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Training Your Dog to Sit

Training a dog to sit

General Tips and Specific Techniques

Training your dog to sit is one of the best places to start your obedience training. It’s easy to train, and doesn’t challenge your dog’s instinctual decision-making.

Training your dog to sit also gives you a way to distract your dog from wrong or unsafe behaviors. Rather than punishing your dog for random things, which will only confuse him and hurt the master-dog relationship, issuing a “sit” command gives your dog the sense that he knows what to do in an unfamiliar situation.

Training Your Dog to Sit: When To Start

You can start training your dog to sit at about 8 weeks old, which is usually when a new puppy is first brought home. Or, you can start at any time after that. The only requirements are that your puppy trusts you to handle him, and that he feels comfortable approaching you.

Training Your Dog to Sit: Rules for the Trainer

  • Keep each session brief. Puppies have short attention spans, and mental exercise wears them out after about five minutes.
  • Training your dog to sit doesn’t have to be a separate, concentrated activity. Do a quick training session at meal time, as a part of play time, etc.
  • Use tons of repetition, and then lots of praise the instant he sits.
  • Use the same command every time, and be clear about the expected result. When he responds the right way, instantly praise, pet and reward him.
  • Make sure there’s fun and rewards involved.
  • Your dog’s success is your responsibility, not theirs.
  • Gradually reduce the rewards and praise once your dog is learning the command.
  • Training your dog to sit, or to follow any other command, should start in a calm, familiar place.
  • When your dog masters a command without distractions, begin adding distractions.

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Training Your Dog To Sit:
Specific Training Methods

Keep in mind that these methods for training your dog to sit will work, given enough repetition. When you read them, a lot of things should “click” in your mind about how dog training works in general.

Method 1: Make the word “sit” mean something.

This is the ideal method, and works best with new puppies. When you first start training your dog to sit, the first step is to help your dog relate the sound of the word, with his butt being on the floor. You want to see something easy? Try this over and over for a few days:

  1. Keep a close eye on your dog.
  2. When your dog is about to sit down on his own, quickly say the word “Sit!”
  3. Once his butt’s on the floor, go praise and pet your dog.

Do that often enough, and you’re already training your dog to sit. After a few days with lots of repetition, you’ll be able to say “sit!” and your dog will park his behind on the floor.

Guide to training a dog to sit

Method 2: Manipulate his body language.

This is a good training technique if you have an older puppy or adult dog who wasn’t raised with much of a background in obedience training. It helps you begin the training process by training your dog to sit with “an offer he can’t refuse.”

  1. With your dog nearby and watching you, grab one of his favorite treats. You want him to see it.
  2. Put the treat in front of his face and slowly move it up and over his head.
  3. As your dog’s nose follows the treat, continue up and back so that he has to sit in order to see it.

Don’t move the treat too quickly, and don’t move it so far back or so far up that he has to jump up, back up, etc. Let him keep his nose very near the treat. The second he’s in a sitting position, give him the treat and praise him.

After your dog is obviously figuring out that all he has to do is sit to get the treat, you’re ready to introduce the verbal command. Continue the same process as above, but say “sit” as soon as you start moving your hand.

Soon, your hand won’t be getting very far! That’s when you stop using the manipulative hand-motion, and just say “sit” with a treat in your hand.

Method 3: Using a Leash

If the above techniques didn’t work, this one will. This is the age-old method of teaching any dog to sit, and it works regardless of age or previous training.

  1. Fit your dog with a collar and a leash, and stand beside him.
  2. Hold the leash straight up over his head, and gently press down on his rump while saying “sit.”
  3. As soon as his butt touches the floor, praise and reward him.

Training Your Dog to Sit – Extra Notes

As with almost all of the different commands you’ll teach your dog, it’s helpful to start one-on-one, but then involve other people as well. Letting other people, especially other family members, repeat the training steps that your dog has already mastered with you, has many benefits.

For new dog owners or people who are training a dog at home for the first time, I strongly recommend the Complete Dog Training Package. It’s indispensable to first-time dog trainers, and it has resources that even I continue finding useful after many years and several dogs.

Return to how to train a dog, or the specific obedience training section.

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