Dear Critter Corner: Our puppy is very much looking forward to life! With that excitement comes a lot of jumping, pulling, and slamming doors, to name a few. What can we do to curb his enthusiasm and teach him self-control?
What a great question! When we are teaching our puppies, a solid sitting position can help in many of the circumstances mentioned above, and create a nice set of standard behaviors that they can use when needed. I know this sounds like a simple exercise and you may think your puppy knows how to sit, but we’d like to remember to work with him in all kinds of environments.
I usually start my puppy in a nice quiet room. I learn the basics and then branch out into more distracting areas of the house or yard and finally our walks. This is the generalization process that many of us forget. If you want to have a “rock star” everywhere, you have to train everywhere!
I like a hands-on approach to teaching sitting. I do this by taking a treat and placing it against his nose, then curling it up and over his head towards his bum. As soon as his bottom hits the floor, I mark this behavior with a ‘yes’ and then reinforce it with the treat. When I see that he understands what I am asking and offers it myself, I add the verbal keyword “sit” while his butt is touching the floor and still marking and treating. I’ll then fade the visual bait and put it in a pocket. I now ask for the “Sitz” and wait, as soon as he offers it, I will mark the treat from my pocket and give it to him.
Now I will generalize the behavior and train it in many areas and contexts. I can now start using the sitting position to jump him, slam the door, pull on the leash, put on gear for a walk, and wait patiently while I talk to a neighbor on our walk.
If you are still having problems or need additional help, you can schedule a 1: 1 consultation with one of our behaviorists.
Tasha Suda is the lead dog trainer for the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA Behavior Department. For more information, please visit www.phs-spca.org, call 650-340-7022, or email [email protected]