Teaching a hunting dog to sit is not the most important command in the world. I have never seen a dog that didn’t know how to sit all on his own. A Stay command is more important. I generally use the Whoa command instead of Stay though. A Whoa command means that the dog is going to stop whatever he is doing and wherever and is therefore a more all inclusive command.
Let a puppy be a pup and don’t start teaching him commands before he is mature enough to understand the concepts. Always do your first teaching in a calm and quiet area so he can concentrate on you. After he has learned the basic commands he should be able to perform the tasks with a few distractions. Another important issue is to keep the training sessions short because his attention span is short.
I am of the old school so I never really gave treats a thought but after having introduced it into my training I have found that the pup gets the ideas much faster than when using the old system. Whenever pup is performing a task well he gets a treat along with the verbal praise. It is important that the verbal praise is there because the day you have forgotten the treats you should still be able to get the dog to perform when just receiving a verbal praise. Eventually you want to leave the treats out all together.
Whenever you start training sessions it is a good idea to start with what was mastered in the last session to make sure that pup hasn’t forgotten the commands. At the other end, you should always end a session on a positive note. You want pup to enjoy the training. If you are having a bad day and are frustrated it transmits to pup so it is better to take a break and do the training later in the day or the next day when you are more relaxed.
Let’s move to the basic parts of the training. The following is the way I used to teach pup to sit. I would have him sit next to me and pull up in his leash while I push lightly on his hind quarter and at the same time saying the command Sit. When he sits I don’t comment because anything I say at this time may be taken as an invitation to get up, but I release slightly the pull on the leash. If the pup tries to stand up I pull up in the leash again and command Sit. After pup has been sitting for a few seconds without any movements I give him an encouraging command like Good Boy to release him from the Sit position.
Using treats would be done this way. Again have pup next to you and hold a treat above his head and move it slightly back while again pushing on the hind quarters. Just as pup is beginning to sit command Sit. When he is sitting give him the treat. Again don’t praise too much when he is sitting. If he stands up just repeat the exercise. Eventually he will stay sitting after he has received the reward in the form of the treat.
After you have done this exercise a number of times he may sit when he is commanded without the need for treats. By the way the Down command is taught the same way by moving the treat towards the floor after pup is sitting. Again I don’t place too much emphasis on the Down command, because I have never known a dog that didn’t lie down all by himself when he needed it.
Stay or Whoa is a more important command. If you can stop a dog from running into traffic by using the command Whoa you will understand the importance of that. Teaching pup to Stay starts from the position next to you. Take one step away from pup starting with the leg that is “away” from the pup and hold back with the lead and use a hand to show as a STOP sign while at the same time commanding Stay (Whoa).
If you have pup on the left hand side of you the “away” leg is the right leg. If you want pup to follow you start out with the “near” leg so pup gets an immediate command through body language that he is supposed to follow. Using this combination of hand signals, leg movements along with voice commands and the control offered by the leash should make it possible for you to teach pup to become an obedient member of society. It will take some weeks but it is worth the effort.