Copyright by Cheryl May. May be reprinted without permission 1) if used in its entirety without editing; and 2) provided copyright notice remains in place.
More and more, today's trainers use inducive methods, mostly involving food. I've found that food vastly improves the attitude of most dogs. They are anticipating a reward for doing something correctly, rather than watching out for a correction for doing something wrong.
The food you use should be tastier than the stuff the dog gets for free. I use a variety of treats from day to day -- hot dogs, Rollover, Oinker Roll, etc. I save the real stuff (liver) for dog shows.
To teach a sit, I use a piece of food (raisin size) to lure the dog into a sit. The position of your hand in relation to the dog's nose is very important. Hold the food an inch or less above the dog's nose. Slowly make an arc with your food hand from the dog's nose toward the tail. Remember, do this slowly. The dog should follow the food with his nose. If he isn't following the food, you are holding it too high. Lower the food and try again. If the dog scoots backward away from your arc, place him near a wall so he will back into the wall. As he starts to sit, give the command, "sit." When his rear hits the ground, feed. You can work on the "stay" part later.
I encourage you to use a conditioned reinforcer -- a special word you don't normally use in conversation, ("Yes!") a tongue cluck, or a plastic or metal clicker. I've found this helpful in pinpointing for the dog the exact moment he is doing something right. First teach the dog about the c.r. Click, feed; click, feed.
Then, when the dog is starting to do the exercise correctly, click and feed. Raise the criteria as the dog improves. As your dog is learning, feed every time you get a correct response. Later, you'll switch to a variable schedule of reinforcement to maintain correct behavior. For more information on this, read "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor.
I do not teach this exercise to puppies, and I don't let any dog do very many repetitions at one time.
Diane Bauman lists four components of a good sit during heeling:
If your dog is forging the halts, probably one (or more) of these four things is missing. To prevent forging at the halts, you must cue the dog that you are halting. This can be an upper body cue or a break step. Actually, as long as it complies with AKC rules, your cue is okay. It's just important to have a cue.
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