The ‘sit’ command is probably one of the most basic commands you can teach your dog, but it is also one of the most important.
Training your dog to sit is a fairly straightforward task and is usually one of the first commands to be taught in basic obedience training. It forms the basis of many other more advanced forms of obedience training and is much more useful than party tricks like “play dead”.
Teaching the sit command to your puppy is such a valuable thing to do. The sit command will help you control your dog when you are out walking, at home and in fact, pretty much everywhere.
We are going to go further in depth into why the sit command is so important later in this article, and we are also going to give you various methods to train your dog how to sit as well.
Additionally, some of you might have already taught your dog the sit command, but are having trouble getting them to respond to it. Your dog may also only respond to the command when they feel like it as well. We are going to be helping you with this too.
This is a very detailed guide on teaching your dog how to sit, so you will want to refer back to as you work through the different stages of training.
By the end of this article, you should have all the knowledge required for sitting success, so carry on below.
Why Is Teaching Your Dog to Sit So Important?
Many new dog owners want to dive straight into training their dog cool commands like “paw”, “play dead” or “fetch”. While these commands are great to impress your friends, commands like sit, stay and look are the basis of your dog’s training.
Sitting is a natural part of your dog’s life and teaching them to do it on command can help you and your puppy progress with more difficult training. If you can teach your dog something early on, you will be more likely to try harder and more challenging commands down the track.
Teaching your dog to “sit” will form a greater bond between you and your dog, and is a great way to build trust between you two. Once you have mastered “sit”, there is a treasure chest of exciting new forms of obedience training that will open up to you.
The “sit” command is one of the most versatile and useful commands you can teach your dog, along with “stay”. If you can only ever teach your dog one command, we feel that “sit” is almost certainly the most important one.
But why is this? When taught properly, the sit command can replace the likes of “stay” or “down” when you want to control your dog. Teaching your dog, the sit command will let you control them in all sorts of situations. We have listed some of these below:
- Control when they are off their lead – If your dog can sit reliably when they are off their lead, it can make controlling them much easier. In some cases, the “sit” command can save your dog’s life if there is a threat to them, and you can’t get to them quick enough. It also comes in handy when you want to put a lead on your dog, when there are other distractions around.
- Waiting for dinner or a reward – Teaching your dog to sit and wait patiently for their dinner or reward is good practice, and should help to prevent them lunging at any food items in your hand.
- When guests come – Dogs love people and they get very excited when guests come to your house. Unless your guests love to be jumped over or get a big wet, slobbery kiss, you should teach your dog to sit when guests come into the house.
- When dealing with children – As we said above, dogs love people and they seem to love kids even more. A dog can do real damage to a child and set them up for a lifetime of dog fear, if they jump all over them. Teaching your dog to sit and remain calm when children are about will help to prevent any nasty accidents from happening.
- When crossing the street – Making your dog sit at the lights or when you are waiting for traffic, will reduce the chance of your dog lunging into the street.
- If your need to give way to someone – Nobody likes it when an enthusiastic dog barges their way past people when you are going up stairs of through doors. Teaching your dog to sit will let you give way to other people around you.
- When they meet a new puppy – Meeting a new puppy is exciting business for your dog, and if you have a larger breed, they can do serious damage to young dogs. Making your dog sit when they meet a puppy can prevent any unwanted disasters from happening.
In order to control your dog in these situations, you need to teach the sit command in a way that they will not disobey you. If your dog only does it sometimes or only when they feel like it, the command you give them is pretty much useless.
Before we get into the training methods, let’s clear up a few other things first.
Common Questions About Teaching a Dog to Sit
Some of the questions below are relating to owners who have already tried to tech their dog to sit, but are having difficulty with the process or their dog’s behaviour.
Why Does My Dog Not Sit When I Tell Them to?
Many dog owners teach their dogs to sit easily, but then they find their dog starts ignoring the command. The dog knows what the ‘sit’ command means, but fail to action upon it.
You might believe this is naughty behaviour or that your dog is trying to be dominate, however, you would be wrong.
The main reason that your dog does not listen to your command is because you have not reinforced it. You need to teach your dog to ‘sit’ in all sorts of different environments with different distractions. This is something your dog will not understand automatically.
Most people teach their dog to sit in the kitchen or somewhere in the house and then assume their dog will do it in the park. Teaching your dog to sit is not that easy!
My Dog Does Not Sit When There Are Other Dogs Nearby
The majority of dogs will not sit when there are other dogs nearby. They will instead rush off and play with the other dogs, rather than listening to your command. This is because the other dogs are generally more exciting than you.
Many dog owners find this surprising. Dogs that sit while other dogs play around them are usually well trainer, or they just don’t like other dogs.
My Dog Gets Up When People Touch Them
Another common dog owners face is when their dog will not stay sitting when a person goes to touch or pat them. This can be extremely frustrating, however, it is perfectly normal.
In this ‘how to train your dog to sit’ guide, we are going to go over this, along with adding other distractions that can cause your dog to stand up.
My Dog Doesn’t Stay in The Sitting Position
This can be caused by the issues we have already discussed above, but it can also be other things as well. Generally, we want our dog to stay sitting for a period of time when we command them to.
Many owners will separate the ‘sit’ command with another command ‘stay’. While this can make your dog stay sitting, we want to take a different approach with this guide.
We want to train our dog to sit and stay there until we release them, rather than asking them to stay. It is a small difference, but quite an important one.
You need to remember that your dog doesn’t know how long they should sit and stay, so it can be quite confusing to them. You want to train your dog to wait for a release word or signal, this way they understand that they need to stay until you give the order.
At What Age Should I Teach My Dog to Sit?
When it comes to teaching your dog to sit, the earlier you start, the easier it tends to be. While the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is laughable, there is no doubt that puppies tend to pick up things quicker.
If you have an older dog, don’t worry. Teaching them to sit is still a relatively straight forward task, it may just take a bit longer and may require a few more treats!
Best Tips for Training a Dog to Sit
Dogs can be easily distracted and tend to have a pretty low attention span when they are exposed to repetitive tasks. Despite this, they are always eager to please their owners, which is something you can use to your advantage when you are conducting obedience training with them. Knowing your dog’s limits is incredibly important when training them and you should also start easy, and then ramp up the difficulty later.
Establish a Training Environment
Before you start barking out the “sit” command, think about the environment you are in. Dogs, especially puppies, have a limited attention span and are easily distracted. Think about this during the training process and try to find a place that is familiar to your dog.
Avoid locations that are full of distractions like toys, food, other dogs or people. It is important that your dog’s attention is solely on you and nothing else.
- A room indoors can be a great place to train your dog. You will have more control over your dog’s activity level and can confine them in an area, so that their attention is on you.
- Make sure you let other people on the house know that you will be training the dog, so that they avoid introducing distractions that could interfere with the lesson.
Try to avoid training outside if possible. Outdoor training sessions tend to be much less controllable, as there are so many more distractions around. Training outside also limits your ability to keep your dog in a confined place, which will make focusing more difficult for your dog. If you have to train outside, use a lead for control.
Once your dog has mastered sitting in this low-distraction area, you can move the training to a more difficult place, or even try to distract your dog on purpose. Stepping up the difficulty will help to really ingrain the “sit” command in your dog’s mind.
Think of Your Dog’s Mood
Training can be a tiring process for both you and your dog, and sometimes your dog just won’t be in the mood for it. If your dog is responsive to the training session, but starts to get distracted, take a break. Your dog may be getting bored or overwhelmed by the training.
Additionally, you may not be making the training session exciting enough for your dog. Try use higher reward treats, or find a place that is less distracting. Your training sessions may also be a bit too long as well, which can be a factor if your dog becomes distracted or bored.
How Often Should I Train My Dog to Sit Then?
Dogs tend to have short attention spans, so remember to keep your training sessions short. When it comes to deciding how long you should train for, consider your dog’s age, energy and focus levels.
For puppies that are around 12 weeks old, keep your training sessions short and regular. Around three to five minutes is ideal for puppies. Spread out two or three training sessions across the day, and try to train them when they are full of energy and not sleepy.
If your dog is a bit older, you can try longer sessions of around ten minutes; however, we still feel that shorter, more frequent sessions are the best. You can up the training frequency as well, but three sessions a day should be more than enough to teach your dog to sit.
Remember that dogs can become bored or distracted easily, so if you notice your dog is giving you less attention, end the session and try again later.
Use High Value Rewards and Praise Your Dog Often
There’s two things that dogs love more than almost anything, that’s treats and pleasing you. When training your dog, make sure you praise them often and make them feel like they have done a really good job.
Rewarding your dog with treats is another important part of training. Higher value treats like chicken or beef will make your dog even more keen to please you. If you find your dog is not interested in training, try a number of different treats and see what their reaction is.
Always remember to check that the food you are giving your dog is safe for humans. There are many food items such as grapes, onions and chocolate that is dangerous to dogs.
Check out our ‘Ultimate Food Guide for Dogs’ for more information on what dogs can eat.
Rewards don’t have to be food. You can also use toys or games; however, at this stage of training we suggest you use food. Once you start using games or toys as a reward method, you will then be committed to lengthy interruptions to the lesson.
The key with this training is to make it quick and food is almost certainly the quickest way to reward your dog.
We think these Mini Natural dog treats from Zuke’s are a great option for training dogs.
Keep Your Attitude in Check
The tone of your voice and your attitude are incredibly important when you are training your dog. You need to be firm but kind.
Never shout and end a training session if you are getting frustrated. Dogs have infinitely better hearing than humans, and shouting at them will come across as frightening and aggressive. Talk to your dog in a normal, clear tone that they can understand.
Additionally, if you are getting frustrated, your dog will be able to sense this. It will confuse them and turn the training session into a nightmare. Keeping calm will benefit both you and your dog in the long run.
Make it Positive
Training your dog to do something should be positive. It should be an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, rather than a chore.
Always make sure you try to end your training sessions on a positive note. For example, if your dog has successfully accomplished the “sit” command, end the session. Try to make it more like a game as well, this will keep your dog interested and they will look forward to the next training session.
Sometimes you will not be able to end the training session on a positive note, this is ok, but don’t make it a habit. If you notice the training session is going bad, give the “sit” command another couple of attempts to see if you can end it on a positive note.
One other thing you can do is end the training session with a game, which can help to reinforce the positive nature of the lesson.
Decide On A Signal
Finally, for this training exercise, you will need signal to let your dog know that he did something you like.
We recommend you use the word ‘yes’.
You need to say ‘yes’ in a clear, enthusiastic manner, and you will follow this with a reward. Once your dog becomes used to the word, they will soon look for it in your training sessions. It reinforces good behaviour and will make them feel like they are pleasing you.
We will be explaining how and when to say the signal word below. If you would like to use a clicker or some sort of other signal, feel free to do so.
How to Train Your Dog to Sit – Stage One
As we have already said, training your dog should be a fun and enjoyable process for the both of you. Your dog should look forward to training sessions and should be excited to see you get the equipment you need for the lesson.
Stage one of this lesson is all about getting your dog’s behaviour correct. For some commands, getting the behaviour right is a really involved process; however, the “sit” command is much easier.
Dogs naturally sit, so they are already halfway there. What you need to teach your dog to do, is make them aware that when they sit and look at you, he is likely to get praise or a reward.
At this early stage, you will not be telling your dog to sit. The only word you will be saying is something like YES!
What we are going at this early stage is building your dog’s enthusiasm and excitement for showing you that they can sit. If you are a bit confused, don’t worry, we will be explaining it in more depth later.
What You Will Need
At this early stage, you will need a few things:
- Food used for rewards
- Food that is used as a lure
If you are wondering what the difference between these are, we have explained it below.
Luring Versus Rewarding Your Dog
Rewarding your dog with food is slightly different than luring them with it. A food lure is an aid that lets us move a dog into a position we want, without physically touching them.
Luring a dog with food should only be done on occasions and should not be the basis of your training. Try to never lure your dog more than three times in a row, otherwise your dog may start to become dependent on the lure.
Using a lure for an extended period of time is essentially just bribing your dog, rather than training them.
A food reward on the other hand, is given to a dog when they have completed an action that you want to ingrain into them. We want to reward a dog for an action that we want them to repeat in the future.
Always make a clear distinction between lure food and reward food. Try to not feed the lure to your dog, and you can even use different food for the reward and lure. Keep your lure in one hand and then reward your dog with the other.
Stage One – Instructions & Lesson
As we said earlier, at this stage you will not be telling your dog to sit. We will be capturing or luring a sit, then marking it, reinforcing it and then repeating the process over and over.
Most dogs will not require a lure, but have it there as a back-up so you will not have to interrupt the flow of the training. Be armed with plenty of high value treats and make sure you have decided upon a signal (we are going to use ‘yes’ for this guide).
Capturing The Sit
The first thing you need to do is watch your dog and wait for them to sit. When your dog’s bottom touches the ground, immediately say ‘yes’ and throw a treat on the ground, that is far enough away from them that they have to move to get it. When you have accomplished this, repeat the process.
If you find that your dog does not sit within a couple of minutes, move onto the next part.
Luring Your Dog to Sit
Remember when we said that you shouldn’t rely on luring your dog? Well, if your dog does not sit on their own accord, you are going to have to lure them to do it.
Put some food in your lure hand and let your dog know that you have it. Hold the food above your dog’s head, but keep it just out of their reach. Move the food backwards towards your dog’s tail.
Your dog should sit. When your dog’s bottom touches the ground, say ‘yes’. Throw a treat from your other hand, like we explained above (your dog should get up and move). Repeat this process once more and then move on.
The next step is to use no lure. Show your dog that your lure hand is completely empty and then quickly repeat the same movement you used when luring.
When your dog’s bottom touches the ground, throw another treat from your reward hand, so that your dog has top get up and move.
If you successfully accomplish this, go back to the ‘capturing the sit’ section above. The majority of dogs will start to sit very quickly and you shouldn’t need more than a couple of attempts at luring your dog.
Things to Watch Out for at Stage One
If you are having trouble with the above exercises, you may be experiencing one or more of the below problems.
Using The Signal Word at the Wrong Time
The timing of your signal (‘yes’ in this guide) is extremely important. With the ‘sit’ command, it is better to use the signal slightly too early than too late. This way you will capture your dog’s intention to sit, rather than their intention to get up and move.
While this can be difficult at the start, with a bit more practice you will get better at timing your signal.
Telling Your Dog to Sit
At this stage, we are not telling the dog to sit. Let your dog figure out for themselves that sitting will get them a reward, rather than you telling them. Do not give your dog any instructions, they only thing you should be saying is ‘yes’!
Giving your dog instructions at this point will only reduce their enjoyment of the training session. We want to keep our dog enthusiastic for training.
Giving your dog a reward for their actions is a big part of the training process. Treats are something your dog looks forward to and wants. If you use boring treats like your dog’s regular biscuits, they may not enjoy the process as much. This will lead to slower training progression.
Always make sure to use quality, high-value rewards when training your dog. If a reward isn’t working, or your dog doesn’t seem excited by it, try another one.
Never replace food rewards with praise or petting. Many experiments have shown that praise alone is entirely ineffective for training a dog and changing their behaviour. Using praise alone will not get you anywhere.
If you are training your dog after dinner, they might not be as excited for the reward you are offering. Try to train your dog when they have a bit more of an appetite.
Watch the Clock
We’ve already talked about keeping your training sessions short, but when we are in the moment, it can be difficult to keep a track on time. Set up an alarm that lets you know when to finish a training session, or keep an eye on the clock.
Another thing to remember is you may be asking your dog to sit for too long. We certainly don’t want the dog to sit and then stand up immediately, but we also don’t want to keep them waiting for too long.
Making your dog wait in the sitting position for an extended duration of time can complicate things and make your dog become more distracted.
Stage Two – Making Your Dog Sit
In this stage of the training process we are going to introduce the word ‘sit’, but not as a command. What we are doing is matching the word ‘sit’ with our dog’s action and understanding of the word. Think of this as more of a language lesson, rather than an obedience one.
Matching Words with Actions
Watch your dog, as they start to lower their bottom to the ground, say ‘sit’. When their bottom touches the ground, say ‘yes’, like we did earlier.
Throw a treat that is far enough away from your dog to make them stand up and move to reach it. Repeat the whole process between twenty to thirty times in a session, and carry it on over a couple of days. This will ingrain the word ‘sit’ with the action in your dog’s mind.
Problems You May Face at Stage Two
The introduction of the word ‘sit’ can cause some problems and you are bound to make a few mistakes at this stage of the training. Always have your lure hand ready and watch out for the following problems.
You Say Sit When Your Dog Does Not Intend To
Occasionally, you will say the word ‘sit’ when your dog does not intend to. If this happens you must immediately use the lure to move your dog into a sitting position, so that the word is associated with the action and not something else.
You will find it will take you a couple of days to reach a point where your dog loves to sit on their own accord, and where the word is completely associated with the action.
It is important that you firmly implant this connection between the word ‘sit’ and the action, before moving on to the next section.
Your Dog Decides He Doesn’t Want to Sit
You may find that your dog gets distracted halfway through the sitting motion, or the word ‘sit’ makes them stand up instead. If you find your dog is standing up halfway through the motion, you need to do a similar thing as above.
Immediately lure your dog into the sitting position, say ‘yes’, and then give them a reward. On the next attempt, try to say ‘sit’ with a bit less volume, but still audible to your dog. What we are trying to do is associate the word, and not interrupt the flow of training.
Stage Three – Giving the Command
Now that your dog associates the word ‘sit’ with the action and it is firmly ingrained in their mind, it is time to train them to respond to our command. This means that when we say ‘sit’, the dog will put their bum firmly on the ground.
Your dog should not be rolling around or doing anything else, they will just sit. We are looking for an automatic response, which shows that your dog is not thinking about anything else. Your dog should hear the word and then automatically sit in response.
If you have gone through the stages in this guide correctly, you should already have the groundwork to achieve this. At this point, you should be able to say ‘sit’ and your dog will sit.
Saying the Word
When your dog is standing, give the command to ‘sit’. When your dog’s bum touches the ground say yes and throw a reward to them. The reward needs to be thrown in a place where they will have to get up and move to.
Repeat this training exercise and every time you should be asking your dog to sit, saying the word ‘yes’, and then rewarding them. If your dog sits on their own accord, say ‘yes’ and give them a reward as well.
You may find your dog becomes distracted, or doesn’t sit on occasions. If this happens, you need to lure them into a sitting position immediately and reward them as usual.
Issues at Stage Three
At this stage of the training, most of the problems we have already covered should have already been fixed. However, you may run into the problems below.
My Dog Sits Before I Tell Them To
You may find that your dog is so excited to sit and get the reward, that they sit down before you ask them to.
If this happens you have a couple of options. One option is to back away from your dog, forcing them to walk towards you. Give them the ‘sit’ command when they are coming to you.
Another option is to lure your dog into a standing position with food. This technique can also be used to eventually train your dog to stand.
My Dog Sometimes Doesn’t Sit
If you find that your dog is failing to sit occasionally, and you need to lure them into the sit position, you may need to go back a step. Go back to stage two and make sure ‘sit’ is firmly connected to the action.
Most dogs should have no problem with stage three of this guide, but always remember to reinforce good behaviour.
Stage Four – Making Your Dog Stay and Reinforcing Good Behaviour
The last stage of this guide is about reinforcing your dog’s behaviour and making them stay in the desired position. You need to make sure your dog will listen to your command to ‘sit’ in all sorts of different places, with different distractions around them.
Before you start adding distractions, you first need to get your dog staying in the sit position for an extended duration of time. This is commonly referred to as teaching your dog to ‘stay’.
Rather than using the word ‘stay’, you should be teaching your dog to wait for your release word. We will go into more detail in a later article.
After you have taught your dog to stay for a period of time in the sitting position, you can begin to add distractions. To start with, try adding another person to the room, or another dog.
When you have progressed, you can try the using the ‘sit’ command in a more distracting place like the park, or a crowded area. If you can get your dog sitting in a very distracting environment for several minutes, you will have successfully taught your dog to sit!
Stage Five – Post Training
While getting to the point that your dog is happy to sit anywhere for an extended period of training, is excellent, you should always reinforce the behaviour. Reward your dog on occasions for behaviour that you want. However, this is not a formal training process and there is no set guide you should follow.
Once you have trained them to sit correctly, most dogs should never need more training on the command, but it is always nice to treat them once in a while.
Additional Tips & Tricks for Training Your Dog to Sit
We feel it is always a good idea to get your family involved in the training process. At the start, you may want to just train with you and your dog; however, adding other people can help reinforce your dog’s understanding.
Don’t schedule training sessions. If you are new to dog obedience training, you may believe that scheduling training sessions is the way to go. While this is ok, we feel it is unnecessary for a command like ‘sit’. You will get plenty of opportunities to train during the day as ‘sit’ is a relatively simple command.
If you progress to more advanced training, like ‘heel’ training, you may need to schedule training sessions.
If your dog doesn’t seem interested, don’t force a training session. Just like you with work or school, your dog will simply not want to train. If this is the case, don’t force your dog to train. It will lead to a frustrating and pointless lesson, that is a waste of time for both of you. Try to train your dog when they have a bit of energy and remember to always have high value rewards at the ready!
Summing Up Teaching Your Dog How to Sit
Teaching your dog to sit is undoubtedly one of the most important commands you will ever teach your dog. It forms the basis of more advanced training and will let you control your dog in all sorts of different situations.
While this guide is long, it should cover everything you need to know about making your dog sit perfectly.
Training your dog should be a fun and enjoyable process for the both of you. If you have any other tips for training dogs, feel free to leave them in the comments below and make sure you share this article with anyone you feel would benefit from it!