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How to Teach a Dog to Sit – Step by Step Guide

Teaching your pup to sit is a great way to start training. “Sit” is an essential and basic dog training command that every dog should know. It is a way to assist your dog to settle in one place and focus on you. It also helps teach your pet good manners and keeps them under control. Teaching your dog to “sit” is quite simple, as dogs tend to sit naturally. 

Puppies as young as six weeks all the way to older dogs that don’t have mobility problems can be taught to sit in as little as 2-3 training sessions.

Tools Needed to Teach a Dog to Sit

  1. A treat training pouch
  2. High value treats 
  3. A clicker (or a verbal marker such as “yes”)

Steps to Train your Dog to Sit

  1. Teach the behavior – This should happen in a distraction free indoor area such as a quiet part of your house
  2. Proof the behavior – this will ensure your dog sits whenever and wherever he is asked to
    1. Add distractions – this can be other people in your household walking around or other things making noise / movement
    2. Train this in other environments such as outdoors and in public places
  3. Maintain the training – after some time, while your dog will know what you are asking when you say “sit,” if your dog never receives a reward for the behavior or doesn’t regularly practice the behavior, your dog can forget or choose to ignore you.

Methods to Teach your Dog to Sit

Puppies are generally high on energy, making them challenging to train. Be patient with them. Wait until your pup sits, then reward them, saying “Sit,” as they do. By doing this often, your puppy will learn the command quickly.  The sit command is often the first one that puppies learn, and it will be useful their entire lives. If this is the first command you are training your dog to do, it will have a strong imprint on your puppy’s attitude towards training and to his relationship with you. Therefore, it is critical that your puppy has a positive experience during these sessions – this will set you and your pup up for success. 

While there are many methods to teaching the “sit”, capturing and luring are the two most popular methods used by trainers. Remember, training sessions should be short (2-8 minutes) to keep it fun and rewarding. 

Capturing Method

  • Stand in front of your dog, holding some of his food treats.  
  • Wait for your dog to sit. Say “yes” once he sits, and give him a treat.  
  • Then step backward or sideways to encourage him to stand and wait for him to sit.  
  • Give him another treat as soon as he sits.  
  • After repeating this trick a few times, you can begin saying “sit” right as he begins to sit. 

Luring Method 

  • While holding a treat as a lure, kneel in front of your dog.  
  • Without allowing your dog to eat, put the treat right in front of your dog’s nose, then slowly move the treat above his head. He will sit as he lifts his head to eat the treat.  
  • As soon as his bottom hits the ground, click your clicker or say your verbal marker (“yes”) and offer him the treat
  • Repeat these steps several times, then remove the treat and use just your empty hand, but continue to reward and praise your dog after he sits.  
  • Once your dog grasps the hand signal to sit, you can begin saying “sit” right before giving the hand signal. 

How to Overcome Problems with Your Puppy Learning the ‘Sit’ Command

If your pup doesn’t sit on its own after a few attempts, avoid forcing the issue – dogs don’t learn well that way. Avoid yelling or punishing them. Dogs rarely respond to harsh and forceful treatments with anything but confusion and future dislike of both training and you! Instead, try using higher value rewards (remember, high value rewards are what your dog likes better, not what you think is better) and be patient. Additionally make sure that your dog does not have any mobility issues – this is sometimes an issue when trying to teach older dogs to sit.  

If your dog refuses to sit even after offering valuable treats, consider marking their behavior as it occurs naturally throughout the day. Spend time watching your dog’s activities. When your dog sits naturally at any time, say the word sit, mark (clicker or verbal) and reward. Do this every time you see your dog sitting. It would be best if you carry treats with you at all times to make this work perfectly.  

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