Teaching your dog to sit on command should be one of the first commands your dog learns; it's an essential foundation for dog training. Teaching the 'sit' command is critical because it begins developing a special bond between you and your dog, as well as opening the door to new commands for both of you. Success in the 'sit' command will lead to a very happy relationship between dog and owner, and it's very simple to do!
There is a simple process to teaching your dog to sit, and here I'll break it down into 3 easy steps: Prepare, Train, and Refine. This method can be used for teaching your dog any command, but 'it' is the best place to start.
Step 1: Prepare
You will need some simple dog training tools, and to prepare yourself mentally for this task.
● Small tasty dog treats that are easy for your dog to eat (I recommend a treat that can be broken into small pieces, such as Buster’s Tasty Treats which will grab your dog’s attention absolutely! It’s important to give you dog small amounts as rewards, so you don’t overfeed through treats)
● A clean, warm, and calm environment such as a quiet living room with carpet
● Time to train your dog without interruption (10 minutes or more)
● A dog you would like to train to sit on command
Additionally, you should select a hand gesture you will use to motion your dog to sit. This will reinforce and strengthen your dog's learning ability, as they will have an audio and visual cue to follow. Use the hand gesture every time you say 'sit', and your dog will begin to associate the sound and the motion. The recommended hand gesture is to have your hand open and level with your chest, palm facing the sky; when you command your dog to sit, raise your open palm upwards at the same time.
When your tools are ready, you will need to prepare yourself to be patient and calm. Your dog will appreciate this and it will make your job much easier. Remember, dogs can sense your emotions!
Step 2: Train
Now we will begin teaching your dog to sit on command.
First, hold a treat (in your non-gesture hand if you choose to use one) and get your dog’s attention. Let them know you have a treat, but do not offer it to them. You may use two methods here:
Method 1) Hold the treat in a closed hand close to your dog’s nose, and slowly move your hand over the top of their head to the back of their head. Many dogs will try to look up to the treat, and as a result, lower their butts into a 'sit'.
Method 2) Hold the treat high above their heads in your hand, and move your hand so they are trying to look straight up to it. Many dogs will sit, some may choose to walk backwards so they can keep watching the treat. If your dog moves backward, try training them in a corner where they cannot back up.
Some of our dog friends might need a little extra encouragement when learning to sit on command, especially if it’s their first command. While using either method listed above, you may place a hand gently on your dog’s behind and give a soft push downwards to encourage them to sit. Do not press hard or force your dog to sit, as this could hurt them. Be patient with your four-legged friend.
When your dog does sit, immediately say your dog’s name and the command 'sit' (and use the hand gesture if you choose) when they do to reinforce the sound 'sit' with the action of sitting. Give your dog the treat and praise; 'good boy/girl' with petting - you can make a big deal out of the first few 'sits' to emphasize what you expect. Dogs love positive reinforcement! Be sure to always use your dog’s name before the command, so they know you are addressing them and they won’t get confused during a normal conversation where they might hear you say “sit”.
Do not encourage any other behaviors or you might confuse your dog. If your dog does not 'sit' as you expect, avoid feeling frustrated or lashing out. Saying 'no, sit!' in response to a failed 'sit' will only serve to confuse your dog. Clear, precise commands with your dog’s name and then the word are a necessity.
Reward the successful 'sit' and then prepare to repeat the training. Release your dog from 'sit' with an alternative command like your dog’s name and then “release', or simply backing up and calling your dog forward to you. When your dog is out of the 'sit' position, you may repeat the training process in step 2. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes and then give your dog and yourself a break.
Step 3: Refine
Most of your hard work is now done! By this step, your dog should be able to reliably 'sit' when following Step 2. Your goal now is to condition your dog to respond to your 'sit' command (verbally or with hand gestures) without the need for treats or praise.
This is a simple task, only requiring time and patience. First, you will wean your dog off of the treats and then off of the praise. When you return to your training sessions, start by giving a treat for every second successful 'sit', and then every 3rd'sit', until you are no longer giving treats and only praise.
When you are no longer giving treats for the 'sit' command, begin to reduce your praise. A simple pet and 'good boy/girl' for each successful 'sit'. If your dog is comfortable with only praise, try commanding your dog to 'sit' and only a verbal reward 'good boy/girl'! If your dog completes the 'sit' and responds well to you, you have succeeded!
If you have been using a hand gesture, you may try stopping your audio signal (saying 'sit') and only using the hand gesture to command your dog to sit.
Continue to teach your dog to sit on command with these steps until you are comfortable with your dog's response to your 'sit' command.
Teaching your dog to sit on command is a very basic task, and is a great bonding experience for you and your dog. If you're a new dog owner, this is a skill you will need to build for a happy relationship between your dog and yourself in the future. Remember that dogs love positive reinforcement and they will love you all the more for working with them!
When you have completed teaching your dog to sit on command, you may look forward to teaching your dog new commands like 'come', 'lay down', or 'stay' using the same methods. Dog-lover favorites like 'shake a paw' and 'roll-over' are also open to you and your dog now. A whole world of bonding with your dog through training is open to you!