Janice and her new puppy, Catch,  demonstrate how to teach sit and stay using positive training methods.

Introducing, Catch, my eight-week old golden retriever puppy. In this video, I am going to demo my process for teaching Catch to sit and stay using positive training methods. Positive training is all about clear communication so I am going to let Catch know exactly when he does something right. In this video, I am using a clicker but you could also use a marker word like “yes” or “yip”.

Marker words or clicks: These are specific words (or sounds) that we teach our dog so that when they hear it they know they have done something right. Marker words are always reinforced with some sort of reward, typically a small treat (sometimes a quick play with a toy). You can start this process simply by saying the word and then rewarding the dog with a treat – they quickly understand that the word means something good is about to happen.

Step 1: Start by building value for the platform. When Catch steps on the platform I click and reward. After only a few times he quickly comes to understand that being on the platform is a good thing.

Note: I encourage him to come off the platform so I have a chance to reward him for returning to it, I place a treat a short distance off the platform and say “get it”. Cueing him to “get it” adds some clarity for him to know when he should leave the platform. You want to be as consistent as possible for this as down the road you don’t want your dog to jump up out of sit because someone dropped a treat.

Once he gets the treat, he starts thinking about how to get another reward and this brings him back to the platform where I let him know he did the right thing by clicking and reinforcing.

Step 2: After a few repetitions where I reward him for simply coming to the platform I will progress to encouraging him to sit on the platform and then mark/reward the sit.   I may have to lure him into the sit position by placing a treat at his nose and then lifting it slightly up and back the first time or two.

Note: You will notice at this point I am not using cue words like “sit” or “stay” I am building the behaviour first and then will add a cue after Catch is already sitting and staying.

Step 3: at 1:36 Catch is on the platform and I will move a step or two away to see if Catch comes off. I will not correct him for leaving but if he offers the behaviour of returning to the platform he will get a click and reward. This will reinforce that the platform is where he wants to be.

Note: at 2:54 Be really clear when you call or lure your puppy off the platform, here you see me use the word break.  Catch does not get a treat for leaving the platform, only use praise for the release as the value for the behaviour we are teaching is for staying on the platform not for coming off.

Step 4: at 3:08 Here I start working without the platform and lure Catch into a sit and then step back to see if he will hold it. If he does so he gets a treat. If he did not stay in place there would be no correction. I would simply lure him into a sit and try again and when he did offer the correct behaviour, mark, and reward. Don’t ask for too much too soon, a 2 second stay, then 4 seconds, then 6 seconds, build duration slowly!

at 4:32 I introduced the stay cue both hand signal and voice. By now he has a reasonable understanding of the exercise and holding the sit stay reliably, that is when it is time to introduce the signal.

Tip: Set your dog up so he succeeds so build distance and duration gradually.