Here are some steps to follow in order to teach the hand signal for sit. These signals are used in the distance control portion of obedience trials in Jamaica.
The instructions below assumes that the dog is fluent with the sit cue.
Step 1: Pair the verbal cue “sit” with a hand signal. I use an upward sweep of my arm, palms up.
Step 2: Click and treat as soon as the dog’s rump hits terra firma. This step is a bit like going back to kindergarten, but the idea is for the dog to associate the upward sweep of the arm with the action of sitting.
Step 3: Rinse and Repeat several times over several days. The length of time the dog will learn this depends upon the dog and your timing with the clicker. Athena learned this in two sessions, but she’s had clicker training since 7 weeks of age.
N.B. If you are using a clicker to train, there’s no need to train this exercise with a leash. Virtually all of my training at home is done off-leash, and I use the leash when working dogs in public spaces as a management tool (so the dog doesn’t get hit by a car, etc).
Step 4: Once the dog has learned the hand signal, do the exercise in different spots of your house. If you were working in the living room, move to the dinning room, then the kitchen. Dogs do not generalize behaviors. To the dog, sit in the living room doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing in the kitchen, so this is an important step.
Step 5: Test the dogs understanding of the hand signal by ditching the verbal cue and only using the signal. The dog should sit. If not, you moved too fast, so go back to step one and make haste slowly. It will pay off, I assure you.
After the dog has become fluent at sitting with the hand signal, you are now ready to incorporate distance work.
It is important to remember when teaching hand signals for distance work, that you first teach the dog the hand signal for the cue THEN after she’s mastered that, you GRADUALLY add distance.
Next time I’ll explain how to incorporate distance using a mat.