How To Train A Dog To Sit – Different Approaches & Tips

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Teaching your dog to sit is a basic command and usually the first one you teach your puppy. So how do you do that? This article will give you an answer.

“Sit!” So simple, and yet so useful.

This is a basic command that’s pretty easy to teach, which is why it’s usually the first command you teach your dog.

So – what’s the best way to do it?

Besides being a useful and rather easy command to teach, sitting is also the foundation for future training. By teaching your dog to sit on command, you will easily get his or her attention. This will make teaching any other command in the future much easier.

So, before we start explaining how to do it, let’s answer the following question first:

Why Is The Command “Sit” Important?

Apart from the obvious reason – you want your dog to sit when you say so – there are a couple more reasons why this is such an important command.

  • Teaching commands contributes to a common language between you and your dog. By practicing together you will understand each other better and create your own form of communicating.
  • You’re giving your puppy a socially acceptable way to ask for what he or she wants. Instead of barking or whining in order to get something, your dog will from now on sit when he or she wants something.
  • It sets the way for future training and new commands. The “sit” command is basically the foundation of every next command, so you want to make sure your puppy masters it well.

How Long Does It Take To Train A Dog To Sit?

A lot of new dog owners ask this question, but all experienced dog owners will tell you exactly the same answer. You might teach your dog to sit within few days only, but you will have to repeat the process of teaching (especially the part of rewarding) every now and then. If you always pay attention to reward your dog when he obeys a command, then it’s very unlikely your dog will ever forget what you previously thought him.

So the answer to this is – start training your dog as early as 8 weeks old and he’ll probably pick up on commands after a couple of days. However, after learning a command, you should repeat it for a while in order to perfect all the basic commands.

So, how should you proceed?

How Do I Teach My Dog To Sit?

You can begin practicing sitting with your puppy already when he or she is 8 weeks old. The sooner they learn this, the better. There are a couple ways you can train your dog to sit. Let’s check them out!

1. Positive Reinforcement Approach

As you can guess, you’ll need treats your dog likes for this trick. As you will be training a lot, and therefore giving many treats, choose really small treats and/or low-calorie alternatives. Besides special-made dog treats, you can use various human food, such as pumpkin which is extremely low in calories. Just make sure you know that what you’re giving isn’t bad for dogs in any way.

1. Get your dog’s attention
The first step toward teaching a new command is to get your dog’s full attention. Stand directly in front of your dog so that he or she can see and hear you.

2. Show the treat
Show the treat to your dog so it’s visible, but unreachable. Your dog will now start thinking about how to get the treat and be completely focused.

3. Move the treat behind its head
Now that you have your dog’s complete attention, keep the the treat close to your dog’s nose before you slowly raise it over his head. Keep it close enough so that he won’t jump up. The dog will follow the treat with his eyes and nose. By looking up, your puppy will eventually sit down. If not, you can help by a gentle push to a sit position while maintaining the same position.

4. Say “sit”
When your puppy sits down, say the command “sit” in a clear voice and give the treat. Apart from this word, talk as little as possible, as it will make “sit” stand out more. Reinforce additionally with praise and encouragement. Release from the sit position by a command of your choice, for instance “free”.

5. Repeat
10 minutes or so is usually enough, as the dog will most likely get bored after a while. Instead of practicing an entire hour, do a couple of short sessions per day. With time, stop giving treats every time your dog sits, but continue praising. After some time your dog will need only the hand signal and the command.

Pro tip: Since we’re talking about a positive reinforcement approach here, it means that you should always find a way to prize your Fido when he’s been a “good dog”. If you’re out of treats in the moment your dog sits on command (for example, you’re outside), try rewarding him with hugs, praise or a toy.

Pro tip: A study found that more consistent responses in dog training were shown when the command was told in a “positive” rather than a “negative” tone.

Check out the video below and see how it works!

2. Physical Guidance

This method is suitable for active, unruly dogs. By using a leash or a harness you’ll maintain control as long as you reinforce positive behavior. Negative behavior should simply be ignored, as your reaction to it will reinforce the unwanted behavior.

1. Choose the appropriate leash
The purpose of the least is to gain your dog’s attention and make him or her stay in place. However, not every leash, collar or harness is appropriate for your dog. So, you’ll need to try different ones and see what works best for you and your dog.

2. Encourage your dog to sit
Stand next to your dog and gently push the area above his rear legs. The purpose it to get your dog to sit. However, don’t use force to make this happen – never hit, spank or push too hard. You don’t want to scare your dog, but teach him to sit – which can be done peacefully.

3. Say “sit”
When your dog sits down, say the command and keep your hand in front of him or her. That way your wog will associate the act of sitting with your word and gesture. Repeat this and praise every time. The ultimate goal for your dog should be to sit only with your voice command.

4. Change environment
If you’re not making progress, try changing the environment. Change room or go somewhere you know your dog feels relaxed. Don’t give up – it could take weeks with really energetic dogs. Don’t lose patience in front of your dog as this will only slow down the process. Instead, take a break, play for some time and try again.

3. Reward Natural Behavior

This is a suitable method for older dogs. The basic concept is to praise your dog when he or she sits down naturally. It’s most likely to happen at home or in another comfortable environment.

1. Observe
Don’t do anything else but observe your dog in its natural environment. Let your pet walk around or do something else until he sits down on his own.

2. Say “sit”
As soon as you see this, reward the dog and say the command. Just like in any method, speak clearly. Be firm, but still friendly. Besides verbal praise, you can also give small treats.

3. Repeat
You want your dog to associate “sit” with the action, right? So, you want to repeat this as much as possible and observe your dog every day for some time, in order to reward the natural behavior.

4. Use the command
When your dog has associated the word with the action, you should use the command in “unnatural situations”. This means that you should try to make your dog to sit when he’s standing. When he eventually does that, reward right away until it becomes a natural behavior.

Pro tip: Use the command sit whenever your about to give your dog something he really enjoys (food, treats, a toy). This way he will absorb the new command much more quickly.

Tips For Successful Training

If you want the training to be as successful as possible, here are a couple of things to have in mind:

  • Reward only when your dog sits on command – If your dog sits without being told to, do not reward him. This way you will confuse him and he might not take your commands seriously.
  • Keep the training short. Don’t make your dog train for more than 10 minutes, especially if they are hyperactive puppies that get distracted by smallest things. Ideally, train your dog twice per day in sessions of 5 minutes. It should be more than enough and it’s the optimal amount of time both you and your dog can stay completely focused and patient.
  • Don’t have toys or food around. Especially not in your hand. You know that your dog hears the moment you take his toy in your hand, so make sure you’re not distracting him with his most favorite things on Earth: food and toys!
  • Don’t be impatient. You can’t expect your dog, especially puppy, to learn the command in one day. Dogs don’t have unlimited attention span and they get bored easily. Short, repeated training sessions are the most effective.
  • Make sure your dog is comfortable. Choose an environment where your dog is comfortable and as free from distractions as possible. Practicing a new command on a new and exciting place won’t be so effective.
  • Avoid training outdoors in the beginning. Until your dog has mastered the “sit” command at least a bit, it would be good to do the training inside. There are a lot more distractions outside which will make training more difficult. Also, having the same environment will reduce distractions and make the training more successful.
  • Pay attention to your dog. Is he getting bored? Tired? Distracted? Don’t force it – it’s important to read your dog’s mood if you want efficient results.
  • Train in different locations. After a while, when your dog has mastered the “sit” command pretty much, you should change locations. Otherwise, your dog might only know the command in one specific room. So, train in different rooms, in the yard etc.

When You Shouldn’t Train Your Dog?

Although it might seem to you that almost any time is a good time for training, your puppy surely doesn’t think so. Dogs are like kids, and imagine making your kid do its homework in a room full of friends and family? Or forcing a kid to study in a park where kids are playing and running around?

Well, it’s really the same with your pup. Only that your dog will get distracted by much more things. So, in order to save you some time and make your trainings more successful, avoid learning (or simply stop training) your dog a new command or trick in these cases:

  • There’s another family member in the room
  • An alarm, doorbell or phone are ringing during the training
  • People are around
  • Dogs or other animals are around
  • At the Vet’s
  • In places like Petco
  • When you have guests visiting

Happy training!