I always say that in the training game, you want to “tie” with your dog; meaning if you ask your dog to sit once, you should get one sit. If you ask three times and your dog doesn’t sit, perhaps it is time to take a step back and reevaluate the training, or even, just give your dog a little more time to respond.
If a child just learned something and is asked (multiplication as an example):
“What’s 6 times 7…?”
And then again, without any time to think or respond :
“What’s 6 times 7??” …. “WHAT’S 6 TIMES 7???”
It’s very unlikely that this helps to think faster, or gets to the answer more easily, and is probably frustrating. The same is true for repeating cues to your dog; be patient, allowing the dog time to think for himself and work out what you are asking for. It is better to say the cue once, even if your dog takes 5 to 10 seconds to respond.
Once you have taught your dog behaviors and cues such as sit, down, go to crate, and come, it’s a good idea to give your dog time to think and respond without repeating a cue, or “nagging” him. Ask your dog to “sit” and wait until he does. Praise as soon as you see the behavior you asked for; this is crucial!
Your dog must know when he gets the correct behavior; no waiting, he needs to know. Plan to pair your praise with the moment you see the desired behavior. At the very end you can reward your dog for getting it right. First the reward can be food, but life rewards for good behavior, are great too; what your dog likes such as being on the couch or going out for a walk.
I often explain this training as using CPR to train your dog. Cue, Praise, Reward. Our cue is the word “sit,” our praise happens when the dog’s rump hits the ground, and finally we reward with food or life rewards. If you need to, you can give your dog a hint after the cue. A hint might be luring the dog into position, or showing a hand signal. I find it is best to use lures and gestures as hints after the verbal cue. If you ask your dog to “sit” and he doesn’t after 5 to 10 seconds, then give him the hint. Lure his nose back towards his tail, praise as soon as he sits, and reward at the end.
Always give your dog time to respond to the verbal cue without a hint. This will help your dog to think for himself.
If your dog is paying attention and trying to figure out what you are asking, then let him try. If he knows a lot of different cues and offers you all different things, just ignore him until he gets it right. So if he offers you a ‘give paw’, and a ‘down’ before a ‘sit’, but eventually gets to the sit, praise as soon as he gets it right and reward for the sit. Be sure your dog is sitting while eating a food reward if that’s what you’re using.
If your dog is standing and staring at you but not sitting and yet he is giving you his attention and seems to be thinking about what you’d like, just be patient and let him work it out on his own. Be ready for the moment he gets it right, so you can praise immediately. If your dog walks away and disengages from training when you try this method, it might mean you need to back up a few steps and practice the cues in their earlier stages. No big deal! Back up, work with your CPR and just use hints closer to your cue. Consider the reward; it is vital to use something that is truly motivating to your dog.
Like people, your dog likes to earn rewards! You might be surprised at all your dog knows when you give him the time to show you!
Erica Lieberman, MA, CPDT-KSA, CDBC, CBATI, VSPDT
Erica Lieberman of Pawsibilities New York is a certified professional dog trainer, and canine behavior consultant for over 10 years, serving the entire New York City area, including Queens, Brooklyn, Riverdale and Long Island, where she maintains her bucolic boarding facility.
Erica is a life-long dog owner, and equestrian with an appreciation of rural and suburban life however, she is also a life-long New Yorker and apartment dweller who understands the unique needs of the urban dog owner. She has extensive experience training dogs of all breeds and ages, to behave and thrive in the busy city. She uses only positive, science-based methods, and does not believe in using intimidation or pain to train your dog.
Erica believes that mutual trust and respect is the basis of all relationships, especially dogs and their humans. She is available for consultations and accepting new clients, I strongly encourage you to give her a call today. Learn more about Erica and Pawsibilities, on their website: