Chihuahuas are smart dogs with strong opinions, which can make training tough. Many Chihuahua owners have a rough time getting their dogs to consistently sit on the first cue. Luckily, there is an easy way to fix this with a method that both you and your Chihuahua will enjoy. The following is a simple and effective way to teach your Chihuahua to respond to “sit” the first time, every time.
Capturing The Behavior
You are going to use a form of training called “capturing.” This is when you wait for your Chihuahua to offer what you want and then you mark it (with a click, or a verbal word such as “yes” or “good”) and then reward. Capturing is a great way to train because it makes your dog use their brain to figure out what you want. We all know Chihuahuas are smart, so you might as well use that brain! Plus, behaviors taught through capturing are much stronger than those taught using other methods.
To capture your Chihuahua performing a sit, have your reward (toys, treats, etc.) ready and your clicker, if you use one. You can keep your Chihuahua on leash at first to keep him from wandering. Now, just stand still and wait. Most dogs will eventually sit when you ignore them long enough. As soon as his bottom hits the floor, mark and reward. Toss the reward away so your dog has to get up to get it – thus resetting him for the next sit.
Small dogs often are not keen on sitting. It makes them even smaller than they already are. In addition, if they are used to accidentally being stepped on or pushed by people, sitting makes it harder for them to move quickly, making them feel more vulnerable. So here are a couple tricks to help him want to sit:
-Try practicing “sit” on carpet, dog bed, towel, or anything that is soft. Some Chihuahuas are not big on sitting on cold, hard floors. They don’t have as much fur on their hocks as some breeds, and it might be uncomfortable for them.
-Practice “sit” on something up high such as a bench, your bed, couch, etc. – anything that’s higher up than the floor. Once they are comfortable with siting, you can move them back to the ground.
Adding the Cue
Once your Chihuahua sits without any “extra behaviors,” he’s figured out what you want. At that point, you can add the cue. Adding the cue—”sit”—is easy. Just say the word as your Chihuahua is getting into the sit position, then mark and reward.
Do a few repetitions of this and then test the cue by saying it while your Chihuahua is standing. If he promptly sits, he’s got it – reward heavily! If he doesn’t, that’s okay. Do nothing and just wait for him to sit and say the cue during the sit a few more times and test again. Remember to only practice for a few minutes, and then give your Chihuahua a break.
Fading the Treats
Once your Chihuahua is sitting beautifully in multiple places every time you say “sit” (just once!), it’s time to fade those treats. You can use other rewards – verbal praise, toys, petting, etc. – anything your dog likes.
If your Chihuahua doesn’t sit when you say the cue once, too bad, no reward. But this won’t happen very often with this form of training. If it does, your Chihuahua may be distracted by his environment or even nervous or stressed. Use it as information and assess the situation before you ask your dog again – you may need to put some distance between him and an object or leave the environment altogether if he is really nervous.
Now you’re ready to move on to “stay”!