Teaching Your Puppy Sits and Downs

1. Start by sitting on the floor with your puppy where there are no distractions. Place a food treat right at your puppy’s nose and move your hand slightly up and back and as your puppy’s head follows, his butt should hit the ground.  When that happens, say YES and give him the treat. 

2. Don’t say SIT yet.  Your puppy doesn’t understand English and we don’t want to say the word “Sit” until we know he’s going to do it, so he associates the word Sit with the correct behavior. So practice a number of times until your puppy is easily going into a sit.  Once you know your puppy will sit, say SIT just before his butt hits the ground. Repeat this 2-3 times in a row and the next time, don’t put a treat in your hand but put your hand at his nose the same as before.  You want to fade out the food lure as soon as possible, but still reward him after he sits.

3. Eventually, start saying Sit before he sits and before you use your hand signal.  Say Sit, pause, then use your hand signal.  Repeat about 5-6 times and the next time, say Sit and wait for your puppy to sit.  Immediately say YES and give him a treat.  This is the way to get the behavior on a verbal command without needing the hand signal all the time.

4. Make sure you don’t lift your hand up too high with the treat which will cause your puppy to jump up.  If your puppy backs up instead of putting his butt down, use your other hand to block him from backing up, or try working in a corner so he can’t back up.

5. To teach DOWN, start with your puppy in a sit.  Use the same luring process but move your hand slowly from his nose towards the floor.  You may need to move your hand in towards his chest and then back towards you to help him slide down.  Every dog is a little different so go slowly and experiment with how you have to move his head so his body slides into a down.  Repeat a few times before adding the word DOWN. Don’t say DOWN until you know he is going to do it.

If your puppy starts to go down but his butt pops up, just start again.  Working on a slippery floor may help him slide into a down more easily.

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