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Sit/Down Confusion for Thunder and other Q's

1511 Views 19 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  3K9Mom
Thunder, our 3.5 month old Sable, who has managed to learn a few commands, seems to get confused between sit and down sometimes.

Usually when get gets it wrong I just start walking toward him and he automatically sits up, then I praise for sit, but it doesn't appear to be getting it. Also I can't seem to get him to go from down to sit either.

Also he doesn't seem as well behaved at puppy school as some of the other dogs his same age or even younger. We constantly STRAINS on the leash when walking and I find myself getting quite frustrated with him which I know isn't helping. I know its something I am not doing right rather than him, but he is pretty **** good at following commands without distraction.

I have tried the walk command for having him walk beside me, and using the treat hand with a few treats in it to help him along but he just nips and bites at it or loses interest when he doesn't get a treat after a short while.

I know he is still young, and we try and play with him loads (its never enough by his reactions) but yeah I am sure he haven't done something fundamental we should be.
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for sit/down - you may get some info from an earlier post i started:

and as far as losing interest in treats - you have to reward him sooner. for each little attention or step. 3.5 is really young and they just dont have the attention span or ability to combine multiple tasks and realize what the reward is for.
Originally Posted By: networkn
I know he is still young
He is young! Riley had the attention of a watermelon at that age and we got her to do things with bribes, i mean, treats.

I had trouble with "down". Keep at it! When you get frustrated try doing something else for a while. She has greatly improved on the down from a sit, but she doesn't get it from a standing or going back to a sit from a down. Take those little steps.

Also, do you walk him before obedience classes? I find a tired puppy is a less distracted one
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Okay breathe real deep. Now exhale.

The one thing I see in your post that you are not doing right is getting frustrated - and maybe judging your progress by those around you in class.

If your puppy is getting it at home, then he will get it with the distractions. Do not judge your progress by those around you. the dogs will progress at their own pace-and one day Thunder will take off.

If you feel the SLIGHTEST sense of frustration (or any negative emotion) coming on you, stop and change what you are doing. Try to repeat something you know the puppy can do successfully, praise him up and then go play for a moment, step out of site of the reast of the class, let someone else take the puppy for a bit while you get your senses back to enjoying the time with Thunder. The puppy will sense your unease and you do not want that while teaching.

Okay enough on you.

On the walking by your side, is there a reason why he is not getting a treat (and lots of praise) after a short while. You may want to consider treating and praising more frequently at the moment and then go back to weaning the treats (but not the praise!) as he becomes consistent and steady.

On the sits and downs, one thing I do with Lancer is to do one command - either sit or down - and click and treat. Then I toss a treat so he would have to get up and go get it. And then repeat just that one command. He was starting to anticipate going from sit to down on command so I needed to mix it up a little to make sure he understood each command separately from a certain routine. Getting him from down to sit took holding the treat high enough for him to get up. Not quite ready for the next step of just giving the command to go to sit from down-yet.

I also mix in a few commands during every and any play session - potty runs, etc. Usually right now, I focus on one command and do it a couple of times.

Are you keeping your training sessions at home short? Short (15 mins maybe) and frequent and build on the cumulative effect of each session though it sounds like you are doing fine at home.

Enjoy the learning experience! Keep your thoughts on the the fact that Thunder is doing well at home and know that it will come together in class.

Have fun with it!
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Hi There!

I guess I feel frustrated because at puppy school we won't do ANYTHING. Just goes loopy and won't listen even with treats. There isn't really a way for us to take him somewhere else because the instructor insists we are in a circle. I feel like taking him there is setting him up to fail. My frustration comes from not being able to get his attention at all. I know he is young and I feel bad I get frustrated. We keep training to 5 minutes at a time at home.

Also recently when he knows he needs to get into the car (we lift him), or if I ask him to go into his crate and I stand by the crate door, he will run away. I don't think he thinks its a game, because he does it fine mostly. Its the same if we let him outside, he won't come inside.
Is it possible that you can get to class a little before it actually starts and work with Thunder without the rest of dogs your there? Maybe acclimating him to the physical surroundings before the rest of the class (pack) gets there could help.

I'll use one of my experiences with Kayla as to why I'm making this suggestion. I had similar experiences with her in her first classes which started after she was 4 months old - she was great at home or in fields were we worked without the distractions. When we went to class, she was so loopy, the trainer (who was also her breeder) ask if we were doing any work during the week. One day I got there early and the field was empty so I worked and warmed up with her while we were waiting for everyone else-including some exercises not introduced in class yet. She performed flawlessly. The trainer saw this and realized it was only in class she acted as if she didn't have a clue at least up to that day. After that one time, it was like a lightbulb went off and she shot up the ladder in the class thereafter. I've heard similar stories from others, one day it just clicks in-one of the reasons I suggested that you don't compare your progress with other dogs.

Keep the success at home in the front of your mind when going to class and keep faith that what Thunder shows at home will click in. The class becomes the proofing grounds for what you have done at home.

Is there any possibility there is an area off the circle where you might try talking with your instructor to allow you to try something else for part of a session. I understand that the facility may not allow flexibility, but I can't believe any trainer worth their salt these days doesn't have some flexibility in trying (or suggesting) alternatives with puppies if one way doesn't seem to be working. Not to critic the trainer since there is not enough info to really say one way or the other, but personally, if I didn't feel I was getting what I (or Lancer now) needed from the instructor I would not hesitate to walk away from that class-and my deposit. But I am also fortunate to be in an area where we have quite a few options.

Hope that others will chime in here with some other suggestions. Good luck and remember to keep it as positive as possible.
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Going from Down to Sit is more complex than you might think. It's something that owners in Intermediate Obedience classes work on. (By Advanced, they kind of assume your dog has got it, though.
) So don't even begin to stress about that. In fact, if I were you, I'd take that one particular command off the shelf. (You have PLENTY Of time to work on it. How often, in real life do we ask a dog to go from a Down to a Sit anyhow?)

If your dog can Sit and Down, that's good for now. Work on proofing that. And think about other commands that are important. I think no pup is too young to start learning a recall, for example.

If your pup is losing interest in treats, my first question is, are you serving up the same treats all the time? Mix them up. In fact, I like to mix up treats within the same session. Cheese, dehydrated lamb lung, boiled chicken breast, Fish Jerky. I mix a bit of all the treats I usually buy, toss in some healthy human food options, and whatever I pull out, that's what she gets for that command. My sweet little thing NEVER knows what treasure awaits her. So I get even more attention than if I simply handed out the same bits of meat every time. I'm convinced that the randomness of the treats keeps her attention. So you might want to try that.

Everett gives you great tips. I'd just like to add that I've found that I have to give all my dogs a lot of exercise before I take them to any sort of class. Otherwise, their brains are bouncing all over the place and they don't concentrate at all. Also, trainers always tell you not to feed your dogs before class because they will work harder for food. Well, yes, but also, because a room full of dogs with full tummies means a bunch of dogs that need to take poop breaks during class. My dogs always do better when they've had a small meal before class. Not even half their regular meal, but just something to tide them over. Hungry puppies are squirrelly pups in my experience.

Try to incorporate commands into everything you do. When we talk to dog owners who have problem dogs, we call it NILIF (nothing in life is free). You're going to call it Training Throughout the Day. Sit to get the food bowl set down. Give me a down (even if you have to give me a Sit first, then down) to get your favorite toy. Let's Wait (that's easy. You have pup on a leash and you just stop at the door) before we go outside. Quick easy commands throughout the day. All you want is one command, so you can be patient! (Don't ask for commands when puppy is trying to go outside to potty though. Just let him out!) Then, keep training sessions to 5 minutes unless pup is just having a great time (and often they do!), then don't go more than about 10 minutes. Or mix it up with play time. Toss the ball, and after puppy gets to the ball, you run the other way, telling pup to "Come" (when he gets to you, reward with rub-down and tiny snack).

Wherever you two go, keep this routine up. The park, a friend's house, the sidewalk outside of the coffee shop, the world is a big training facility!

Life is about training. If your puppy is having fun training ALL the time, and if all is knows is that he's always ready to perform (that sounds nicer than "obey," doesn't it?) he'll find that going into classroom and following your commands is just one more thing he does.
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Hi, Thanks they are great suggestions. So it would seem he only acts this way around the allbreeds clubs, when I take him to the GSD clubs he is fine, in fact last night, the people there could not BELIEVE he would sit, stay, down, come, etc etc for me on command so young. I think the idea of getting there earlier is a good idea, and I'll mix up the treats a little as well. Also its usually cold and wet at the allbreeds place which isn't undercover.

I was so proud of him yesterday, he was a little champ.

I think I have heard so many horror stories about dogs that aren't trained properly, and I am SUCH a perfectionist, that I find it hard if my dog isn't the "best" etc. I'll work that out, for both our sakes. I love this dog like crazy and after waiting 25 years for him, I want this to be so much fun for us both.
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BTW, Thunder has taken to doing the coolest thing.

When he gets a big growling for being rough, nipping or biting, he will now come over and lick my fingers for a second and then down or sit, without command and then is a little calmer.
Originally Posted By: networknSo it would seem he only acts this way around the allbreeds clubs, when I take him to the GSD clubs he is fine,
Possibly because the overall energy of the allbreeds club is more frantic, whereas the GSD dogs and owners are more laid back? Dogs pick up the energy that's around them. This is, of course, why it's so important that WE are so relaxed and <u>oozing</u> confidence all the time, because the dog absorbs our energy first and foremost -- as well as the energy of the environment around the two of you.

And BTW, I'd recommend setting your perfectionism on the shelf for a while. You'll find mine already up there. When our GSDs are about 4 years old, we can take it down and dust it off and see if it still fits. But with pups (and adolescents), eh, perfectionism will only make us and our pups crazy.
Consistency and reliability is what we want, in reasonable steps. We'll leave "perfect" to the adult dogs and their owners for now
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yah I am starting to understand that, its hard though because in me its so ingrained. I am feeling MUCH happier today with a bit of perspective and a little more sleep!
Ok Another Question:

What shall I try with Thunder next, once he can sit, down, come, go to his crate. Maybe something easy like Speak or something along those lines?
Is he too young to teach shake hands? Is there a guide for this?
or should I just concentrate on getting what he already knows, better in mixed environments?
Originally Posted By: networknOk Another Question:

What shall I try with Thunder next, once he can sit, down, come, go to his crate. Maybe something easy like Speak or something along those lines?

Is he too young to teach shake hands? Is there a guide for this?
Okay this is more like it! Getting into the spirit and fun of learning. To answer the second question, Thunder is not too young to teach to shake hands. You can teach tricks along with, between or after teaching other commands. Just don't try to overwhelm with too many things at once.

Two things I would add to your ""sit-down'come" list would be leave it and focus work. Instead of elaborating here, there's a thread going on right now on leave it in this same forum and here's a link to a sticky thread on focus: Teaching Focus

Here are a couple of other links to other threads along the lines of teaching tricks and fun things with your dog.
Why waste time teaching tricks

What tricks have you taught your dog?

Do you use a clicker in your training? The following link is a discussion on clicker training.

Clicker Training?
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Right now, I'm working on Wait with my pup. It's the start of teaching Stay (stay will be a touch release. Wait is a verbal release). Sit Wait, and Down Wait (then Sit Stay and Down Stay.) Very handy to know and pretty easy to teach!

There are several ways to teach a Wait. But I'm just putting my puppy in a sit. Labeling a wait (with a hand signal), taking a step back, then returning, Good Wait! and reward. I do this over and over again, increasing distance. The key is that you have to return to your pup before she starts moving toward you. Once she understands that she gets rewarded just for sitting there and doing absolutely nothing, (and that you always return with a snack), and she has that down cold, then you can add in the Come! command. Come is fun. Running to your owner is fun, especially if there's a snack at the other end.

I use a door to teach this same command. I put my dog in a sit near an exterior door (my front and back yards are both fenced). And I tell her to Wait. I open a door. Pup rushes the door. Door closes. I put her back into the Sit/Wait. I open the door again. Same scenario. After rushing the door a few times, pup figures out pretty quickly that the door will simply close every time. So pup will almost always remain in her Wait. The very second that I see that she's not rushing the door, I immediately tell her to come with me and we go out the door and play for a while. Hooray!

"Wait" is probably the command I use most of all, probably as much as sit. They can stand and wait, sit and wait, down and wait. Technically, every sit and down should be a wait. But when I say wait, I mean, don't move from there. Don't squirm. Just pay attention because another command is coming. When I put my dog into a down, he knows he'll likely be there a while. So I find Wait really handy.

To teach to shake hands, there's a couple ways to do it. If your dog already paws, you just take his paw, label it "shake!" and reward. If he doesn't, one way to get him to lift his paw is to put a treat at his nose while he's sitting, then lift the treat straight skyward. At some point, most dogs will lift a paw; you just take the paw, label and reward. If neither of these work, you can just take his paw, label and reward. The third way isn't an "offered" behavior, so it can take longer to get the command to sink in. Well, for some dogs. Some still pick it up really fast, especially if they're smart and food motivated.

Speak, most people say, is hard to teach. If your pup barks, you can mark it "speak!" and reward. This is handy because once you can command your dog to speak, you (in theory) should be able to command him not to bark. But a lot of people have a hard time teaching speak. We actually taught it by barking at our dog. I think we're probably the only people who were successful at doing it this way. I think our dog just felt sorry for us, so he obliged us.
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I agree with everything Everett54 suggested, ESPECIALLY the addition of the clicker. It really helps US, and forced US, and works with OUR timing, and makes sure WE (see how the clicker is about training US to train our dog

While we do have to work with our pups to make them wonderful adult dogs. We ALSO have to remember they are puppies and need to have great puppyhood.

So while I absolutely go to puppy classes and dog classes and want my dogs to end up obedient.... My MAIN GOAL with them when young is to be well balanced, confident, socialized and happy puppies.

Because if we have a well balanced, confident, socialized and happy puppy, the training will come along in a great progression that's easy for dog and handler.

Somehow, when we train 'tricks' it's easier to keep everything fun for us, so that only benefits the puppy in the learning process.

BTW, the clicker will really fix your issue between the sit/down because it's so precise with the timing.

Did you see this yet?
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You've gotten a ton of great advice! I think that as you relax and accept that Thunder is still just a baby, and that he's actually doing quite well for his age, you'll be able to just enjoy what you're doing and not worry about how he appears to anyone else.

I'm an obedience instructor and one of the things that I stress to my students is that they need to do what is right for THEIR dog, and not necessarily always try to follow the class. I think this is something that many instructors fail at - allowing for individual performance of each dog. Dogs don't learn at the same level. Some puppies are laid back, some are hyper, some are in-between. You just can't expect them all to do the same things together (as puppies OR as adult dogs). So there needs to be some leeway in what you're allowed to do at class.

It's completely counter-productive to continue to push a puppy to do something when the distractions are more than the pup can handle. I second the idea of coming early so that you can "warm-up" without all the distractions. But I also encourage you to notice when your pup is becoming overwhelmed. This can show up as lack of attention (to you), disinterest in treats, hyperactivity especially in trying to get to the other pups, etc. And as soon as he shows the first signs of this, calmly back your way out of the circle into a corner and quietly request his attention to come back to you. Don't force it, don't get frustrated. Just practice your attention exercises until he focuses back on you, and then you can rejoin the group.

If your instructor hasn't taught you specific attention exercises, that's something you need to do on your own. My dogs learn these starting at eight weeks old (and would start earlier if I had them). You can find guidelines for teaching attention on my website ( Attention is the KEY to all obedience - without attention, it's darnright impossible to train. And most dogs just love the exercise once they figure it out. It gives you something to do to bring his focus back to you, too, because it will be familiar to him when you go back to class.

As far as other behaviors to teach him - think outside the box! Dogs are mostly limited by us humans! *L* But always keep in mind that he is truly just a baby even though he's probably growing like crazy. Mentally he will not be fully mature for a couple of years. Yep, I said years! You will look back fondly on this 3-4 month age when he's a year old with a big body, too much energy, and hormones coursing through him .. *LOL* .. but it all settles eventually, and we just keep loving them!

There's a thread somewhere on this forum that lists a bunch of behaviors people have taught to their dogs. You can teach shake, and then develop that into a high five and then a wave goodbye (actually pretty easy to do). You can teach speak (quiet) and bark (loud). You can teach him to spin a circle on command - start off by luring a single circle and then rewarding (and you'll discover which way is more comfortable to him - clockwise or counterclockwise). You can teach him to lay on his side on command (great for grooming or trimming nails). You can teach him to touch your hand with his nose (the "touch" command is excellent for helping control him when you walk - once he learns that touching your hand equals a treat, then you can guide him around with your hand and gradually increase the amount of time between treats). You can also teach him to touch the end of a stick - like a piece of dowl - it helps to put something on the end to make the end more obvious. The touch stick is another great way to lead him through various exercises as he continues to learn.

You can do quite a few behaviors with him as long as you make the body language/commands obviously different. Expect him to confuse things - there will be times when you ask for something and he runs through EVERY behavior before he finally hits the right one. When he does that, just stand there and admire him .. *L* .. because it shows that he's thinking, just not stopping long enough to really hear or observe the right command/signal. I recently taught my girl to spin and now she wants to spin on every command (which has made heeling very interesting). I just try not to laugh (laughing can be rewarding to the dog). I know she'll work through it, and meantime we're just having fun.

Good luck, and enjoy him as a puppy while you can!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
.. Trick, 12 years old and Tazer, 1 year old (the monster) (GSDs)
.. Khana, 3 years old and Dora, 11 years old (chows)
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I just noticed this at Whole Dog Journal's website, under their free article's section: “reliable - responding appropriately to the cue at least 80 percent of the time. That means your dog sits at least 8 out of 10 times when you ask him to. It’s unreasonable to expect 100 percent reliability from your dog."

The whole article with training tips at

I love WDJ. I look forward to it arriving in my email and snailmail box every month!
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