There is nothing like seeing a puppy out on a walk and getting to say hi. Even better? If they sit nicely for you without even asking! Puppies are so full of excitement and playfulness, sometimes it’s a little difficult for them to contain themselves and greetings can be especially challenging. It may be cute when a puppy playfully jumps to greet you or initiate play, but what about when they meet grandma? Or when they aren’t so little anymore? Instead of getting attention by jumping, you can teach your puppy to auto-sit!
What is an auto-sit?
Auto-sit is a learned behavior where your puppy sits without being prompted to ask for attention. Jumping is automatically reinforced, meaning that even pushing your pup away when he jumps gives him the attention he wants. So how do you not reinforce the unwanted behavior, and instead reinforce a sit without commanding it? It’s actually easier than you might think!
How to teach an auto-sit
Luring into the sit position
- To start, grab a handful of kibble or treats (preferably in a handy treat pouch!) and set up your puppy with their harness and a leash.
- Hold a yummy treat or piece of kibble with your fingertips and when the puppy notices the food, slowly move the food above their head and back in alignment with their spine making your puppy look up to follow the treat.
- When his bottom touches the ground, immediately say, “Good!” and reach out with your other hand to pet the side of his neck while you give him the food.
- When he is done eating, stop petting and take a step back so that he stands.
You should not give any command when practicing this because we want the puppy to sit as you approach for attention and treats, not to only do it when instructed.
Fading the food lure
- Once your puppy is successfully following the food lure three times in a row, cover the food completely with your hand and do the same gesture, saying “good” and petting while feeding as soon as his bottom touches the ground.
- After three successful auto-sits with the food hidden in your hand, do the same slow gesture (with no food) up and slightly over his head, and then say “good” and feed while petting when he sits.
Increasing the difficulty
- To mimic real-world greetings, first, start increasing the duration of the sit. Say “good” and feed three times while petting him every time he sits.
- At first, you may need to say “good” and feed him in quick succession, but then you can slowly lengthen the time between treats.
- Increase the distance you approach him from as well; start with a few reps right in front of him, only moving a step back between trials, then work your way up a few steps at a time.
- Finally, increase your excitement as you approach him; start off silently approaching, then talking quietly, and then showing more happiness (most people will naturally get excited when they approach him)
- Then, decrease the treats to two per auto-sit, then down to one, then every other, and then finally fade the food randomly to keep his new skill strong.
- If your puppy does not follow the food lure, try something more fragrant and yummy (like boiled chicken or cheese!), increase the amount you are holding, and if he really is having trouble concentrating on it, feed little pieces while you lure (dispense them one at a time as you gesture slowing above his head)
- If your puppy is having trouble with auto-sits with new people, have the person practice a few times with the food lure to get your pup back on track
- If he is having trouble outside, decrease the distractions and practice, practice, practice
- Always end your training sessions with a success. If you do a trial and he doesn’t auto-sit, give a bigger gesture or go back to when he was successful, get a few more good trials, and call it a day
- If you have any trouble with the auto-sit we would love to help, just reach out to set up some training with us!
With any new skill, the more it is used the stronger it becomes. Take your time and be consistent. Your puppy is learning something new, but so are you! Training should be fun for everyone involved.
For more training tips and tricks, check out our other blog posts, and for more information about our puppy training programs visit our puppy page!