Capturing is the easiest method of informally reinforcing a down or sit. At some point a puppy will sit, so you click and reward them. Same with the down. All you have to do is watch. The first week or two a puppy is with me, that is how I reward the action, and being to put a word to that action.
When they begin to offer a sit while I make their breakfast, they get a word when the tush hits the floor, and a click/treat when they can get up again. They need to learn the words sit and down before I can expect them to do it when I say sit.
But now I’m talking about more formal training around 12 weeks or so; doing the action on verbal or hand signal cues. I am going to use Sue Ailsby’s training levels for formal obedience http://www.sue-eh.ca/page24/page26/styled/
To begin to teach sit, I will lure the little nose with a treat going backwards slightly over their heads. They will almost automatically sit to reach up and back for their treat. If they back up, I just practice with their furry bottom right in front of the couch or a cabinet.
I try only to lure with a treat 2-3 times, then I try it with a treatless hand. If I get a sit, there’s a click and several rewards as fast as they can take the treats. I try to get rid of the treat as quickly as I can, so I can reward rather than lure.
As soon as they have the word with the motion, I will click the moment the tucas touches, and the can get up to get the treat. Then we do it again: sit, fast click, up for treat. This passively teaches them the click not only means a reward but a release.
Over time I slow down the click and have them wait just a little longer, and a little longer so I am sure they understand that click means the sit is over. But while they are learning it, I try to get a click in every few seconds–it keeps the short puppy attention span focused!
If I need to, I’ll get a sit, click fast and have a game of tug, or hugs, or crazy ball chase. Then they have to sit, get the click before a crazy ball chase. Or a sit before their food goes down. Or a sit before we go outside.
As they become good at it, I increase distractions: we sit outside in the park, or we sit in the parking lot, or we sit where other puppies are doing things (watching an obedience class). I won’t use sit much, since my next puppy will be a mobility service dog. But sit they must know!
Again, after a few times I lure with a hand that has no treat, then give a fast click and let them get up to get the treats and affection from me.
Don’t underestimate the power of affection and play as a reward! Puppies have an innate sense of fun, and if the sit and down is part of a game, they will be game for it!
Gimme a down, click, chase down the bully stick. Gimme a sit, click and come get a lick of cream cheese. Try not to be too serious about teaching, or the pup will feel the pressure. Do what you need to do to make it fun for you as well, and you’ll get much better results.
I try to have the sit, down, stay, and wait solid before 16 weeks when I will take the pup to an obedience class. That makes the class more of a distraction ignore exercise than a place to learn sits and downs!