Teaching A Dachshund To Sit The Easy Way

Submitted by braveheartdogs on June 26, 2007 - 5:10pm.

I teach many dog training classes including one dedicated to small dogs. There are some challenges that are unique to training small dogs. I am happy to say that there are methods that work very well for training small dogs.

We are going to be using food as reinforcement or reward for doing the correct behavior (sitting). You will use food in the beginning stages of training and then continue to reward with food randomly after the dog knows it. You will have to continue to reward the dog forever, SOME of the time. In other words, if you ever stop rewarding the dog altogether the behavior will go away. Think of it this way, you wouldn't continue to go to work if your boss suddenly announced that you would be expected to work for a pat on the back would you? My guess is no. Your dog is no different. Pats on the back (like praise to a dog) are good, and we enjoy them, but they are simply not reinforcing enough to work hard for.

There are several ways to teach a dog a new behavior using positive reinforcement techniques. I am going to share the two easiest techniques with you here.

We are going to teach the dog to sit first and then put it on command later. By saying the word "sit" before the dog actually knows what you want you are setting yourself and the dog up for failure. If he doesn't know what the word is supposed to mean, how can he do what you ask? The answer is, he can't. So, don't worry about any verbal cues or words right now, we'll add those later on.

The first way to teach a dachshund to sit is to use a method called "luring". Luring means that you use food to lure the dog into position. Luring is great, the only thing is you have to make sure to get off the food as a lure as soon as possible.

To start luring the sit, get a very high value (extra tasty) treat in your hand. Kneel down on the ground next to your dog with the dog on your left. Put the treat in your right hand, and then right up to the dog's nose. Hold onto the treat so your dog can't eat it out, and slowly draw your hand and the treat back and up over his head. You should be pulling the food back so that his head goes back causing his butt to sit on the ground. The minute he sits say "yes" and release the food.

Saying "yes" in a distinctive tone tells the dog what it is he did correctly and that you intend to give him a treat. Make sure to give a treat every time you say "yes" in that voice. This is called verbally "marking" the behavior. In other words you are marking exactly what the dog did correctly so he knows to repeat that behavior. Practice this until the dog can be easily lured into position.

If your dog hops up onto his back legs you are holding the treat too high.

If your dog backs up rather than sitting, try putting him in a corner so he stops when he backs up.

It may take a few times to lure him, this is ok! The fact that it may take him a few times to understand what you want does NOT mean he is being stubborn, dominant or willful. He is simply trying to figure it out. Whatever you do, don't push or pull the dog into position. Behaviors are stronger when the learner figures them out for themself.

As soon as you can easily lure the dog into position you are ready to move on. Put the treat in your hand and say "sit" then lure the dog into position. When he sits say "yes" and deliver the treat. Next, try it without a treat in your hand. Say "sit" and if he sit's say "yes" and deliver a treat. If he doesn't sit immediately use your hand signal and pull your hand up over his head. When he sit's say "yes" and treat.

Practice with a treat in different locations with different distractions. Once your dog gets very reliable begin to reward with different things like belly rubs, pats, his dinner, getting the leash on for a walk, and sometimes treats.

If you are having a difficult time luring your dachshund into position try "capturing" the behavior. Capturing means that you don't prompt the behavior you simply wait for it to happen.

I recently rescued (and decided to keep) a very frightened miniature smooth that had been in the shelter for 10 months. He was very afraid and so all of his training had to be hands off. No luring even as hands over his head were too scary. I used the capture method and taught him to sit (pretty reliably too) in a couple of days.

To capture the sit, you just sit and wait (with treats ready). Eventually, the dog will sit, when he does say "yes" and then give a treat. If you use a clicker (which I do) then you would click and treat. But, the verbal marker "yes" is fine too. If you begin to mark (with "yes) and treat when the dog sits he will begin to offer it more often.

Once he is offering it often, say the word "sit" right as he does it then mark it with "yes" and give your treat.

Finally, say it just before you think he is going to sit then mark it and treat.

Practice this way and you will have it on command before you know it.