Please, throw the ball
Please, give me that treat
Please, let me on the bed
Please, open the door
Please is the magic word.
Like many other families, saying please is automatic in ours. I don't think any of us actually stop to think about saying please, we simply do it. It has become a "default behavior". A default behavior is not "cued", "commanded", or "prompted" - it's a behavior an animal does automatically (automatic behavior).
We can teach our dogs a default behavior of a sit. This means the dogs say please when they want something by sitting. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, you can teach this!
First, decide on what you want your dog's default behavior to be. For my family's dogs, it's a sit. It's easier than a down because it requires less room in cramped spaces. For this example, I'm going to use "sit" as the default behavior - as the way for your dog to say "please".
Second, know all of the things your dog wants. Make a list so you and your human family members agree. Here are the most common ones: to be pet, to go out outside, to take a walk, to eat, to get a treat, to get a toy, to or to get a bone. You may have others. Essentially, anything your dog wants becomes an opportunity for you to teach the default behavior.
Third and this one is the tough one, but well worth it! Anytime you catch your dog sitting - reward him. Yes - even when you are just in the house and you catch him sitting - reward him. I know, it sounds weird, but trust me. Every single time you catch your dog sitting, I want you to give him a reward. You will find that soon, your dog will start to look at you and sit. He will start to "offer" this "behavior". He's offering it, thinking "I wonder if I get a treat every time I sit". Be sure to reward! And keep rewarding!
Fourth, when you see that your dog is offering this behavior regularly; that is, he sees you and plops his butt into a sit, you're ready for the next step. Remember that list of all the things your dog wants? You are going to tie what he wants to his default behavior. For example, your dog wants to go outside. Normally, you just open the door and let him out. From this point forward, you are not going to let him out until he sits first. But you're not going to say anything to him. You're not going to say "sit". Simply stand at the door. Look at your dog. If he sits, say "yes", open the door and let him out. That "yes" is the marker that lets him know what he did was awesome. Do not despair if your dog didn't sit while you were standing at the door. Simply turn the handle and open it a crack and wait. And wait. You are waiting for him to sit. Even if he sits for a split second. The moment his butt hits the ground in a sit, you say "yes" and open the door to let him out. I've done this with a number of dogs. I've had some who nearly instantly figured out - ahh, I have to sit for everything now. Other dogs took longer and that's OK. Just stand there patiently, say nothing, and wait. Your dog wants to go outside. Wait him out. He'll sit. Now there may be some people who say, but then he wanders off to sniff. OK - here are two ways to handle that: One, jiggle the door handle a little bit. That will bring his attention back to going outside. Or two, if he's not on a leash, you can put him on a leash and stand there and just wait. He can't move beyond the 6 foot leash (do not use a retractable leash). Either way, the key is to remain quiet and calm. Your dog will figure this out. And that's the beauty of it - he will figure out that if he sits, he gets what he wants. When that light bulb goes off in his brain, which it will, you will find yourself with a dog who says "please" for going outside. Apply this same ideas for everything else on that list that your dog wants. Remain diligent and wait for that sit calmly. Soon you will have a dog who says please for everything.
Note on rewards: while you're teaching the "please" (automatic behavior), either cut down on your dog's meals or use some of the kibble of his meals as the rewards. If you really want to fast track this, don't feed him his normal breakfast and dinner meals, instead use all of that food throughout the day!
Extra Side Note: when you're out on a walk with your dog and your dog sits. Reward that sit! You know your dog is "getting it" when he offers his default behaviors outside of the comforts of home!
Puppy Power! This is an excellent way to start off a new puppy. Puppies are like little sponges - they want to learn and they learn fast! Do this with your new pup and you'll be on a great path to a beautiful obedient dog.
If you're having a tough time getting this to work, contact Paw Pack. I'm happy to help you get started.