Training: The Importance of the Sit Command

Liz Palika
Importance of the Sit CommandKate Abbott working on the sit command with her dog, Qwill.

Sit seems to be a traditional training exercise; if you have a dog, you teach him to sit. This is something that almost all dog owners do. However, many owners who teach the sit command don’t understand why sit is so important.

Sit Equals Rewards

When your dog learns to sit for a treat or for his meals, he learns that putting himself in the sit position and holding that position until released gains him a treat or his food. Because dogs repeat actions that are self-rewarding – and because both treats and meals are rewards – this can be an easy lesson to learn at these times.

Sitting during more exciting times, when the reward is not so obvious, can be more difficult. Your dog jumps on guests, for example, to greet them and get attention. If your guests pays any attention at all to the dog, then jumping is rewarded. The attention doesn’t have to be nice words and petting; even yelling, “Get back! Down! Get off of me!” is still attention.

However, when the dog is helped to sit while people greet him then the lesson of sitting for rewards is again introduced. If we use the example of guests coming to the house again, simply ask all guests to call when five minutes from the house. Put a leash on your dog and have a few treats in your pocket so you can be ready when they show up.

When your guests arrive, let them in and keep your dog close to you. Ask your guests to ignore him for the time being. Later, when he calms down, have him sit and let people pet him and offer him a treat. Again, sitting equals attention, petting, and treats. You can use a similar technique when out on a walk. When someone approaches you and your dog and wants to pet him, ask them to wait a second. Then help your dog sit and, if he’s prone to jump on people, hold his collar. Then invite the person to pet your dog and give him a treat. The lesson is repeated; sit equals attention and treats.

Sit is Self-Control

As your dog learns that sit equals good things, then you can expand its use. Ask your dog to sit for everything he wants. If he brings you a ball to throw, ask him to sit first. Then release him and throw the ball. Chasing the ball is the reward.

Teach him to sit at all doors so that he doesn’t dash out when a door is opened. This can potentially save his life someday as a dog who waits at the open door won’t dash out and into the street. Plus, when he sits and waits for permission to come inside, the next time it rains you can towel off your dog before he comes in the house.

I also teach my dogs to sit in the car. I don’t want my dogs to dash out of the car every time a car door is opened; this is much too dangerous. A friend of mine was in a car accident a few years ago and her two dogs were in the car. Thankfully she taught her dogs to sit, even when car doors were open, and wait for permission to jump out. It’s a good thing she did too, because at one point she turned to look and someone had opened the car door but both her dogs were sitting on the car’s back seat, looking out at the traffic zipping past.

Use It

Teaching your dog to sit is easy. Rewarding the sit is just as easy. However, then you need to take a look at your routine and your life with your dog and put the sit to work. Help your dog sit when and where this exercise will help you and your dog, reward it often, and then use it.

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