Using Body Language to Train Your Dog: The Arm Cross Sit
Doesn’t it seem almost impossible to keep your excited dog from jumping up on you when you come home at the end of the day? You probably say, “Sit! Fido, sit. Sit. Sit! SIT!” and he keeps jumping away. The challenge is that when dogs get revved up, it’s almost as if their ears fuse shut. Though your dog might not be a great listener in this type of situation, he’s still an excellent watcher, and you can use your dog’s body reading abilities to your advantage.
Our dogs do an amazing job of deciphering our spoken language, but what we don’t always realize is that they are unequaled masters of reading what our bodies are saying. With that in mind, I like teaching dogs a universal and obvious body language cue that means that they need to sit when they see it. This cue is easy to do and simple to teach to family and friends (including small children). It’s a basic arm cross, as pictured below.
To teach the “Arm Cross Sit”, walk around the room with your dog, come to a stop in front of your dog and cross your arms at your chest (don’t say the word “Sit”, just wait). If you’ve done any training with your dog it’s likely that sit is his default position, so it won’t take long for him to “offer” the position. Repeat the process until your dog is quickly sitting each time you come to a stop with your ams crossed. Ask family members and friends to practice the arm cross sit with your dog as well so that he can begin to generalize it.
Practice in Various Situations
Once you’ve laid the groundwork and your dog is readily sitting any time someone crosses their arms, practice it in the “hot zone” near the door so that it becomes second nature for your dog to do it there. Then put it to the test and try it when you get home after a long day. It might be difficult for your dog to overcome his excitement and offer you a “Sit” initially, but if you’ve done your homework together it will happen. You can help your dog burn off some of that excitement by tossing the treat on the ground a few feet away instead of giving it directly to him. That mad dash to grab the treat then sets him up to come back and perform another “Sit” for you.
The “Arm Cross Sit” is a great way to tap into your dog’s excellent body language translation skills, plus it’s a cool party trick!