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How To Teach A Dog Self-Control

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It's Your Choice

How to Train a Dog or Puppy to Sit

"It's Your Choice" is an impulse control game that uses choice & consequence to train your dog to "Sit to Say Please."

Dogs of every age and breed respond favorably to game-based dog training methodology. When learning is fun, dogs learn faster and retain the value of the lesson on a deep level. Let your dog show you just how brilliant they can be by using games of choice to teach them nice manners!

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The Initial Steps 

1. Find something of great value to your dog or puppy (a few pieces of cheese or their favorite treat). Get comfortable.

2. Close your hand around the “treat” and hold it out so your dog or puppy can sniff your hand, lick your hand, nibble at your hand but NOT get the treat. Sit low enough that your hand will be at eye level with your dog or puppy while they are standing or sitting. Anchor your arm on your knee to prevent movement.

3. Say nothing just open and close your hand in response to your dog or puppy's choices. Wait for a choice from your dog!

4. Wait until your dog or puppy stops TRYING to get to the treats, and then you can give them one. The first session sets the understanding for your dog that “in order to get what you want, you must first do what I want”!

The IYC game starts out teaching your dog to make easy decisions. Building upon successes, you can grow this game into any form of distraction training. IYC should become part of your daily routine.

It’s Your Choice 

It’s Your Choice (IYC) is a critical foundational training game because it sets the stage for teaching a dog or puppy self-control over all future reinforcers (reinforcers = anything your dog or puppy enjoys like treats or toys). IYC teaches our dogs and puppies that all things of value must be earned. The premise of the game is that the “work” is what earns the reward, not just the presence of those rewards in the environment. 

It’s Your Choice can be played with anything a dog or puppy finds reinforcing such as toys, people, other animals and environments (i.e., access to the couch or your yard). This game allows a dog or puppy the freedom to choose their own actions which may, through correct choices, earn the reinforcement they want so badly. Choosing correctly earns a dog or puppy the reinforcement and teaches a strong foundation of self-control! 

This approach is also less effort for you in the long run because YOU are no longer responsible for telling the dog words like “leave it!” or “aah aah” but rather THEY CONTROL THEMSELVES around things they love, waiting for the words “go see” or “get it” for great self-control choices. Our only job is to observe behavior and choices, and if an incorrect choice is made, YOU may need to control the reinforcement (not the dog), preventing access to the reinforcement should they make an incorrect choice.


Practice 1-3x a day

at mealtimes

In this picture, a 6-month old Goldendoodle puppy is waiting patiently for a chance to win treats from a bowl on the floor. As long as he doesn't try to steal a treat and holds his sit, without approaching the bowl, he will win a treat. This exercise also helps him to recognize bowls and other dishes as off limits and that he understands he shouldn't steal food from them.

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1. Your dog advances and tries to help themselves to a treat.


2. Your dog sniffs, paws, or nibbles at your hand.

REMEMBER: Always keep your hand in the same position so that your dog learns to back away from your hand (if you pull your hand away, you are initiating a game of chase)!!


You can always reinforce this concept with your dog anytime your dog wants something. Just make eye contact with them and wait for a sit. The best times to implement this training is when you are just going about your day in the following situations:

1. At doorways and gates: Wait for your dog or puppy to sit before opening a door or gate.

2. When you are putting on their walking gear: Wait for your dog or puppy to sit before putting on their harness or leash.

3. Before you give your dog or puppy anything like a treat, toy, or access to something he likes (i.e., sniffing, the couch, saying hi to a guest): Wait for a sit before allowing him to sniff, get on the couch, or say hi to a guest.


1. Your dog backs away.


2. Your dog stays backed away.

3. Your dog stays backed away and Sits.

4. Your dog holds their Sit.

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The Initial Steps 

1. Start the same as when you are playing IYC. When your dog is both sitting and making eye contact with you, mark "yes!", and then toss a treat off to the side as you say the release cue "ok!".

2. Wait for your dog to come back to their starting position and offer another sit with eye contact. As soon as they do, mark and release, tossing a treat off to the side again.

3. As your dog gets quicker and quicker at making eye contact, see if you can get them to make eye contact multiple times before you mark and release.

3. Finally, you'll want to wait for your dog to make eye contact for longer and longer time periods, so wait for 3 seconds of eye contact before marking and releasing, and then see if you can stretch the eye contact to 5,7, and 10-second increments.

Building A Duration Sit/Stay 

1. Start in a standing position facing your dog. When your dog makes eye contact with you, mark "yes!", and then toss a treat off to the side as you say the release cue "ok!".

2. When your dog comes back and sits, give them a treat. Do this 3x.

3. Once your dog readily returns to their starting position, begin to add a little distance between you by taking a step backward. If your dog remains in a sit, step forward to your original standing position and give them a treat. If your dog breaks from their sit/stay, step forward to prevent them from advancing and wait to see if they return to a sit. If they do, reinforce with a treat. If they do not, place them back in their starting position but do not offer a treat. Try again!

3. If your dog can remain in a sit/stay for three consecutive times of you stepping backward and stepping forward, mark "yes!", and then toss a treat off to the side as you say the release cue "ok!".

Troubleshooting: If your dog keeps breaking their sit/stay, you either need to offer more treats for holding their position to reinforce how good it is that they don't move or you are going too fast! Always go back to the last place your dog was successful and increase the number of rewards you give your dog for doing a good job until they fully understand what you want.

It's Your Choice - Wait For Release

The next phase in IYC training is to add a release. This is the beginning of duration training that helps your dog to understand that when you cue a behavior, they need to stay in that behavior until they hear a release. 

This exercise also builds up your dog's ability to make and maintain eye contact with you, a necessary element of almost every training exercise. The reason why is that eye contact gives your dog a focus during training - YOU - which helps immeasurably down the road when you're doing distraction training. 

Adding movement to this exercise also keeps it interesting for your dog while raising what's called their "arousal state," a mindset that helps your dog to tune out distractions and make them more likely to focus on you.

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Give the release cue "ok" as you toss a treat off to the side.

Wait for a sit 

and eye contact.

When your dog returns to their original position, you can mark "yes" and give them a treat. Start the game over!

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Dog Savvy Los Angeles is a positive dog and puppy training company that specializes in game-based dog training and solving problem dog behaviors like canine separation anxiety, leash reactivity, and aggression.