Dr. Karen Overall has outlined deference protocols that can be practiced with all dogs regardless of their behavior. Essentially, the dog must sit, be calm and look to his owner for anything he or she wants. It is the equivalent of saying please. It is part of a series of foundation behaviors that will help when we go on to do Targeted Behavior Modification.
In our e-book, we have called it a Sit, Look and Attend program (SAW) because we put a bit more focus on the paying attention and waiting. Developing these two skills help develop the executive function in your dog’s brain so your dog can get better at controlling him or herself. Just what we want.
These programs are similar but must not be confused with the traditional view of NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free), or Learn to Earn, or any of the exercises that assume the only requirement is that the dog does something he is asked to do. In fact some suggest that is the dog tries to second guess and perform a task before he is asked, the owner should ask the dog to do something else. This is fine for obedience training. However, in the case of aggressive dogs, it is highly desirable for the dog to sit and wait calmly as a way to try to get what he or she wants.
Sitting is how a dog naturally defers to others. We need them to look to us to guide them on whether something is a threat or not, or what they should be doing at times of uncertainty.