How to Teach a Dog to Sit
Teaching your dog or puppy how to sit is one of the first important steps in the dog training process.
It’s a very basic trick to teach and an important building block to having an obedient dog.
Like most things when we train puppies, this will take patience and consistency. It might not happen right away, but practice makes perfect.
It’s best to train often, but in short sessions. Try working through the following steps around 3-4 times a day for no more than 5-10 minutes at a time.
So, let’s take a look at the process…
STEP 1: Prompt your Puppy to Sit Naturally with Treats
Use small treats to get your puppy’s attention. Grab one at a time and close it in a fist.
Get down on your knees to get to his eye level. Let your puppy sniff around your hand – we want him to be wondering how to get that treat.
If you lift your hand slightly in front and above of your dog’s head, he’ll naturally sit down as his eyes follow your hand up. By doing this signal, we are able to prompt the motion that we want without the puppy having to respond to verbal cues.
When he fully sits on his behind, give him the treat and praise him. You don’t even need to say “sit” yet.
Verbal praise alone is enough at this point. Often times, if you pet your puppy while he’s sitting, he’ll stand up. We want to teach him to remain seated while he’s being rewarded.
I recommend performing this step about 5-10 times per training session.
Note: Ignore any unwanted actions from your puppy. Remember to only give him the reward if he sits calmly without any extracurriculars.
STEP 2: Start Using Verbal Cues
By now, your dog will have a handle on how to get the treat from you. It’s time to start adding in a verbal cue to go along with the signal to get him to associate the motion with a sound.
We want to use the same technique as we learned in the first step, except we also want to use the command “sit” (or an alternate phrase of your choice). It’s important to use your verbal cue before your physical cue. The verbal command will process better if he hears the word before he performs the action.
Continue to give him a treat and verbal praise when he is fully seated.
I’d recommend working on this step around 10 times per session to more firmly instill the voice command in your puppy’s mind.
STEP 3: Verbal Cues Only
The goal is for your dog to eventually respond to the verbal command without hand gestures and treats. He’ll be able to hear your voice more often than he’ll be looking at your motions.
I like to perform this step while standing. He’ll be looking up at you and more likely to sit.
We’ll continue to use treats at this stage so your puppy will be motivated to obey.
Close a treat in your fist and use only your verbal command. If he sits (and only if he sits) give him the treat and praise him like you’ve already been doing. Of course, ignore any unwanted behaviour.
I like to do this while moving around to different spots in the room to encourage the puppy to stand up after sitting. We want him to be standing and ready to respond to the cue again.
Keep in mind that (early on) he probably won’t have a great handle on the verbal cue by itself, but he’ll likely get the general sense after working through the first two steps a number of times. Eventually, the verbal cue will be enough on its own.
As you continue to practice and your dog improves, begin to be more unpredictable with the treats. Reward him with a treat sometimes and other times just use verbal praise. However, it’s important to continue to use verbal praise every time he sits when asked to.
The process will vary for everyone, but it’s important to be patient. This is an important command to teach your puppy. It’s the best way to get your puppy to stay in one place when you need him to.