Believe it or not, you CAN train your dog to do things without even asking! The trick is to train your dog to have “default behaviors.”
In animal training, a default behavior is the behavior that an animal chooses to perform in any given situation when there is no specific cue from the trainer. “Sit” is often used as a default behavior in dog training. When a dog is sitting, he or she can’t be jumping up on someone or running around at the same time. A dog who has a strong default “sit” is going to sit without being asked in all kinds of different situations, even when greeting strangers.
To train a default sit behavior, hang out with your dog and reward anytime your dog sits down. Eventually, your dog will be sitting more often (and on purpose) to receive a reward from you.
To train your dog to automatically sit when meeting new people instead of jumping up, place your dog on a leash or behind a barrier so people can turn away quickly without getting jumped on. Then ask a person to approach your dog to just the end of the leash. If your dog sits, the person can pet your dog and give a treat.
If your dog jumps up at anytime, ask the person to turn away quickly. Dogs can learn quickly. If sitting earns attention and treats, they will choose to sit. If jumping up makes people and treats go away, they will jump up less frequently. Practicing with several people in a variety of places will help your dog to sit politely for greeting people every time.
To train a default “go to your place,” hang out with your dog and, every time he or she went to their place (such as a dog bed or kennel), reward them. Eventually your dog will move to their place more often in order to receive a reward.
When dogs choose to go to a specific location and relax, they are less likely to climb on furniture or be in other places they might not be welcome. “Go to your place” is a useful skill for therapy dogs to have. You can ask the person that you and your therapy dog are visiting where they want your dog to be and then send your dog to that place.
Imagine a dog who automatically sits without being told and goes to a specific place when people are eating or visiting. That dog knows exactly what to do without any prompting and will be a joy to take with you on visits to friends and family!
Andrea Bratt is a certified dog trainer and offers basic obedience classes, clicker training, puppy classes, therapy dog training classes, and private lessons. For more information, please visit her website at: K9s Behave.com.