeat several times with your dog rewarding him with a treat.
Be sure to give your dog the reward of the treat once he sits down to avoid falling over.
Repeat and practice
Repeat this several times with your dog rewarding him with a treat each time he does it. Start your practice but begin to eliminate the treat reward with practice.
After you have practiced sitting several times and your dog understands, ask him to sit. When he does, let him see enthusiasm and excitement from you. Remember, your dog will work hard to please you, not just to earn food.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 04/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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