It’s been a while since I talked about a few common mistakes I see with dogs and their handlers along with some solutions to these problems.
“My dog hates to sit. She’ll listen to other things but hates to sit and won’t when I tell her to.”
I heard this while out and about at a store and I watched from a distance as the handler roughly cued the dog to “SIT!” and without giving the dog the chance to respond he grabbed her collar and started pushing down on her rump. When she scooted out of the way instead of sitting, he grabbed her even more closely and forced her to the ground.
Any idea why this dog “hates to sit”? This handler was completely sabotaging his training by the way he handled his dog when it didn’t sit immediately. The dog had learned that bad things happen after hearing the word “sit,” so it was reluctant to respond in any manner.
The solutions for this type of issue are pretty simple. 1. Don’t do unpleasant things after you give a specific training cue–don’t clip your dogs nails each time you ask for “paw”. 2. Make sure your rewards are really rewarding–this one is probably more common, it’s not a reward if your dog doesn’t like it!
“My dog keeps laying down when I ask for a sit (or sitting when asked for a down).”
This is a super common problem with people. The best ways to address this are to work these two behaviors completely separately (to try and avoid asking for a “sit” before “down”) and to be clear with your criteria. If you cue a sit and your dog does a down, don’t lure back into a sit and reward or reward because they are cute. Be clear. What does SIT mean to you. The more you are unclear with what is SIT and what is DOWN, the more your dog will be confused with them as well.
So, if your dog downs instead of sits, completely reset. Don’t just lure them up into a sit. Have them take a few steps and ask for it again. Be clear about your criteria and only reward what meets that criteria.
“My dog seems to know when I’m going to leash him up and end the fun. He refuses to come back when I have the leash on.”
Start keeping your leash in view at all times. Loop it around your neck or put it over your shoulder. Keep it in sight so seeing the leash isn’t a cue for the dog to not return. The other thing that I think is really important is to not just recall your dog regularly but to leash them up regularly as well. Recall the dog, reward them, leash them up, reward them, ask for some behavior (sit, down, hand target), and then release them to go play. Get into the habit of recalling, leashing, and releasing a few times each outing so getting leashed up doesn’t necessarily mean end of the fun. Be sure to leash and release in a variety of places–sometimes by the exit, sometimes in the middle of the hike, etc. just mix it up so it is not predictable (don’t always leash them up and leave at the exit area–sometimes release them from that area and sometimes leash up and leave from elsewhere).