Puppies love to move. They wriggle, bounce, roll and jump until they exhaust themselves, then they wake up and do it all over again. The last thing Butterscotch wants want to do is sit still. Oh, she may do it on her own so she can stare at a butterfly or to ready herself before she launches herself at a chew toy, but to sit at your command? This is one of the three most important lessons you and your dog will learn together (along with Come and Stay), so it pays to master it well and soon.
To start, fill your pocket with Butterscotch’s favorite treat – small pieces, not entire biscuits or bones. Stand so that you face her, which may be difficult at first as she will want to be on the move. Hold the treat in front of her nose to get her attention. When she’s fixated on the nibble, raise your hand slowly until it is just out of reach.
To get the treat, Butterscotch should have to raise her head and her shoulders. When she does this, her hind end should naturally lower, and possibly even touch the ground automatically. The moment it does and Butterscotch is in the “Sit” position – bottom down, head up, all four paws on the ground – say, “Sit. Good girl!” and give her a treat. Say the command only once; you want her to know that she must sit on the first command, and not that she can wait until the second or third time you say it. If she has to lift her front paws to reach the treat, try it again holding it lower.
If Butterscotch’s bottom doesn’t naturally lower to the ground, touch her gently on the back; don’t force her into a sit. Keep repeating the process until she makes the connection between the action and the word Sit. When you are fairly certain she’s got it, try it without using the treat.
Whatever you do, if Butterscotch does not sit, do not scold or punish her. Don’t do or say anything. Just keep trying until she gets it, and when she does do it, make sure you praise her. And never call her over to you for punishment. She won’t want to obey your Come command if she learns that it leads to a scolding.
Be consistent and patient during this training, but keep it short. A few ten-minute sessions throughout the day will be more effective than one marathon lesson, which will tire you both. Obedience training should be a fun bonding experience, not a painful ordeal to be endured. When Butterscotch has happily sat for you several times in a row without a treat, praise her and let her go off and play. And give yourself a treat.
After you’ve gone through a few Sit sessions with Butterscotch facing you, she’s ready to move on. You want her to understand the Sit command no matter what she’s doing at the time, whether it’s walking on the leash or romping in the yard. The process is essentially the same: when she’s on the leash, repeat the lesson above but with her at your left side. Remember to say the command only once, and to praise her when she does as you ask. Once she learns that Sit means the same thing whether she’s in front of you or beside you, it will be far easier to train her to sit wherever you and she may be. Once she’s really “got it,” you should be able to stand anywhere within shouting distance and get her to sit, even if she’s in the middle of a rousing game of catch.
Okay, She’s Sitting. Now What?
The natural next step is Stay. Have Butterscotch sit (“Sit. Good girl.”) and position yourself as though you were about to set off on a walk, with her sitting quietly at your left side. Put your left palm out in front of her face and at the same time say, Stay. Now move your right foot forward – always walk away from you dog right foot first – and take two steps, then turn to face her. If she is still in her perfect sit, praise her. Tell her again to Stay, count off a few seconds and walk back to your place. Praise her again. Give her the release word that tells her she can move (most people use Okay), and let her change positions. Don’t give her a treat or praise her after she moves or she won’t understand that she is being rewarded for not moving.
Over the next few days, repeat this lesson. Don’t increase the distance yet, but when you think she has made the connection between the command and the action, slowly increase the amount of time she must Stay. Be patient, and do not scold her for breaking out of her sit: she’s not doing anything wrong, she’s just not following a command she hasn’t learned yet. If she moves, lead her back to the original spot and start again. This helps reinforce the lesson anyway.
Once she’s a pro at sitting and staying with you a few steps away, walk a few steps farther each time. Don’t add too much distance at first, just a few steps for each increment. Eventually she should be able to Stay for many minutes with you standing some distance away. If Butterscotch knows Down, practice Stay with her lying still, too. And remember, as long as she’s staying, praise her: “Good Stay.”
She should Stay no matter what she is doing when you issue the command. Practice with the two of you in a variety of different positions: with her in one room of the house and you in another, with one of you outside, with you just out of sight. Don’t tease her by making her stay too long or humiliate her in some sort of party trick, but do test her by having her stay while you throw a ball or pick up her leash. And if you tell her to stay, she should not move for anyone else’s Come or release command, only yours. You are the pack leader.
And now, for a nice sitting puppy wallpaper, perfect if you love dogs and you have a Full HD resolution on your monitor.