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How to Teach a Dog to Sit Using Five Simple Steps (With Video!)

By Laura Nativo, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP

proper-dog-sitting-position

Teaching your dog to sit is one of the easiest cues to master – and it’s one of the most important basic dog training commands. Getting your dog to sit on command using positive reinforcement will help him enjoy this act so that you get consistent results each time. In just five easy steps – and some regular practice – your dog will master sitting on command in no time! Ready? Let’s get started!

Before you start training your dog to sit, you will need to select a quiet training environment free of distractions and lots of healthy, high-value treats. A clicker is also a good training tool to have on hand.

If you’re not familiar with using clickers to train your dog, Check out my step-by-step clicker-training guide and video.

“Sit” Equals Rewards for your Dog

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

“Sit” Equals Safety and Peace-of-Mind for You

Sitting during more exciting times, when the reward is not so obvious, can be more difficult. By practicing sit frequently using positive reinforcement methods, and a variety of locations, your dog may learn to automatically offer a sit as a default behavior. This “automatic sit” will help your dog make good, independent decisions – even before you ask. This can be used in the simplest of ways – like when you’re waiting for an elevator door to open or when guests come to visit – but it could also save your dog’s life – like at a crosswalk waiting for your release cue instead of darting into busy traffic.

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.

 

Step 1 –  Getting Your Dog to sit with a CAPTURE or LURE

You can train your dog to sit using two different methods. : To CAPTURE a sit, or to LURE a sit. Either method you choose should yield the same results. Just make sure to give lots of praise and high-value treats as soon as the sit occurs. The goal is to get your dog to associate the action of sitting with rewards!

The CAPTURE a Sit Method:

To CAPTURE a sit, you wait for your dog to offer a sit naturally. Observe your dog in a quiet, distraction-free space. When your dog sits on his own, CLICK or say “YES” and give them a treat the second their bottom hits the ground. Using the capture method allows your dog to think about what you want from them and is a fun way of bonding.

The LURE a Sit Method:

This way is a bit more traditional. To lure a sit, you will have a treat in your hand above your dog’s snout. Slowly move the treat straight back – as your dog’s head goes up, they’ll usually move into a sitting position naturally. Keep in mind that you don’t want to say the word “sit” just yet. You just want your dog to become familiar with the behavior. The second their bottom touches the ground, CLICK or say “YES” and treat them. A key to luring a sit is to hide the treat or even go in empty-handed so they don’t become dependent on the treat but rather the motion of your hand above their head. Be sure to treat them afterwards though.

Once you feel that your dog is comfortable with either of these methods, move on to step two.

Step 2 – Name That Sit

Now that you and your dog have mastered the behavior of SIT, you’ll need to cue it. This is just a way of adding a gesture or verbal tag to the behavior. You can be a bit creative here if you choose – use the word “Sit,” use sign language or a hand signal for sit of your choice, or even a sign. Get the sit using your Step 1 skills, only this time say or signal “Sit” right before they give you the behavior. As soon as they sit, CLICK or say “YES” and treat them.

Practice this 10-15 times or until you feel your dog is associating the cue with the behavior.

Step 3 – Generalize That Sit

Now, it’s time to reinforce the cue by adding different elements like duration, distance, distractions- and generalize it by practicing in as many locations as possible. Try asking your dog to sit in the backyard, from the kitchen while you’re in the living room, while a toy is squeaking, etc. Be creative and always remember to be generous with treats!

The lesson is then repeated; sit equals rewards.

Step 4 – Release That Sit

The ultimate goal for training your dog to sit is that they’ll do it until you tell them to stop. When you teach your dog a release cue, you give them permission to proceed. Once your pup is sitting, say OKAY or BREAK (or whatever word you’d like!) for a release cue.

Step 5 – Proof That Sit

Make the behavior reliable by proofing everything you’ve taught in every situation you plan to use it (stopping at a crosswalk, while they’re playing, when they’re off-leash, etc.). To make the behavior reliable, it takes practice.

Teaching simple obedience is the glue to a relationship built on trust. It’s how we communicate with our dogs while building a strong bond. Trust is the most important aspect of any relationship, and when we have trust as our foundation, our dogs will always look to us when they are uncertain or confused. This is how we can ensure their safety.

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