Say Please

Why teach your dog to ‘say please’?

Teaching your dog to sit when he wants something is a great way of teaching him to ‘say please’.   It also really helps with impulse control as your dog learns that he can’t just grab what he wants, he has to show restraint and sit as an indication that he wants something.  Sitting promotes calm and also safety, so it’s a good idea to expect a sit before the dog gets his meal, before the front door opens to go for a walk, before the car door opens at the park, and so on.

If your pup has good manners you’ll feel more confident to take him to different places, giving him a better quality of life.

How do you teach your dog to ‘say please’?

In puppy classes, we teach the pups a hand signal for sit, then later on some verbal commands, such as ‘sit’ and ‘hello’, both requesting that the dog park his bum on the floor.

For a ‘say please’ sit however, we don’t teach either a specific hand signal, or verbal command.  We let the pup work it out for himself.  By doing it this we are also helping the puppy develop problem solving skills; skills that he can use for different tasks throughout his life.  There’s evidence to suggest that the behaviour (in this case the sit), becomes more ingrained, more quickly, if the dog works out himself what he’s being rewarded for.

*Don’t do this if the dog is overly excited and/or jumping up at you.  Wait until your dog is calm.

  1. Start the training somewhere that has few distractions, such as the garden.
  2. Feed your dog 5 ‘free’ treats – he doesn’t need to do anything specific to get the treats.  This is only done right at the beginning of the exercise, after that only the sits get rewarded.
  3. Walk away from your dog.  Hopefully your dog will follow you in the hope of receiving more treats, if he doesn’t, do something to engage your dog, such as a very short play session.
  4. When your dog follows you stop and be as boring as possible.  Don’t interact with the dog at all.  The dog should sit as there’s nothing else going on.
  5. When the dog sits, immediately say ‘yesss!’, FOLLOWED BY a treat.
  6. Repeat from step 3.

I refer to this as the ‘automatic sit’.  We’ve not verbally asked the dog to sit and we’ve not used our hands to communicate that the dog should sit.  But, with practice, we have given the dog a clue as to what we want him to do; us standing with no interaction can become a signal to the dog (also known as a cue), that a sit is required.

Once your dog understands that you standing quietly is his signal to sit, you can transfer this to all different kinds of things, providing you’re consistent;

  • Kong in your hand, you wait, your waiting is the dog’s signal to sit, the Kong in your hand becomes the signal to the dog to sit.
  • You want to cross the road, your waiting is the dog’s signal to sit, the curb becomes the signal to the dog to sit.
  • You get the lead out to go for a walk, your waiting is the dog’s signal to sit, the lead becomes the signal to the dog to sit, which makes it easier to get the lead on, and sitting will be more calming for the dog, lessening the likelihood of the dog dashing out through the door.

Caveat; there’s some research that shows that expecting your dog to sit and then wait before the dog gets what he’s asked for can exacerbate frustration, which in turn can promote guarding.  Consider the sit as the ‘please’ and not the sit and the wait.  There’s other ways that you can teach your dog wait.

Contact me to enrol in puppy class, or if you have an older dog with specific issues, a home consultation may be required.