Growing up in a dog-training household and becoming a professional dog trainer myself, I have been teaching dogs to “sit” for decades. I have learned that teaching a dog to sit isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
It isn’t just about teaching your pup the word and expecting him to listen, but it is about being patient and repetitive, using the proper hand signals, and offering a tasty treat for positive behavior.
How to Train a Dog to Sit: A Step-By-Step Guide
Let’s unlock the key to a well-behaved and obedient dog as we embark on a journey to teach your furry friend one of the most fundamental commands: sitting. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll find the secrets to mastering the ‘sit’ command and teaching good manners to your four-legged companion.
Select the Appropriate Environment
Before you begin teaching your dog to sit, it is important to ensure you and your puppy are in a relaxed environment. By relaxed, I don’t mean that you need to be on a beach but in a comfortable area where your pup feels comfortable.
A relaxed environment, like a calm room or even staying in your yard, is the best area for your training sessions for many reasons. It isn’t a secret that dogs have a short attention span, especially puppies, so a calm area helps your pup pay attention to you during training.
Keep a Foot On the Leash
You can teach a dog to sit by keeping a foot on the leash during training. I want to clarify that when I say keep a foot on the leash, I mean in a gentle manner for reinforcement, not harshly. When training your dog to sit, attach the leash to your pup’s harness, collar, or choke collar. The leash should be long enough so your pup has some freedom but short enough so you can step on it when you need to.
In a quiet and calm area, begin walking your pup with the leash loose, encouraging him to move around with you. When it is time to teach your dog to sit, give the verbal cue to “sit” and gently step on his leash, only enough to prevent him from moving forward. When he sits down, praise and reward him for doing a good job with treats.
Then, release your foot off of the leash and let your dog move around freely again. You will need to repeat this dog training exercise as many times as it takes for your pup to understand the sitting position.
While Your Dog Is Standing, Present a Treat Near Your Dog’s Nose
Another good way to teach your pup the sitting position is to hold a treat near your dog’s nose with your dog standing in front of you. Keeping his favorite tasty treat near your dog’s nose, move your hands in an arc position over his head, bringing the treat with you.
Once he raises his head to follow the treat, his bottom automatically will go to the floor. As soon as his rear hits the floor and he sits on the ground, praise him for excellent behavior and show your enthusiasm.
When he sees how excited you are for a positive outcome during training sessions, your pup might be more inclined to catch onto sit teaching more quickly and will look forward to his reward.
Lift the Treat Over the Dog’s Head, Say “Sit”
Lifting a treat over your dog’s heat and telling him the word “sit” is similar to presenting a treat near his nose. However, this method of training is a little different because of the verbal cue to “sit.” Slowly raise your pup’s favorite tasty treat over his head, and use the word “sit.”
If your dog moves to the sit position after you give the sit command, praise your puppy by giving him his treat. You’ll likely have to repeat this process a few times in order for your puppy to catch on, but practice makes perfect. While it can be tough to teach a dog the verbal cue to “sit,” treats and repetitions help your dog become motivated to learn the sit position.
Acknowledge Your Dog’s Sit With Praise
When your dog sits from the standing position, it is a huge deal when he makes it to the upright sitting position. Giving your dog his favorite tasty treat as a reward is one way to acknowledge your dog’s sit with praise. You can even use clicker training to help reward your dog.
Clicker training, which is a form of positive reinforcement, can help your dog understand exactly why you want to reward him. Essentially, the click marks the moment that you want to reward.
Repeat These Steps
By repeating all of these steps, your dog will soon have mastered sit teaching. Many dogs do well throughout this training process and respond well to praise, a reward, patience, and lots of practice. Every time your dog sits, be sure to teach your dog why he is being rewarded.
Once he associates the cue to “sit” with sitting on the floor, you know that he truly understands the word “sit” and feels motivated enough to follow through with his new trick.
Shift to Hand Signals & Fade Lure For Sitting
Before teaching a hand signal, you can fade the lure for sitting. Just like how you used to hold a treat for training, you will now do the same thing but with an empty hand. This opens up to learning a signal for sit teaching.
When you teach your dog to sit, the signals should be paired with verbal commands, like “sit.” The most common signal to teach your dog is this – Open Hand Palm Up. Use the palm of your hand and face it upward (to the sky) at your chest. Then, move your hand in an upward motion and pair it with the word “sit.”
End Training With ‘Okay” Cue
Once your dog knows how to sit from the standing position and upright position, while also understanding signals and verbal cues, you can end your training. Another cue you need to teach your dog is “okay,” which helps your dog to understand his training is finished.
Telling your dog “okay” gives him permission to stop doing what you asked, so he no longer needs to perform.
General Tips For Training Your Dog to Sit
Here are some general tips to help teach a dog to sit. Follow these easy steps and tips to help make sit teaching a bit easier.
- Reward your dog
- Choose a quiet and calm training environment
- Be clear and consistent
- Use a leash and his favorite treats
- Use the hand signal for sitting
- Have patience
- Keep the training sessions short to avoid frustration
- Practice on a regular basis
- Use “Okay” as a release word
- Decrease treats as he learns hand signals and the word “sit”
Establish Sitting As the Default Behavior
A default behavior is how your dog will act, even if you aren’t giving a verbal cue or signal. When you establish sitting as a default behavior, your pooch will eventually learn to sit naturally.
This prevents him from running around or jumping. The more you practice teaching your dog to sit, the more likely your pup will be able to make sitting a default behavior in the future.
Train Your Dog to “Sit Pretty”
Once you have mastered training your dog to sit and he knows the word “sit,” you can practice teaching your dog to sit pretty. When you teach a dog to sit pretty, you teach him to sit on his haunches with his front paws in the air, like a begging position.
While it isn’t necessary to teach him this trick, I find that most owners love teaching their pooches to sit pretty because of how cute they look. To teach your dog to sit pretty, follow these easy steps.
- Ask your dog to sit
- When sitting, hold a treat to his nose and slowly lift the treat
- Your dog will follow the treat and rise up
- As soon as his paws lift off the ground, praise or reward him
- Repeat, but raise the treat even higher so your dog rises too
- Build height until your dog has reached the “sit pretty” position
- Once your dog can sit pretty with the treat lure, use an empty hand to fade the lure – This will be your hand signal
- Once he responds to the signal, pair it with the verbal cue “sit pretty”
Things to Avoid
When training a dog to sit, there are several common mistakes that you can avoid throughout your puppy’s training. Mistakes happen but can be avoided if you know what to look out for. Here are some things to avoid when teaching your dog to sit.
Definitely avoid using any type of physical or harsh punishment (like a shock collar or prong collar) if your buddy doesn’t catch onto the sit command or does the wrong movement.
While a shock collar or prong collar may be effective for poor behavior (like biting), it isn’t the best choice for training. Punishment can cause your dog to be fearful of you and have anxiety, which can cause issues with cooperation.
Avoid any inconsistency with hand signals or the word “sit,” as it will confuse your dog. I have seen a few dogs get confused with inconsistency, which makes training harder in the long run.
Giving your dog his favorite treat is one of the best positive reinforcement methods at the beginning of training, which is when giving him a few treats a day is acceptable.
Once he gets the hang of sitting, you no longer need to give him so many treats but can still praise him by telling him he is a good boy.
Training For Too Long
Since dogs have short attention spans, we don’t want to train too long. Sit training, or even crate training for too long, can cause your pup to lose focus and get bored, and can even do the wrong movement. So, it is best to keep training sessions short but also engaging.
Is It Possible to Train My Dog to Sit Without Using Treats?
You can absolutely train your dog to sit without using treats – it just might take a little bit longer. You can use other types of positive reinforcement, such as praise, affection, or a new toy, to show you are happy with what he learned.
Can I Train a Senior Dog to Sit?
You can teach dogs of all ages to sit, including senior dogs. However, you should keep some things in mind when training an older doggo. Some senior dogs have physical limitations and discomfort because of their age, so they might prefer training using a soft surface to sit on.
Of course, before beginning any type of training, you should consult with your vet first to ensure it is safe for your senior pup to learn new commands and tricks.
What Is the Approach to Training a Dog to Sit from the “Down” Position?
When teaching your pup to sit from the “down” position, follow the same steps as teaching him to sit from an upright position or standing position. You can use treats as a reward, holding it above his nose and bringing it over his head.
Once he sits, you can then give him the reward! Eventually, you should cut out the treats and use a hand signal, just like mentioned previously.
What Can I Do If My Dog Shows No Interest in the Lure?
While it can be frustrating, there are some dogs who don’t show any interest in the lure during training. To help motivate your pup to train, consider trying these strategies:
- Change the lure (use a squeaky toy or a ball)
- Shorter training sessions
- Use a clicker
- Minimalize all distractions
- Stay positive and patient, as dogs can feel our emotions
We hope now you know how to train dog to sit. Training your dog to sit is not only about teaching your pup a command, but it helps you to build trust and a strong bond with your furry friend by using consistency, tasty treats, and having lots of patience.
Throughout your training endeavors, try to use rewards appropriately (don’t overdo it on the treats), keep your sessions short, and stay patient throughout the process. Your pup will be sitting in no time!