Teaching Your Dog to Sit

This is by far the first and certainly the easiest command to teach your dog, largely as they will be doing so much of it naturally. Here’s what you need to do before training:

  • a pup, preferably a hungry one
  • a nice quiet spot and a bit of time
  • a bag of high quality treats (here’s how to make your own great dog treats)
  • a favourite toy, out of reach (he gets this for compliance, you play with it and then put it up out of reach when finished)
  • a bowl of fresh water

The most important bit of above is, of course, good treats, they are at the core of canine behaviour modification. Most dogs anyway, some aren’t that motivated (though I don’t a single dog that doesn’t like a little piece of sausage). Let’s say your dog is afraid of hoovers. Simply take the hoover out and feed him his dinner some metres away. Repeat ten times. Soon he’ll love the sight of the vacuum coming out. Then you work on switching it on in a different room while he eats, gradually bringing it closer to him over a great many dinners. It’s the same if he has a bad reaction to other dogs on lead. Almost all dogs can be brought around by a good treat, gently changing their negative association into a positive association.

Baked chicken / duck hearts make the best training treats!

Teaching a dog to sit Without a Lure

Stand up straight and using the pup’s name and encourage the puppy to come to you. When she approaches simply wait. At this very young and uncoordinated age she will look upwards and this, in turn, will naturally produce a sit. Only as your pup is in the act of sitting do you say “sit” followed by “good girl” in a sweet tone.

Now you have to give them the treat. Remember, they only get their treat for being in a sit. When you bend down to administer the treats she will naturally stand up to get closer to the approaching treat. This is breaking the sit. If she gets up, you gently say “no”, and begin to straighten up. Now, you must repeat the process. Very quickly she will learn to keep her bum on the ground for the treat to make it all the way down.

Very quickly she will learn to keep her bum on the ground for the treat to make it all the way down. Once you get that treat in there you say “good girl, off you go”, signalling the end of the exercise.

Repeat three times, then stop and play with her favourite toy. Job done.

Teaching a dog to sit With a Lure / Hand Signal

Call the pup to you and, holding the treat between your forefinger and thumb. You offer the treat to your pup in such a way that as she approaches to get it you gently lift your hand up and back over pups’ head. The pup will naturally lift her head up and back, encouraging a natural sit. Soon as her bum touches down the treat goes in with a “Good girrrrl, sit”. It can be useful to practice against a wall so she can’t move backwards.

So again, you are not asking your dog to “sit” and then waiting for the response. You only say it as the action comes out, so they can’t lose. You’re guiding them into it.

Over time your pup will need less and less lure as they quickly learn the sit command. But it is no use if the pup will only sit while you kneel beside him luring him! You must now try to work back until you can stand up and ask to sit. To achieve this you must practice luring the pup, initially on your knees but over time move to a crouch. From the crouch you will slowly stand (but still luring as required). Over the course of weeks you should be able to stand straight and simply lift your hand (which becomes the sit hand signal). The pup, having followed this hand numerous times will sit accordingly.

Hand signals are great. They give the dog something to focus on. You can hold them up to show him the exercise is still going on otherwise he might make his own decision when the exercise is over. Personally, I like a dog to sit and hold it until I tell him “Good boy off you go” as I’m not always going to be in view but as a starter it’s great.

dog hand signals

Developing the Sit Command…

Once you establish the basics above, using whichever method you wish, you now must develop it. You need to start introducing some challenging distractions, in the following order:

  1. Introduce a family member, sitting quietly in a corner
  2. Have a family member walk around the kitchen as you  do it
  3. Have a family member cross between you as you ask him to sit
  4. Have a family member hopping a ball in the room
  5. Try out in the garden, off lead, with people running around
  6. Out the front of your house with people walking past
  7. Outside a busy shop
  8. Quiet part of a park, on lead
  9. Busy park of a park, on lead
  10. Park, off lead
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