The sit is good for a first thing to teach your puppy or dog. Why start with the sit? Here are five reasons.
- It’s easy to teach a dog.
- You’ll be using it with the other commands.
- Even very young puppies can understand it.
- It’s important for good manners with people.
- It’s the thing my dogs do when they want to please me and aren’t sure what to do, and this can be very convenient.
If your dog already sits, you may get some ideas here for how to improve the process.
Teaching the Sit
Put a small treat in in one hand. For most dogs, the treat can simply be a piece of their dry food. You and your dog or puppy should be alone in a place without distractions. Indoors is generally less distracting than outside, but a quiet yard is fine. You want enough space that you and the dog can move around a little.
You also want to be where you have a small container of the treats out of reach of the dog, so you can grab another one easily. Do this at a time of day when the dog hasn’t just been fed.
Your dog should be standing up or walking around as you begin this process. Show him the treat in your hand, close enough that he can smell it and at about eye level. He may move forward to sniff it or he may just watch you. In any case, raise that hand with the treat up higher than his head and back over his head… so he has to sit in order to keep watching you.
The very instant that the dog’s rear touches the ground or floor, say “Good!” and open your hand. Let him take the treat from your outstretched palm. (This is a much safer method for your fingers than giving him the treat right from your fingers! I always give treats from my palm. This point could be a dog training tip in itself.)
Now, what if the dog doesn’t sit when you try this? What if he jumps up for the treat, moves away as you raise the treat, or does something else? You can say something like “Too bad!” if you want to, or just say nothing. Then create a bit of a pause, for example, turn around or just stand looking out at nothing for a few seconds. Then try again. Normally, dogs get the sit quite quickly, as it comes naturally to them to sit in order to see the treat. If you still have trouble after a try or two, be sure you are moving the treat in a way that would naturally make the dog move into a sit.
After the treat has been consumed, walk to a different place in the room and repeat the process. Do this several times in a session, but I wouldn’t go more than 5 or 10 minutes, and only 2 or 3 minutes for young puppies. You can do several sessions a day.
How to Train the Sit with a Clicker
It’s exactly the same as above except that you click a clicker at the very moment the dog’s rear hits the floor. Don’t have a clicker? Here’s a nice clicker:
Seven Ways to Use the Sit with Your Puppy or Dog
- If your dog tries to charge into or out of the house, you can teach him to sit until you tell him it’s okay to go.
- Ditto for getting in or out of vehicles.
- Our dogs sit and stay before going to their bowls to eat. This is convenient, and I must say we’ve impressed a lot of dinner guests with this trick!
- Another good time to use the sit is when you think your dog might jump up, like when those dinner guests ring the doorbell and there’s excitement as they enter.
- It is useful in connection with teaching a dog to come to you and to sit in front of you.
- It could save your dog from injury, or even save its life, if the dog was about to go out on a street with traffic and you called out, “Sit!”
- It can make your dog less intimidating to a child who is about to pet your dog, with your permission of course.
A nice benefit of the sit is that dogs generally watch you closely when they are sitting, so you have their attention. Being able to get your dog’s attention when you want it makes life much more pleasant. Teaching your dog to sit also can strengthen the bond between you and the dog, as it’s something you two are doing together. You may think of it as a command, but the dog may think of it as something fun that he is doing with you. And here’s another tip: the more fun you bring to the sit or to any dog training, the more happily your dog will pay attention to you! That’s win-win.