Teaching Automatic Sits
When dogs offer Sit without an explicit command, it's called an Automatic Sit, and it is the foundation for a well-adjusted dog and good loose-leash walking skills. Automatic Sits teach the dog to constantly give handler focus and to offer behaviors even in difficult situations. It aids all other training, and it is the first step towards permanent good behavior.
1. Teach the Sit position.
- Hold a treat above the dog's nose.
- Mark/reward for any behavior that looks like a Sit: i.e. rocking back on the haunches, shifting the weight back, leaning the head back, etc.
- Gradually shape a Sit, and only mark/reward for the full Sitting position.
2. Add a verbal cue.
- Once the dog performs a full Sit when you hold out your hand, say "Sit!" immediately before holding out your hand. It's important that the verbal cue, "Sit!", is given before the physical cue (your hand held out).
3. Incorporate Automatic Sits into loose-leash walking, and make it a fun game.
- Walk briskly and then abruptly stop. Hold out your hand in front of the dog's nose in case he doesn't immediately stop. Then, wait for a Sit.
- As soon as the dog sits, immediately mark/reward and take another few brisk steps.
- Abruptly stop again and wait for a Sit. Repeat this many times and move briskly forward, backwards, and side-to-side.
Practice Automatic Sits before giving the dog any toy, food, play, attention, and walks, and practice in different environments. Over time, you can use food rewards only sporadically. By teaching Sits such that they become automatic behaviors, you'll notice a marked increase in the dog's ability to focus and learn in difficult situations.