How To Train Your Dog to Sit

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Does your dog know how to sit on cue? Teaching the "sit" command to your dog is usually quite simple, as dogs tend to sit naturally. Sit is an important basic command that every dog should know. It is a way to help your dog settle a little bit in one place and focus on you. It can also help lay the groundwork for the stay command. The key is for your dog to associate the word with the action. The sit command sets the groundwork for other commands like stay and down.

When your dog is in the proper sitting position, her hocks and bottom are firmly planted on the ground. Some dogs will cheat and "hover" above the ground a little, so be sure not to reward until that rear end is on the ground!

Ideally, your dog will remain sitting until you release him (some trainers use the word "okay" as a release cue). With practice, you can get your dog to perfect his sit. It's actually quite easy to teach.

Difficulty: Easy

What You Need: A big handful of your dog’s favorite treats

Time Required: Time required: 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per day

How to Train Your Dog to Sit

Plan to set aside 5-10 minutes a few times a week to work on training sit. Before you begin, make sure you have delicious training treats to offer your dog. These treats should be soft, small, and highly appealing to your dog. If you use clicker training with your dog, be sure to have your clicker in hand.

  1. Get your dog’s attention and show her that you have a treat in your hand.
  1. Hold the treat just above your dog’s nose (not too high or she might jump).
  2. Move the treat back towards your dog’s ears, keeping it close to the head. Your dog's nose might turn up to follow the treat at first, but most dogs will sit when the treat gets to a certain point.
  3. As soon as your dog’s rear lands on the ground, say "yes!" or “good dog” in an upbeat tone (or, click your clicker).
  1. Immediately give your dog the treat followed by petting and praising.
  2. Repeat 1-5 until your dog sits at the sight of the treat above of her nose.
  3. Next, add the cue word: Say your dog’s name followed by the word “sit,” spoken clearly while holding the treat in the position as before. 
  4. Repeat several times, using the word "sit" each time and gradually phasing out the hand motion (keeping using the treat, just phase out the motion).

Dog Training Tips

  • Hold short training sessions throughout the day in various locations, both indoor and outdoors. End training session on a positive note (with a success). Be patient and consistent.
  • If your dog does not sit on her own after a few tries, avoid pushing her into a sitting position. Dogs don't tend to learn well that way. Also, avoid yelling or punishment. Instead, consider trying more valuable treats, like fresh meat, hot dog pieces, string cheese, liverwurst, etc.
  • If you are still having trouble getting your dog to sit with valuable treats, consider marking the behavior. Spend some time watching her. Anytime she naturally sits, praise and reward her, saying the word "sit." Try this every time you see her sitting. You'll want to carry treats with you at all times to make this work well. In addition, it's fairly easy to capture behaviors with a clicker
  • Once your dog knows how to sit on cue, work on training the sit command in various locations with varying levels of distractions. This is called proofing the behavior.
  • Be sure to include the front door and food bowl as regular training locations. This will make her more likely to sit when greeting guests or before feeding. 
  • Once your dog becomes an expert at sitting, you won't have to give her a treat each time. However, it's a good idea to give treats occasionally in order to reinforce the behavior. Of course, rewarding with praise is always a good idea.