By Scott Hunt – The Dog Grumbler
LET’S get basic.
Let’s assume we’re starting with a new pup and we want to save ourselves trouble down the line. The imprint period— around eight to 16-weeks — is critical. It involves setting your dog up for the human world outside.
But before you even leave the house, there’s work to be done.
The first thing your dog needs to learn is its name. Your dog needs to learn that this particular sound means that the speaker wishes to interact with it.
Say the name, squat down and slap your knees. Your body language says, “let’s be friends” — most pups will come to you in this situation and yours should be rewarded with praise and affection when it does.
Do it a lot. Do it at dinner time or whenever you have saved the last crumb of your sandwich or biscuit for your dog. If you have chosen a good name and associate it with praise and reward, you will be well on your way.
Now comes “sit”.
Call your dog to you, say “sit” and make a hand signal. Now, gently pushing back on the dog’s chest with one hand and down on its hind quarters with the other, make it sit. Now say “yes” or “good dog” and deliver praise and reward.
Do it a lot. Eventually your pup will turn to you when it hears its name. It will come to you and sit when instructed to do so. For more on hand signals, effective names, rewards and bridges (“yes” or “good dog”), grab a copy of the ‘Black & White Dog Book’ or keep watching this column.
Don’t underestimate the importance of “sit”. It’s a natural, comfortable stance that requires your dog to be still, yet ready to move. You should do it before you fit a leash or remove one, before you put down the dinner bowl, before you towel your dog dry or remove grass seeds or whatever from it’s coat.
It’s easy for a dog to sit, but it signifies assent and cooperation. Do it when you are walking and come to an intersection. Do it before you lift your dog into your car.
Do it whenever someone appears unsure of your dog’s temperament — a dog that sits on command looks trained and controllable, even if it only knows this one command.
It’s easy for a dog to become confused in a human world. It’s easy for us to miss the distractions that compete for a dog’s attention. Your dog will learn that anything that starts with “sit”, ends with praise and affection.
If your dog is unsure of your intentions or wishes, its confusion may manifest as disobedience. Give it the chance to respond, obey and behave in the simplest way possible.
If your dog won’t respond to the recall for some reason, tell (and signal) it to sit — chances are it will obey and when you approach to pick it up or fit the leash, start with the praise it expects. Now you are in a position to show your dog there was nothing to be unsure about.
Remember the importance of body language to your best friend. Most of us recognise a happy dog by a high, wagging tail and pricked-up ears. We know the same tail and ears can show fear, aggression and much more. The “sit” is a dog’s opportunity to demonstrate eager subservience.
After all, it just wants to please you.