How To Train Your Dog To Sit

Training your dog to sit reliably is an art, and it can be done with dogs of any age.

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Training your dog to sit requires patience and consistency. And lots of treats. Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Jennifer Mauger

Teaching a dog of any age to sit reliably is fast, fun and easy. First of all, set your dog up for success. When beginning to train your dog on any new behaviors, do it in a quiet environment with few distractions. There is no special equipment required. All you need is you, some treats and your dog. Personally, I do not use a leash when training at home unless we are working outdoors or the dog is too distracted to focus on me. Then I will use a leash with either a flat buckle collar or a harness.

There are two easy ways to teach your dog to sit. One is luring, the other is capturing. With consistency and the right reward you will have your dog sitting in no time!

Luring is simply using a reward to lure your dog into a wanted position.

  1. Take a small treat and place it between your thumb and index finger.
  2. Place the treat directly in front of your dog’s nose.
  3. Slowly move the treat up and over your dog’s head, keeping it just out of nose reach.
  4. As your dog’s head comes back to reach for the treat, his fanny should hit the floor.
  5. As soon as he sits, say “yes” and immediately give your dog the treat.
  6. Repeat several times until your dog is already starting to anticipate the sit.
  7. Now repeat the hand motion without a treat in your hand.
  8. If your dog sits, say “yes” and give him a treat. If your dog does not sit, then go back a step in training for a few more repetitions of that step.
  9. Once your dog is sitting for the hand signal, start adding the word “sit.” Say “sit” at the same time you give a hand signal.
  10. After several repetitions, say “sit” without the hand signal. If your dog sits, then mark it by saying,“yes,” and once again giving a reward. If not, then back up a training step.

What happens if your dog simply is not that interested in food? Just as with people, some things are simply more rewarding than others. Your job is to find out what reward your dog likes. Does your dog love toys? Just last night I was working with the most adorable Chihuahua mix. He sort of liked his treats but absolutely loved his ball. So we just used his ball to lure him into a sit. As soon as he sat, his owner said “yes” and threw the ball. In no time he was sitting waiting for us to throw the ball again.

Capturing consists of marking and rewarding any behavior your dog does naturally. Capturing works great for dogs who back up or jump up every time you try to lure them into a sit. It also works well with fearful or timid dogs. Here’s how to capture.

  1. Any time you see your dog sitting around the house, say “yes” and reward.
  2. In a training session, simply stand or sit quietly and wait for your dog to sit. As soon as he does, mark and reward.
  3. If your dog bumps your hands for treats or tries to jump on you, just ignore him and do not say a word. Most dogs give up right away and sit. Immediately say your marker word and reward.
  4. Soon your dog will start offering to sit to get his reward. When this happens, you are ready to add the word “sit.”
  5. As your dog is sitting, say “sit” and then immediately mark and reward. After several repetitions, ask for a sit. If your dog sits, again, mark and reward.

Tips For Training Success
Once your dog is sitting each and every time you say your cue, it is time to take your new behavior on the road. Practice it in different parts of the house, front yard, backyard, park or pet-friendly store. If at any time you are working someplace new and your dog does not respond, then just take a step back and reteach the behavior in the new location.

Some dogs begin to jump right out of a sit in order to do it all over again. If your dog does this, simply wait a second before saying “yes” and giving your dog his reward. After a few repetitions, start adding more time before marking and rewarding.

Using a clicker is another way to mark behavior. If you have not used a clicker before, the idea is that you will be clicking it instead of using your marker word. The dog will quickly understand that the click sound means he has done the right thing. Using a marker word or a clicker is a very black-and-white way to train your dog. He will know without a doubt exactly when he has done the right thing. The absence of the marker word or click means to keep trying for the right behavior.

Whether you use luring or capturing to train your dog how to sit, you eventually need to wean him off of the marker word and rewards. Start using “sit” whenever your dog wants something, such as getting attention, playing fetch or going outside or for a walk. These activities become natural rewards for your dog. In training, start to randomize your rewards for a good sit. Sometimes it is a treat, maybe tossing a toy, a verbal “good dog” or anything else your dog finds rewarding.

For older dogs, sitting can be difficult to do if they suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia or other joint pains. If this is the case, teach your dog to lie down instead of sit.

With consistent and patient training on your part, your dog will be sitting every chance he gets!

Need more help? Watch this training video.

Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Dogs