There are many ways to reward a dog, and many ways to utilize rewards in your training methods. Rewards are given to encourage a desirable behavior.
For a reward to be effective, the dog must view it as a positive. All too often I see people praise their dogs in manners that are ineffective. They use a neutral, or even a commanding, tone of voice while telling their dog he is "good". The dog does not understand. This is the reason I ask people to use treats and toys for rewards, but that is often misused as well.
Rewards, whether they are treats, toys, praise, petting, or anything else, must be used judiciously. They must be saved for a truly rewardable behavior or moment. They must be delivered in a timely fashion, within about one and a half seconds. Treats and toys used for rewarding behaviors should not be given to the dog randomly when not training.
Teaching your dog to pay attention to you should be the first thing you train. He needs to be paying attention to you in order for him to be able to learn and perform other commands.
To teach attention:
- Start with your dog in a distraction free location.
- Hold a treat that he really loves in your hand; show it to him.
- Say his name as you bring the treat up towards your face. (Remember, attention means looking at you, so we are targeting the dog to look at our face.)
- As soon as he looks up, give him the treat and praise him.
- Repeat this a few times. Be sure to end the session while your dog still wants the treat.
You will find that in a very short amount of time, the dog will be looking at you often. You can keep some treats with you, and randomly reward him for initiating attention. At this time, you also should continue the attention training sessions as above, but give the treats randomly.
The sit is usually easy to teach. Most dogs will naturally sit as they look up, in which case, you can train the sit in conjunction with teaching attention. While teaching attention, as soon as the dog sits, praise him with "good sit" and reward him with a treat. This will allow him to develop word association.
To teach the dog to sit on command, once you have the dog's attention, say the word "sit". If he does it because he has associated the word with the behavior, give him huge amounts of praise and rewards. If he doesn't, you can guide him into a sitting position by gently "folding" his legs under him.
You don't want to ever push on the dogs back or rump, because this can cause injuries. You can place your hand on the back of his legs above the knee to have him tuck as he sits. Ideally the dog should always tuck his hind end. Some dogs have a tendency to rock back as they sit, which results in a dog sitting further away from you than he should.