Puppy Training - Teaching to Sit

Puppy Training: Teaching to Sit

with visiting Journeyman Chiro

Chiro smiles tolerantly as one more Apprentice asks him for advice. It is a simple question, but during the time he has been on Ista relaying some information and material to Aeia from the Masters at Keroon, he has fielded countless questions that teeter right on the edge of asking for full-blown lessons. Unlike the Masters at Ista, he has specialized in canines, not runnerbeasts. He has training experience the Ista instructors lack, and the Apprentices have been eager to benefit from it.

Resigning himself to answering the question to the depth desired, he calls his own canine to his side. Kody gets up from his relaxed sprawl on the floor, trotting over to his master with an easy, long-legged gait. The slender, tall canine turns his pale eyes upwards as he cocks his honey-brown head, waiting to receive his orders.

Chiro addresses the Apprentice's question. "There are as many ways to get a canine to sit as there are trainers," he begins. "But if you want to train with positive reinforcements, the first task is to get the canine to sit, as opposed to putting the canine in a sit. Canines (like people) learn much faster if their own mental processes control what is happening. If you push on a canine's butt and say, 'sit,' all it learns is that when you say sit you are about to push its butt. It may learn to avoid the push. It does not learn that it is involved in a conscious cooperative effort with the trainer."

Chiro absently fondles one of Kody's long, pointed ears. "So manage the canine into a sitting position without touching it, then reward it; once the canine is repeating the behavior consistently (and not before) start associating the cue (usually 'sit' in a cheery voice). Somewhere between twenty and forty repetitions of the behavior with the cue, followed by a reward, will result in the canine associating the cue with behavior. Then start rewarding only the fastest sits one day, only the straightest sits the next, and soon your canine will be sitting very fast and very straight!"

At this point, an Apprentice interrupts. "But if we can't push on his butt… How are we supposed to get the puppy to sit?"

"Use your imagination," Chiro replies. "One way I find easy is to put my fist in front of the puppy's nose." He demonstrates, placing a closed fist in front of Kody's nose. "Then move it back over the head, not going too high. Most puppies will follow your hand and plant their butt as a side effect." He moves his hand, and Kody watches it go up, first moving his nose, but then as he reaches a point where his neck does not want to go further, he lowers his hindquarters. They hit the sandy stone floor with a muffled whump accompanied by the faint scritching of toenails as he readjusts his weight. "The second the butt touches the ground, praise and reward," concludes Chiro, and he directs a warm "Good boy!" down at Kody, producing a small meatroll from his pocket and delivering it quickly to the anxious canine.

At this moment, Aeia's office door opens, and a cotholder walks out with his wife, saying a few things back over his shoulder as they exit. They nod politely to the gathered Herders as they turn to leave the Hall, and Chiro sees that Aeia is now free. "All right, that's it for now; I have business to deal with." He gives all assembled a polite nod, and then strides into the office, Kody following close beside.

OOC NOTE: For more on positive training, see Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the Dog" (found in most bookstores in the self-help, not dog section). There is also a listserve about positive dog training, only open to to people training dogs in the real world.
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