How To Train Your Dog To Sit
Training your dog can be a great bonding opportunity, and you should start with teaching your pup to sit
Training your dog is an essential responsibility when you own a canine companion. Making sure your pup can follow commands and exhibit desired behavior not only makes him a more pleasurable pal, but it also helps keep your pooch safe and sound. You don’t have to teach your dog an endless repertoire of tricks, but you should concentrate on basic commands. One of the most important commands for your pup to learn is “sit.”
Why Start with the “Sit” Command?
The “sit” command lays the groundwork for many other commands like “stay” and “lie down.” Therefore, it’s important for you pooch to know how to sit and perform the command consistently to ensure the success of future training sessions. Plus, teaching your dog to sit can immediately help him remain calm in certain situations, as well as quickly conquer unacceptable behavior like jumping up on other people or onto furniture.
Steps To Train Your Dog To Sit
In a nutshell, to train your dog to sit, have your tools at the ready, which is basically a lot of treats and praise, and a clicker if you plan to use clicker training. When you teach your pup various commands, you will assign a hand signal along with the command.
Hold a treat with your fingers, palm facing up, in front of your dog’s nose so he sees it. Then, slowly move your hand over your pup’s head, toward his tail, and he should gradually and naturally move into a sitting position. As soon as your pup’s bottom touches the ground (make sure your pup isn’t just hovering above the floor), shower him with praise and a treat.
This hand movement becomes the signal for your dog to sit, and once he is consistent, start to give him the signal and only reward him with praise, eventually adding in the verbal command to “sit.” Gradually, you can work in distractions to make things more challenging (as well as more like real life) to ensure that your dog can perform a solid sit response.
Here’s a closer look at each of the steps to train your dog to sit:
Get Your Dog’s Attention with a Treat
It’s important to get your dog’s complete focus before attempting to train him to do any command. Select a tasty, desirable treat that will really get your dog’s attention and make sure he sees it before you start to work with him. With a treat between your thumb and forefinger, hold it directly in front of your pup, right above his nose. Make sure to not hold it too high, otherwise, your pooch might be tempted to jump up for it.
Give the Hand Signal
The motion you use to coax your dog to sit will also become the hand signal you use to give the "sit" command. Visual signals have been shown to be very effective tools for teaching dogs different behaviors, and visual cues are critical at those moments when your pet can't hear you.
While holding the treat in front of your pup's nose, slowly move it back over your dog's head. Keep the treat close to your dog's head as you move the treat toward his ears. Your pup should follow the treat with his eyes and head, and may even lift his nose toward it, but this motion will eventually cause your pup to land in a sitting position.
Reward and Praise
Once your dog’s bottom touches the ground, immediately respond with positive praise and the treat. Make sure that the reward is done as soon as the desired behavior is performed to ensure your pup is clear on what is expected of her. Keep your tone of voice positive and upbeat, as well, you never want to sound anxious or stressed as this will only rub off on your dog. Positive reinforcement is very effective when it comes to training your dog. Eventually, work your way up to only rewarding with verbal praise and petting.
Add in the Verbal Cue
Once your pup has success sitting with the hand signal, add in the verbal cue. The idea is to reach a point where your pup can respond to the verbal cue by itself. After all, just like your pup might not always be able to hear you, there will likely be more times where he cannot see you when you need him to perform a certain behavior. To add in the verbal command, do everything that you have been doing up until this point and simply say your dog’s name, followed by “sit,” at the beginning of the motion (when you first hold the treat in front of your pet’s nose). Continue to do this with your dog, and little by little, phase out the motion until your pup is responding only to your verbal cue.
Add in Distractions
Now that your dog can sit, you need to make sure he will be able to do it reliably, no matter what might be going on around him. Therefore it’s time to do what is called proofing the behavior, which basically means you need to add in distractions. You can have a friend walk by with another dog, or another family member can toss a ball, you get the idea; just make sure to only add in one distraction at a time, and choose very desirable rewards for your pet during this phase. Continue to work with your pup until he follows your command despite what tempting activities might be at play around him.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like anything that you want to do well, the more you do it, the better you will become. When you first begin your training sessions, your dog might be a little active and distracted. However, if you start with small, frequent sessions and simply increase the time slowly, your pup will have an easier time staying focused and can handle the longer sessions. Still, a training session should only last about 5 to 10 minutes at a time, for several lessons throughout the week. Once your dog is sitting consistently, make sure to continue to review the command with him as needed.
Tips for Successful Dog Training
No matter what command you are teaching your pup, when you are training your dog, keep these tips in mind to get the most out of your experience:
- Keep things positive. Don’t force your dog into a sitting position or turn to punishment, and always end on a high note.
- If you’re having a hard time getting your pup to do a command, carry treats around with you, and mark the behavior. In other words, whenever your dog sits, quickly say “sit,” and reward your pup.
- Start training your dog as early in your relationship as you can; as soon as you get your pup is the best time to begin.
- Set expectations and rules for behavior with your pup from the very beginning and stick to them. Consistency is very important.
- Don’t overlook potty training.
- Maintain a schedule with your dog; this goes for training, eating, exercise, and rest.
- Be prepared before you start training your pup; make sure you have rewards and treats, a clicker if you plan to use one, a leash and harness when required, and any other supplies that you may need.
- Keep your pup adequately stimulated through a variety of activities and engaging toys like the Rolly Cannoli, and provide him with ample opportunities for exercise. This way, when it is time for training, your pup will be less distracted and can focus more easily.
Training doesn’t have to be a stressful time for you or your pup. In fact, it can be extremely rewarding, as well as very beneficial for your dog, especially where safety is concerned. If you find that you are struggling, you can consult with your vet, or you might consider hiring a professional trainer; you can check out the Association of Professional Dog Trainers as a starting point if you think you might need a hand. For more helpful tips on training your dog and other great ways to care for your pooch, make sure to check out the rest of our blog!
- Fernando Becattini