Does your dog know how to say please? Now, I’m not just talking about sitting up and begging for something they want with those big eyes. I’m talking about politely asking for something they want.
Dogs don’t come with built-in manners. If they want something, they usually go barging in for it, or ask for it in a not-so-polite way. Usually if your dog wants to play with you, they bring the toy and push it in your lap, don’t they? Do you have a dog that paws at you if they want a bite of your dinner? I did!
If you think your dog could use a little polishing on their manners, or need to learn a bit more self-control, then this post is for you! Today I’ll be talking about one of my favorite things to teach your dog…”Say please by sitting”, also know as “Learn to Earn”. Some trainers call this exercise “Learn to Earn” because your dog learns that they have to “earn” the thing they want. Most things in life don’t come free, but it your dog can show some nice manners and sit to”ask” for something they want, then they can have it!
Say Please by Sitting is a great way help teach your dog some self-control and a manners, and can help you find a kind and helpful way to provide guidance and leadership. Say Please by Sitting adds structure to your day and sets ground rules for every interaction with your dog. Setting (and sticking to) ground rules can make your life more peaceful and can help form a life for your dog that is consistent and shows them what to expect.
First….Throw Away the Food Bowl
As I often suggest – throw away the food bowl! If you feed your dog their meals throughout the day as treats or small meals in an interactive toy, your dog will be much more motivated to earn the treats and work with and for you. I suggest carrying the food around in a treat bag or having it available in containers throughout the house. Then, you have ready made treats to reward your dog with all day long for every good behavior you see. Now your dog is working to earn their food, instead of getting a free ride!
Any time your dog wants something (food, treats, attention), your dog must first SIT. It sounds so simple and basic, but it really can change things around! If your dog wants you to pet them, ask them to sit. If you want to give your dog a treat, ask them to sit. If your dog wants to go outside, ask them to sit….. and so on. When you first begin, you may have to ask them or lure them into sitting, but after a few weeks of consistently asking for your dog to sit before ANY interaction with them, they should begin to automatically sit when they want something. The sitting becomes their way of saying “Please!”
One of the important things to keep in mind is that you should always walk with a loose leash. We are trying to teach our dogs self control, and if on a walk they get where they want by dragging us along, they are not learning to control themselves…they’re learning they can just go barging in anywhere. If you have your dog on a leash, only move forward when the leash is LOOSE. If the leash is pulled tight and there is ANY pressure on it, stand like a tree and wait for your dog to release the pressure.
Tethering is a great way to help keep your dog out of trouble and keep them from rewarding themselves (by finding a toy or treat elsewhere) when they don’t get what they want from you. It also increases the chances for you to see and reward good behavior. If your dog is by your side for an hour as you go about the house, then you’ll see everything they do in that hour. Did they sit calmly when you opened the refrigerator door? TREAT! Did they settle down by your side to watch TV? TREAT! Did they not run off to bark at some mystery noise? BIG TREAT! You get the picture 🙂
A big thank you to the late Dr. Sophia Yin for this poster on Learn to Earn. For her take on this exercise, visit her post about it here.