How to Teach Your Dog to Sit

March 2, 2020

by: Levi M.

Teaching your dog how to sit is one of the basic routines in dog training. With some patience and consistent practice, you can expect to teach your dog how to sit in less than a week.

You Will Need

  • 25-50 tasty treats
  • Clicker (optional)
  • 10 minutes of time

First, find a suitable place to train your dog.

The best option is wherever they are most comfortable and where there are not a lot of distractions, like other dogs or toys. It’s also a good idea to train your dog after they’ve had their daily walk because that’s when they’re typically the most calm and focused.

Start by standing in front of your dog, making sure that their attention is only on you.

Hold a small, tasty treat (such as cut up hot dogs, or ham) near your dog’s nose. Let your dog smell the treat, but don’t let them take it. If your dog has not been trained yet, they will probably try to grab the treat the moment you hold it near their mouth. Stay calm and re-focus your dog by saying their name and not letting them take the treat. Your dog needs to understand that jumping, whining, licking or other behaviors will not get them the reward.

Be patient. Proceed by slowly moving your hand over your dog’s head while keeping his attention. As his head follows the treat, he will naturally fall into a sitting position. As soon as he sits, praise him and give him the treat. Do this several times until he learns that you are rewarding him for sitting.

Practice this behavior for 3-5 minutes, repeating the same motion of raising the treat above your dogs head until he sits. Don’t worry about saying the command to sit until your dog begins to understand the motion and repeats it successfully.

When your dog sits everytime you raise your hand above their head with a treat, you can start saying the cue word “Sit!” the moment they sit.

Be careful not to say “sit” before your dog actually sits, because it may lead to him associating the word to a different action. If you make a mistake once or twice, it’s not really a big deal, but you want to be careful not to confuse your dog by saying, “Sit! Sit! Sit!” or saying the command while he’s still standing up, or he will never understand what you want.

Continue to give your dog treats while you’re training, but instead of giving him a treat immediately every time he sits, do it after he has successfully responded to the cue word, “Sit!” and is sitting. Then, only give him treats when he sits immediately, so that not every successful sit gets a treat. Rewarding your dog intermittently, instead of every time, will make him less likely to rely on treats later on.

Repeat this routine for 10 minutes, and then rest. Dogs do not have a long attention span, so it’s best to train your dog for no more than 10 or 15 minutes per session. Don’t push your dog too hard, because you want them to look forward to these training sessions. You can do it again multiple times within the day and the next few days.

Training With a Clicker

Dogs are simple beings, so they are most likely to understand you if you use the simplest language. This is also the reason why some trainers use clickers in training. Instead of using your voice which can vary in timing and tone, clickers only have one sound and can be used immediately after your dog does the right thing, to "mark" it, so your dog knows he did a good job and a treat is on the way. This can facilitate training because your dog would find it easier to associate the sound with successfully doing a particular behavior.

Teaching your dog how to sit with a clicker follows the same basic steps. Let your dog smell the tasty treat, and patiently guide them until they assume a sitting position. The moment that they sit, use the clicker and give them the treat as quickly as you can. This is called “click and treat”, and the method has been used on more animals than just dogs to teach many complicated behaviors.

After a few successful attempts with the clicker, proceed to use the cue word (“sit”) instead of the clicker. The clicker is used to replace your voice in telling your dog he did a good job. You can wean your dog away from treats and the clicker, to just the cue word “Sit!” in less than a week if you do multiple 10-minute sessions per day, and train consistently everyday.

Practice in Different Contexts

Once your dog has mastered the command, it is good practice to ask them to sit in different places and situations. Also, remember to bring some treats in hand whenever you are training them.

Teaching your dog how to sit is one of the simplest and most useful commands you can teach your dog. Make sure that you and your doggo enjoy every second of the training. It is a chance for you to bond and to develop a trusting relationship.

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