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A question for serious trainers.. I've always been careless about how my dogs positioned themselves when sitting. I know that, properly, a dog walking next to me should sit next to me, not swivel his haunches to the side or move forward for better eye contact. Since Galen is still not as solid in his sits as I would like, how do I stop the swivel tendency before it becomes a firm habit without discouraging the sit?

Since I never learned a method, I'm combining two strategies right now. One is to ask for the sit in places where it is most comfortable for him to stay in the proper position. For example, I will walk him next to a patch of sharp gravel and ask for a sit. If he chooses to swivel sideways he ends up on the gravel, but if he stays in position he remains on the comfortable footing.

The other thing I'm doing is trying to make the good positioned sits extra rewarding. I give an ordinary piece of dog kibble for a poor sit. I give four to six pieces of mixed flavors -like dried liver, dried giblets, or peanut butter chews - to reward a good sit.

Are there any other methods that people find work well?

At this point I find that Galen will sit in proper position about 75% if I start him on my left side. He's much worse on my right. I'm not surprised, as I've spent a lot more time practicing heeling on my left. He has probably internalized the idea that my left heel is a high focus high treat zone. At some point I will need to practice him on my other side too, as I will eventually get another dog and will need him to walk well on either side.
 

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I use a treat to turn his head just a little bit so the butt stays straight . If your dog is at your left side, you would use the treat to pull his nose just a little bit out to the left while giving the sit command so that his butt does not swing out to the left. Once he gets muscle memory of what a good sit is, you would fade out the treat and only reward for the good sits as you are doing.
 

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To add/elaborate on what reraven said: if the dog is on my left, I treat on his left. So my hand comes over or around his head to give the treat, versus giving right beside my leg which curves his nose in too close and then the butt swings wide.
And obviously the reverse for the other side.
The other thing I did to keep Raffi straight (for downs and stands especially) was to stand either beside a wall or at the edge of a step. Similar to your idea but making it even easier for him to a succeed.
 

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I use a treat held above the dog's head and slightly away from my body, but lined up with my pant's seam. I slowly lift the treat up and the back end automatically goes down while the head follows the treat up then I generally lower the treat back down to the up looking dog and encourage that it be eaten while we still have eye contact. For spoos this is a good way to get a nice tuck in sit at a nonlagged, non-forged position. As to side winding (back end out) to look at handler's face I work against a wall until the muscle memory is there.
 

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I use a treat held above the dog's head and slightly away from my body, but lined up with my pant's seam. I slowly lift the treat up and the back end automatically goes down while the head follows the treat up then I generally lower the treat back down to the up looking dog and encourage that it be eaten while we still have eye contact. For spoos this is a good way to get a nice tuck in sit at a nonlagged, non-forged position. As to side winding (back end out) to look at handler's face I work against a wall until the muscle memory is there.
Raffi's biggest issue with this method, is that he has internalized "no grabbing treats!" so well that he backs up so that he can see the treat better and not touch it 😆.
I don't really even remember doing much other than a few sessions of It's Yer Choice but apparently it stuck!
Lagging is probably Raffi's biggest issue.
Maybe he's far-sighted and wants to be able to see better? 😂😂
 

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Hmm that is funny that he backs up. I don't allow grabbing either and no bouncing up for it. All feet have to stay in position and no goodie unless you hold the sit Javelin! I might try doing this in a corner so Raffi can't back up to the lag. For Javelin his big thing was forging. I took care of that with two things, one to work on my body language cues and the other was holding his leash behind me so he had to stop in the right place.
 
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I found this info at Your Dog Doesn't Know Sit; Achieving the Perfect Sit

Asking your dog to sit in a narrow space or box
Asking your dog to sit on an elevated platform
Asking your dog to sit next to a wall
By modifying the location in which you have your dog perform the sit, it requires them to “collect” their body into a smaller space which typically involves placing the limbs flexed underneath them. This “collection” is also a phrase that you may hear us use a lot and is also called body awareness. Eventually the goal is to phase out the correction tool (box, platform, etc.) and still have a proper sit and maintain it.

I need to work on a proper sit with Rocky.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
I use a treat to turn his head just a little bit so the butt stays straight . If your dog is at your left side, you would use the treat to pull his nose just a little bit out to the left while giving the sit command so that his butt does not swing out to the left. Once he gets muscle memory of what a good sit is, you would fade out the treat and only reward for the good sits as you are doing.
Doh! That makes perfect sense. I should have transferred the idea over from horse riding. There are various exercises in which you balance the pressure on a rein with pressure from the opposite leg, to ensure the horse doesn't swing his haunches out. It never occurred to me to try to get control of his head, since he's not wearing a bridle. But, yes! Use the treat like a rein to bring his head to the left. If he turns his head to the left, then his haunches will try to go right. Only they can't really go to the right, because my leg is in the way. So he is forced to keep his haunches straight.
 

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You can do what I do with food with a small well favored toy! I am happy to have food driven partners though.
 

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Lily particularly loves little soft toys and since she is really crazy over food toys actually are better for her. If there is food on my person she is all about the food and doesn't care so much about the training, but a release to a toy is very rewarding and satisfying to her without getting crazed and annoying to me.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Pogo initiated Galen into the Cult of the Squeaky Tennis Ball, so I'm able to use a ball as rewards sometimes. He often considers a ball a higher reward than a treat. The problem is that, once you give him a ball, he has a ball. Sometimes he's happy to simply strut along and show off his ball. Other times he wants to play with it, which becomes very disruptive. He drops it and darts after it, and then he gazes longingly at my pocket when I take it away.

I tried using the treat as a lure on our walk today. It didn't work quite as well as I had hoped. He kept backing up to look at the treat instead of sitting. I think part of what's going on here is that Galen volunteered the sit so easily that I never really lured him with a treat to get it. I did plenty of luring with Pogo and Snarky. Galen, though, I just waited for him and handed him the treat when he sat. Later I added the hand signal.
 

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I sometimes use a ball on a string as a reward. Raffi loves balls too. The string gives me control over it. Although I can only use it in certain situations, since like Galen he can become too focused on the ball.
 
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