Wits End Dog Training: helping you to help your dog be the best it can be

Wits End Dog Training, helping you to help your dog be the best it can be.

Wits End Dog Training | Specifics

2. Sitting to be petted

My dog will sit and stay and allow a friendly person to pet it on the head and body


Remembering our Training ABC’s we want to have an antecedent, behavior and consequence.

"The technique for a shy dog and a friendly dog will be slightly different, however the goal is the same."

For an enthusiastic friendly dog our goal is to ask for a specific performance, a sit or a down for example. Then with a calm demeanor, only on the cue “Say Hi” (Antecedent), your visitor can lean forward and the dog stays seated while being petted (Behavior).

"The key idea here is for the dog to be in a calm state before the cue to “Say Hi” is given."

In the initial stages often the dog will stand up as the visitor approaches the front. During training you can ask your visitors (who have already agreed to help you with your training) to only move forward if the dog is seated and to move back and upright withdrawing hands if the dog breaks from the sit. For this dog the (Consequence) reward for staying seated is getting petted, the “punishment” for standing up is withdrawal of the petting visitor.

"The dog learns that he can train the visitor
to pet him by staying seated."

You can start this behavior really early and be very successful if you are consistent. The difficulty comes when you allow different behavior depending on whether you are in jeans or a skirt or whether the dogs paws are muddy or clean or whether the visitor is a dog friendly friend or the vicar. Intermittent reinforcement is the fastest way to get solid habitual behaviors. That means that if sometimes it is OK then your dog will always do it to find out if today is the day that it is OK.

If you have a big dog I have found it very helpful to have the dog always go onto a “down” to meet and greet. One of my clients mentioned how she was at a hotel by the pool with her 8 month young golden retriever. When a two year old toddler came over to see her dog, Rosie, she went automatically into a down stay for the child to touch her, without being asked.

This, as you will have spotted is the opposite of the way many people unintentionally train their dogs, where the dog is rewarded with petting for jumping up, nosing the crotch or pawing the person while the person says “down, down, down, off, down, off, down, down” in the hope that the dog understands that you are just grabbing the dog so that it does not ruin your clothes and you really would rather he did not muzzle punch you in the groin.

"You really would rather he did not
muzzle punch you in the groin!"

If you have a shy dog the idea of being petted may not be a rewarding consequence for a solid sit. In this instance you can start by asking for the sit, and also asking the person to stand upright and smile at your dog to “Say Hi”.

This way you are demonstrating to your dog that you will protect your dog from the nasty man or woman who think they have every right to fulfill their own neediness for love by mauling and fondling your dog. In the same way you are also progressively desensitizing your dog to the situation that used to make it anxious without overwhelming it with groping strangers and making it take care of it’s own personal space by barking, growling or snapping.

Meanwhile you will be doing some more work to get your dog used to being touched and petted.

I have found TTouch and massage to be very helpful when working with hand shy dogs.



My dog likes being petted all the time.



Sometimes when using massage on a shy dog it is helpful to continue until the dog relaxes and then some more. 45 minutes to an hour is not unusual.


Everyone loves a massage! Especially after exercise!

Mmmm dog.

Be aware that some dogs are "head-shy" and do not like being petted on top of the head. Also some dogs dislike having their hind-ends petted. Any growl, tail down or sudden moves should signal that you need to STOP what you are doing immediately and stand still. No sudden moves of your own.



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