29 Things to Train Before a Sit? What they are, why they are important.
I am absolutely wild about training puppies to want to learn, try, work, focus, stay, go, turn, follow etc. etc. etc.
They are so eager to do things that it is hard not to jump right into the things you care most about.
I want a sit on a startline so you start working sits and stays.
I highly recommend putting your focus toward training things that enable you to train everything as a super exciting game. Don't take anything for granted that you might want, but the list might not be what you think. There are lots of things to train before a sit and a down.
1. Teach puppy that novel things are fun (footings, sights, sounds, tasks)
Safely introduce the puppy senses to the widest range of stimulus you can come up with.
Be cognizant of developmental fear periods and keep scary things short, far away and soft to begin with.
2. Teach your puppy a reward system and willingness to switch between rewards (toys and treats)
Learn what your puppy finds rewarding and build a wide range of rewards that your puppy learns to work for. Play, play, play with your puppy . Play with one thing, then when your puppy is into the game, just drop that toy and go play with a different one – does puppy leave the toy they “won” to play with you? Yeah! Don't force a toy on your dog or force your dog to play with you. Instead go have authentic fun doing something until your puppy can't resist butting in, then incorporate them into the game. hide and seek, tugging, wrestle (no teeth), chase mom (no nipping and no chasing puppy yet)..........
3. Teach your puppy to play with you
Teach: Do you want to play?
Teach: I’m having the best time ever!"
Make play with you so rewarding that your puppy will work for it. Learn and use the 10 rules of play:
1: be with the puppy,
3: be quick,
5: play like a dog,
6: be naughty,
7: be noisy, not loud
8: play with the dog, through the toy,
9: treats = edible toys
10: training = play
4. Build a desire to play with 4 different kinds of toys at a minimum
Develop desire to play with rewards that are useful in agility training. Something that accelerates, something that stays put, something you can reward close to your side (tug) and something else for variety. Ball, frisbee, tug, cardboard box, empty water bottle ……
5. Play moving attention games
Teach your pup to choose to pay attention to you over the environment.
Learn how to compete for your puppies attention with the world, instead of bribe it, ask for it, command it or beg for it. Build their expectation that you are the best thing ever!
With puppy on a leash, go to a fairly neutral place in the environment (middle of the yard) and wait for them to notice you – when they do – reward and move to a slightly new spot. Repeat. If your reward is better than dirt, your puppy will begin to follow you to new spot and not go off exploring – reward, reward, reward (aka play, play, play)
6. Teach your how to make choices and how mom or dad will train.
I think its fair to say that all agility behaviors can be trained by breaking them up into very small choices that your dog can then learn to want to do.
Teach the puppy to offer behaviors for the chance to earn a reward – including attention and focus behaviors.
This also shows the puppy what the repercussions of a poor choice are (nothing, just no access to rewards is all)
Play a variation on “its your choice”
Sit in a chair and hold a small handful of treats in your closed fist and rest that hand on your knee. If your puppy tries to steal the treats keep your hand closed. The instant they back away, open your hand, take a treat out of it with your other hand and give it to the puppy. If they try to lunge for the treats, just close your hand again. Do not correct the puppy or pull your hand away, just remove access to treats. If they happen to get one – oh well, just try to do better next time.
As your puppy gets good at ignoring the fist, keep your hand open and only close it if they try to steal a treat. If you open it and they stay away from it, then with your other hand take a treat and give it to them. Pause for a moment and if they are patient and don't try to steal the treat, give them another. When your puppy no longer tries to steal treats from an open hand on your knee, drop your hand lower.
Eventually put treats on the ground. Then with treats on the ground, stand up… walk away… do jumping jacks…. Every time your puppy makes a good choice, reward them with a treat from the pile. If you go too fast and they get the treats, just make a note of it and make it easier for them to be successful and avoid making that training mistake again.
7. Communication system (5 specific things to teach):
Teach your puppy what it looks like and sounds like when you are having fun, when you are asking them to do something, when they have made a good choice and when they haven’t.
2: do you want to play (ready steady),
3: I'm having the best time ever
4. praise, and
Do you want to play and I'm having the best time ever you’ve already been doing as part of your play games.
Introduce your marker and praise as your puppy begins to try stuff to restart the game.
My correction is “hey” it is a command. I teach the puppy that it means “stop what you are doing and look to me for information. Here is a good scenario. Give the puppy a bone that has food value and wait until they settle down to chew. Then move toward the puppy to take the bown, watch for the puppy to freeze and think about running away with the bone. Say "hey" to stop them just before they do, or step on the leash, take the bone and then give it back. Repeat the process a few times so the puppy learns to stop and check with you when they here the "hey" command. Find other games in a similar vein to strengthen their understanding.
8. Self restraint and focus
Teach your puppy that self-restraint is rewarding – just an extension of making choices in general
Play its your choice games with chance to go outside, approach the dinner bowl, sniff out treats, hide-n-seek"etc.
For example, with the dinner bowl, fill it up with some portion of dinner, IF your pup sits, then you start to put it on the ground, IF they get up, then you straighten up yourself and wait, IF they sit you start to put it down, Keep repeating this until they can choose to stay in a sit until you release them to eat. Play again!
9. Teach your puppy to love having a hand in their collar.
Hand in collar is not a correction, it is the start of a great game and puppy should be straining to get to what you are holding them back from. Do not tell a puppy to wait and then use restraint – they are opposite mindsets!
10. Ready steady / rev up
Teach the puppy what it sounds like when you want them to get excited.
Do not use this with self-restraint exercises (ie: wait) use with hand in collar instead.
11. Go to crate / rest in crate
Teach your puppy to be happy to get into and rest in their crate or in a specific place that is more portable (blanket)
Play games where going into crate makes you throw the ball etc. work up to closing door, then play its your choice to be released from crate and while they are in the crate.
12.Implied stay and release word “OK”
Self control gets you release from crate, x-pen, front door etc.
Play its your choice with a door. If puppy moves away from the door, it opens, if they try to barge out it closes. Reward inside the crate (car etc..) and then release if they stay away from door long enough for you to release with “OK”
13. Orientation to mom or dad behavior
Teach puppy to look at you after crossing any threshold (leaving car, leaving front door, leaving crate)…
After you release into a new environment OR after you cross a threshold into a new environment, wait for puppy to orient to you and reward. Be consistent or at least pick important thresholds (leaving a crate, car door, front door, gate out of the backyard.
14. Default behavior
Your puppy will generally pick a behavior (sit or down) as you are playing the It’s your choice game – go with that!
Teach puppy what to do when they don’t know what to do. Let puppy pick some self control behavior, sit, down, stand plus some orientation behavior (eye contact, orient to mom).
Set up circumstances where you temporarily ignore puppy and catch them offering a piece of what you ultimately are going to be ok with. Might start with loose leash, then turn toward you, then being settled, then watching your face, then resting at side etc..
15. Name recognition (reward head turn on sound of name)
Puppy needs to develop a habit of responding to name early, before they are more independent
Throw treat close to puppy, after they get it, call name and when they look at you throw treat in a new direction. Repeat the game in tons of places so that sound of name becomes instant head turn to look to you.
16. Recall = head turn + come to you + hand in collar.
Teach puppy that the sound of “come” means “holy cow, you sure want to be over here right now!”
Use hide and seek, or call puppy to come see what you found in the environment or play puppy recall with friends. Include hand in collar so that puppy likes to come very close in to you and not just near you.
17. Teach puppy tug and give
Use movement, body language and voice to play tug. Go still and quit playing, use both hands to hold the tug and claim all the loose dangly parts. Then just go still and use social pressure (meaning look at the puppy) to encourage them to let go. Be patient, you can wait all day. When they let go, SLOWLY claim the toy (so you don't trigger the pup to re grab the toy) – then invite them to play again right away.
18. Nose Touch
This is a very helpful foundation behavior that gives your dog something productive to think about and do in circumstances that are overwhelming, distracting etc.
Teach puppy to touch their nose to the palm of one hand. A great re-orientation behavior by itself and also a foundation “targeting” behavior for other targets.
Put hand behind your back (cookies in other hand), Present empty hand, when dog investigates, mark and reward with other hand at your palm. Repeat. Target low, Target high. Switch hands, Ask for multiple touches
Teach puppy to look at things on command (eventually good for changing motivation for looking at scary stuff, over stimulating stuff). Combine “look” with re-orient to mom to create a behavior chain that is good for managing mindset around distractions.
Hide neutral thing behind your back (ex: a cell phone), cookies in other hand. Present the cell phone and reward for looking at it. Do not encourage a touch or moving toward it. Do not use a toy in your hand (“look” implies “look but don’t touch”), Work up to objects that are more interesting (look at a car going by, look at a dog running, look at a skateboarder, look at a garbage can…)
20. Dealing with distractions
Teach puppy how to make choices in the presence of distractions
Practice any of the foundation behaviors (nose touch, it’s your choice, tug, fetch…) in the presence of other things that are interesting (new environments, new people, dogs, noises..)
21. Send to stationary toy /
Start very close, like toy one foot away.
Puppy will run to get a non-moving toy. Can use hand-in-collar to encourage a pounce
Work on moving toy first, then toy just stops before puppy gets there, then toy is stopped and you send puppy
22. Get it and choose between rewards to "get" what you are offering
Permission to grab a toy from you or the ground
An enthusiastic get it is the same as using a target for training
Choose between rewards
Teach the dog to “Get” whatever you are presenting as a reward even in the presence of a distraction (such as another reward)
Present tug toy, with treats in other hand, and encourage the dog to “get it” (toy), OR use two toys and switch back and forth, OR use kibble and steak….
23. Retrieve / fetch / find-x
Teach puppy to bring things to you, chase you with things in their mouth.
Many ways to play.
Backchaining each piece of behavior is a good one.
Or play with multiple toys in a hallway, a couple of feet away only, trade one toy for the next, or run away as soon as they pick something up
use toys on a rope to reel them in or trade toy for cookie.
Let them carry a toy on a short walk.
Be sure to reward when they bring the toy back with a game, then throw it again.
Use your restraint/ hand in collar and rev-up foundation skills to make this super fun!
24. Run really fast and run with you, without crossing in front, behind (aka loose leash walking) – this is really a first floor behavior – but its good to start before your puppy can out run you!
Encourage the puppy to walk, then jog, then stretch out and run with you and not to cross the plane of your body
Use 30’ circles or just go for walks, Reward low speed walking and frequently (every couple steps) work up to jog..
25. Accelerate / Decelerate
Puppy runs next to you in a straight line and turns when you turn.
With puppy on one side, run forward, then decelerate and turn into them and go the other way – reward when they catch up to your side. Repeat.
26. Puppy enjoys puzzles that involve rear-end
I really, truly believe the best way to build this foundation skill is to go for a walk in woods. The uneven terrain, side hills, over logs, uneven surfaces etc. is perfect for a young dog to learn about their body. Barring that, cavaletti, perch work, balance work, foot touch behaviors, ladder, walking backwards etc. are ok substitutes.
27. Stretching games
Puppy enjoys your manipulation of their limbs
Touch feet, legs, stretch legs gently, turn head, hold tail, move hock etc.
Enjoy touch, manipulation, being carried, inspect teeth etc.
Puppy enjoys your touch and giving up control to you
Use massage, be gentle, be firm and confident, practice when puppy is most relaxed anyway
28. Orient to side/ come to heel
Be able to move dog easily, reinforce working hard to come to your side
Lure or use perch work to reward for aligning with left side and right side.
Work up to recall to side from behind, side and ahead of you.
29. Poop and Piddle on command
Be able to encourage the puppy to go on commmand
Capture the moment and associate the word with the action, reward
Teach a nice snappy physical behavior (per your criteria, for example obedience sit/down)