A puppy that sits is generally far more socially acceptable than one that jumps up against folk, muddying their clothes and scratching their legs. A puppy that sits rather than growling and tearing at ones pants is much more likely to get positive attention from friends and family. A puppy that has learnt to sit when greeting strangers is likely to earn you an admiring look – after all, aren’t puppies untrainable? Don’t they always behave like hooligans when they’re only a few months old?
So how does one go about teaching a puppy manners?
First choose a cue that is easy for all people to follow, such as crossing your arms over your chest. Whenever someone stands with their arms crossed, the puppy should sit. So how to you teach a puppy to be so polite?
Get out your trusty clicker and some treats that your puppy particularly likes. Ensure that your puppy is clicker conditioned by clicking and treating him a few times, and watching for the startle response when he hears the click sound.
Then watch for your puppy to glance your way. The moment you have eye contact, cross your arms. Do not say “sit”. Do not say anything. Do not move. Just stand there and look at your puppy.
If he sits, click and treat. If he remains sitting, keep clicking and treating him. After a short while, click and throw his treat to one side, thereby making the puppy stand up to go and get it. Fold your arms again, and your puppy should offer another sit. Click and treat.
If your puppy doesn’t sit, move closer to him so that he has to bend his head right up to maintain eye contact. This will probably cause his bottom to lower towards a sitting position – click and treat.
If he jumps up on you, just turn and walk away. As soon as he stops jumping (or chewing at your pants, or investigating an ant), move towards him again and try and elicit eye contact. As soon as you have it, fold your arms and wait for the sit. Click and treat when it is offered.
In a short space of time, your puppy will start sitting every time he sees you fold your arms. Now you need to take this on the road. Get your friends and family to look at the puppy and then fold their arms. If the puppy sits – click and treat. Repeat this with different people, in different environments, with more distractions.