Your body language says a lot to a dog and whether we know it or not, it can communicate with your dog. We can use this and teach a dog how to offer behaviors. And when we are teaching a dog to do something, we are not actually teaching them how to do it, we are just teaching them the word for it. Also, teaching a dog to offer behaviors is not about teaching them the chain of events; they will figure that out on their own. It is about showing them the end picture and letting them work through the chain.
When starting to teach offering behaviors, if the dog is sitting, that’s good, but it’s not enough. You can give one or two kibbles and give positive verbal feedback.
The higher value behavior that you want is a down. To start you will show them 3 times by leading them down. The dog will work through it and will try to figure out what is going to give them the kibble. After doing this three times, stand up with them and let them figure it out on their own. They will try to offer different behaviors to get it, like sit, shake, etc. If the dog becomes too frustrated by aggressively jumping at the food, completely disconnecting, etc., show them one more time. Then make them do it on their own. While doing this, it is important to remember not to resource guard the food. The dog will try jumping up to get to the food, but don’t pull away, push towards the dog or the dog will think you are guarding the food. You have to think of it as their food and you are just holding it. As they are thinking and softening to you, give them positive feedback. This will help them figure out that what they are doing is right. When they figure it out and get to the down position, the dog gets the handful of treats. Work with until they offer the down as the first behavior.
You can do many things to take it farther. Many tricks and behaviors can be accomplished through the process of offering behaviors. Things like shake, closing doors, and really anything you can think of can be done through this process. Or you can choose a place you want them to be and work them there. For example, you may ask the dog to have all 4 paws on the rug. You will lead them there and treat them when they reach that point, and they don’t necessarily have to offer any certain behaviors, just be on the rug. Lead them a couple times. Next, walk to the place and see if they can figure out what gets them the treats, in this case, 4 paws on the rug. When they start figuring that out, take it farther and make them offer a certain behavior before they get all the treats. You are creating the picture for them, they are figuring out the chain that gets them there.