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How to teach your dog to sit

Golden Labrador sitting advice © Shutterstock

Sitting when instructed is an essential and basic canine skill. It teaches a dog to be patient and helps to keep him safe. But just how do you begin to teach your dog to sit?

By Dawn Parrish

Training your dog to sit on cue is a very useful skill. It has its advantages when crossing the road, using the cash dispenser or even when meeting friends. Teaching your dog to sit usually takes little effort and it’s something you can easily teach as a dog owner. When you first take a new puppy into your home, you will probably find that this is one of the first commands that you train him to do.

The benefits of the “Sit” command

You may ask why you should even bother to train a dog to sit. First of all, this instruction provides several training benefits for your pooch. Teaching your dog to sit is likely to be the very first marker for your pup’s training schedule. If your dog has difficulty following the cue to sit, he will probably have concerns moving forward onto the next training routine.

Teach your puppy to sit down
The sit command is the first thing you will teach your new puppy©Pixabay

The sitting down position has the benefit of being able to control your pet’s behaviour. If your dog easily gets excited, he will wriggle and move around. In contrast, the sitting posture will keep your dog calmer and still. This can certainly help if you’re on a dog walk and something startles your pup. When you ask your dog to sit, he tends to calm down and focus all of his attention on you and this will help you guide your dog out of trouble. This is naturally one of the aims of any training session. Follow these easy steps to teach your dog to sit, and to stay sitting, as you command.

Be prepared

Choose a quiet location, either inside or outdoors. The choice is up to you but there should be no temptations, interruptions or distractions for your dog. To ensure that the training session is a success, both your dog and yourself should be quite relaxed and cheerful. Make sure to have some tasty dog treats handy too. To begin with, you will find that you need several tasty treats as rewards but the aim is to eventually train your dog to sit to your cue only.

Be positive

So that your dog knows he is getting the task completed correctly, you can opt to either say “Good”, or if you prefer, use the clicker method of affirmation. Above all, it’s important to let your dog know that he is doing just what you expect. Give the reward and endorse it with a “Good” immediately.

Entice with a lure

Think of using the treat as a guide to ask that your dog moves into the sitting position. It’s best not to use any pulling and pushing movements to get them into a sitting position. This will only make them anxious and wonder why you are moving their body posture.

Giving a dog treat
Use a treat as a reward©Pixabay

Lure your dog to sit down

At this stage in the game, your dog doesn’t yet know the word “Sit”. Take a treat and with a smooth and gentle action, raise it in front of your pet’s nose. Now, continuing to move your hand slowly, bring it over and above his head. As your pooch attempts to follow the treat, his head will automatically fall backwards. As his body shifts, his bottom should come into contact with the floor. Immediately say “Good”. Now it’s time to reward him with a well-earned treat.

Repetition is the key when you teach your dog to sit

Continue with this training challenge until your dog happily moves into the sitting position when offered this treat above his head. If it seems like he’s not picking up the task immediately, take a short break. Don’t bore him with the lesson. Likewise, you want him to enjoy and remember this task, so take things at his own pace. Remember the importance of saying “Good” and then rewarding him the moment his bottom comes into contact with the ground.

Now include the word “Sit”

As you train your dog to sit down, add in the word “Sit” as you lure him into a seated position. Repeat the word “Good” as previously taught, immediately when his bottom hits the floor. Likewise, continue to repeat these stages and commands several times to reinforce the connection of the word “Sit” with the dog’s action.

Boxer dog sitting
Your dog should sit to your command ©Pixabay

Attempt this now without the lure of a treat

As you say “Sit” continue to move your hand exactly like the previous lesson but do not hold a treat at this stage. Certainly, if your dog hasn’t picked up the routine by this point and he appears to struggle, continue to train with the reward for a while longer. Then you can try again without.

Try the routine in different locations

As you begin the task of training your dog to sit, you need to choose a quiet location. Once he has mastered the basics, now it’s time to move onto a busier place with more distractions. Perhaps you could reward your pup with a delicious treat if he accomplishes your requests with no issues. Likewise, if he fails in this more difficult and busy location, take him back to basics and to a calm, quiet spot. Finally, you need to be consistent, clear and calm with your commands.

The ideal end result is for your dog to sit only to your verbal cue, with neither guidance nor reward from you. Certainly, once they have mastered this sitting technique, they are ready to move onto more complex tricks.