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Basic Behavior: "Sit"

There are several behaviors that any pet should know. When we say “behaviors”, this is synonymous with what some people would call “tricks”. Largely, these are things your pet naturally does, we are just getting them to do it at specific times and instances, or “on cue or command”. Be aware that these are not limited to just dogs! Cats are very trainable and can learn how to do all the things that dogs can! Teaching your pet these behaviors can help improve your relationship with them by creating a better understanding between you, plus you might even learn something new about your pet or yourself! Here, a Lincoln, NE animal clinic will walk you through some.

Why should you train your pet to do anything? You wouldn’t just let your child do whatever they want, when they want, so why would your pet do the same? Training your pet allows you to effectively communicate what you would like them to be doing in that moment. Don’t want your pet jumping all over the door when the doorbell rings? Train them to do something else! Don’t want your pet jumping on the counters? Give them appropriate places to be, or more rewarding places! Let’s start with the most basic of behaviors first: Sit.
To train your pet, first get some treats, or you can even use some of their regular diet (kibble or canned food!) to train with. Either way, make sure it’s something they like and will work for. Your Lincoln, NE animal clinic reminds you that treats should make up no more than 10% of their total calorie intake. Training should not be an excuse for your pet to become overweight! Use the smallest pieces possible so they don’t fill up too quickly. Be aware that this will likely take more than one session depending on your pet and your own skill level. Training sessions should be kept short (no more than 1-3 minutes for an adult dog, new to training. Puppies may need much shorter sessions).
Another first step is training your pet to understand a “bridge” or “marker”. This is a sound or other stimulus that lets your pet know that what they are doing at the second is correct. Examples of this would be a clicker, saying a short word like “yes”, or “good”, or possibly a flash of light for a deaf animal. To train them what this means, use the marker, then give a treat immediately. Repeat this 3-4 times. Wait for your pet to look away and then use the marker again. If they immediately look up, expecting a treat, you are good! To keep the marker as a useful tool, just be sure it is ALWAYS paired with a reward.
Now you are ready to teach “sit”! Simply wait for your pet to sit (this is something that most pets will readily do without much prompting), use your marker, then give a treat. When you give this treat, be sure to toss it so your pet has to get up to get it. Wait for them to sit again and repeat. Within a few trials, your pet should just be offering this quite readily. Remember to take a break if you or your pet needs it! Play with them and have some fun at the end of a session.
After your pet has started to offer a sit regularly (sits down, looking at you waiting for that marker and treat), you can put it on cue or command. To train that, when they sit, use the marker and then say whatever word or use whatever hand signal you want to use to make them sit. You can have both a verbal and hand cue, or one or the other. Remember, a cue can be anything you want! Your pet doesn’t know our language, so if you want them to sit when you say “door”, they’ll sit! Do a few trials of saying the cue after your marker. Remember to toss the treat so they have to get up still between tries. Gradually say/do the “sit” cue sooner and sooner (just before their butt hits the ground all the way to just after they’ve finished the treat). Before you know it, you should have a happy pet sitting when asked.
You may find them trying to sit even when not asked for. If you don’t want that, try a few sessions where you ignore (don’t reward) sits that weren’t asked for. If they sit without the cue, do something to get them up (move around, distract with something, etc.) and then ask for the sit and reward it when asked.
This basic behavior can be a great thing to start with training your pet! Always remember if you have any questions about this or any other training endeavors, the staff at your Lincoln, NE animal clinic are happy to help you work through them!


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