Teaching Your Dog to Sit

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Goal: Teach your dog to put their rear end on the floor when asked to "sit". When and where to use "Sit"

  • You can use "sit" to help your dog demonstrate polite manners for greeting. For instance, they can be asked to sit before being petted and receiving attention from people.
  • A dog can sit before receiving food, bones and/or toys.
  • "Sit" can be used to redirect your dog from unwanted behaviors such as lunging, jumping, barking, etc.
  • "Sit" can help teach your dog self control. They can learn "sit" as a default behavior that they do automatically when they're confused or to get what they want.

What you need

  • Practice in a quiet room.
  • Have 20-30 of your dog's favorite treats ready.
  • Practice 2-3 times a day for 5-10 minutes each.

How to train the cue 'sit'

Luring

  • Stand in front of your dog, holding them on a loose leash. Hold a treat between your thumb and your fingers so that your dog can't get it at first (if it's a toy, hide it). Place your hand right at their nose or within an inch of their nose, fingers pointing up, palm facing up.
  • Pass your hand over the end of your dog's nose, over their head and toward their hind end. Usually when the dog's head goes up, their rear end goes down. When your dog's behind hits the ground, say "sit", praise them and give them the treat.
  • Don't hold the treat too far away from your dog's nose or they might jump.
  • Step back or to the side and coax your dog up to a stand again. Repeat the exercise 8-10 times.
  • Once your dog has followed the treat into a sit 8-10 times, start to use the same hand motion without a treat for them to follow. Your dog will most likely still follow the hand movement.
  • Continue to praise and treat. Repeat 9-10 times.
  • Pair the verbal cue with the hand motion: say "sit" and use the hand signal for sit (an open hand moving from a resting position at your side to being bent 180 degrees at your elbow). Continue to praise and reward from your other hand every time your dog sits.

Capturing

  • When hanging out with your dog in normal everyday situations, notice when your dog sits on their own. Many dogs will sit for comfort when waiting, resting, bored or tired.
  • When they sit, praise and reward them.
  • Your dog will start to want to sit, and you might see them offering sits throughout the day to get what they want.

Tips and Next Steps

  • Sit is a natural behavior of dogs; we are only teaching them the word and hand gesture paired with the action.
  • Only say the word "sit" once. If we repeatedly say "sit, sit, sit," dogs will think that's the cue for "sit."
  • If your dog doesn't succeed, go back to the step they were successful and work that again for a few minutes before moving on.
  • If your dog won't move into position with luring, try a softer location, some dogs won't sit on cold surfaces.
  • Some shy or fearful dogs aren't comfortable with a hand over their head and will move away. Try capturing instead until they become more comfortable with you.
  • Don't push your dog's rear end down or jerk on their leash to make them sit. This can scare some dogs or be painful. We don't want those physical actions to become the cue for "sit."
  • Once the dog is 90-95% successful in low distraction area, start adding in distractions. More information about improving how your dog responds to cues
  • Use the 'Say Please' program to help keep the training going. Have you dog "sit" for you for everything they want (i.e. if they want the ball thrown, before they get their dinner, or for some petting).

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