Teaching a dog to sit and sit/maintain as I call it are two very different behaviors. Each behavior requires an on cue and an off cue. This I will explain in more detail. Let’s consider a child. When we call our children to the meal table they have to sit there and eat their dinner. When they are finished and we are happy they have eaten all of their greens and not just the French fries we excuse them, allow them to leave the table and do something else. Most parents do not allow their children to come and go from the table as they please and to decide when the meal time is over and what they can eat or leave. It is the same with our Pet Dog’s. We need to teach them certain commands and have them maintain that command until we ask them to do something else or we release them.
Naturally we need to be sure that we are asking of our dog is physically possible. We would not ask our 5 year old child to make us coffee after they have finished dinner, nor would we expect a 4 month old puppy to sit quietly unsupervised for long durations.
So back to our four legged children the family dog. When we ask our dogs to do something, exhibit a behavior, we give them a command, an “on cue”; it instructs them to do something for us. The dog should maintain this behavior until we give them an off cue, a release cue or another cue. I use a release cue “OKAY”, this lets the dog know they are free to go about their business. Some people use the “Go Play” release, this tells the dog the same thing, at ease, as you please, do as you wish.
A simple formula for teaching a dog to do something is to lure the behavior so the dog is familiar with the movement. With the behavior sit if you hold a treat just above the dog’s nose and move it backwards you are luring the dog into a sit position. A dog is engineered in a way that if the head goes back and slightly up the rump hits the ground.
Each time the behavior is completed and the dogs’ rump hits the ground then we reward the dog. After several repetitions of the behavior/reward scenario we can then attach our cue, the name. As the dogs rump hits the ground say “sit” and deliver the reward.
Remember our dogs do not speak English so saying the cue before the behavior is learnt is futile. After several more behavior repetitions with the cue being attached we should then be able to say the cue and have this drive the behavior. As soon as the behavior is happening voluntarily with the cue then we can fade away the lure which was the treat in the hand above the nose. This leaves us with a hand signal for sit and a verbal signal for sit that with practice should be reliable