How To Teach A Dog Or Puppy To Sit

“Sit” is probably the first thing you’ll learn in a dog training class, and also the most useful command you’ll use with her, together with “come.” There’s no big secret to teaching a dog to “sit,” other than an awareness of your own body and tone of voice. How you stand and how you speak to the dog are both especially important when you give the “sit” command.

Think of the Golden Rule when you teach a dog to “sit,” and for dog training in general. Try to touch and talk to your dog in a way you would like to be treated—especially if you were learning something new. People can get particularly frustrated when their dog doesn’t understand and execute the “sit” command immediately—so they wind up pushing and yanking the dog with angry frustration in their voice. If you find this happening to you, cool it. Give the poor pooch a fair chance to understand and then respond.

Two Easy Ways To Teach Your Dog To Sit

The first method to teach “sit” is with food, and the second is with your hands, the “scoop-under-the-butt” method—most effective for smaller dogs and puppies. Each method is described below.

I. Teach Your Dog To Sit With Food

Food is the clearest way to demonstrate to the dog or puppy what you mean when you say “Sit.”

  1. Hold a dog treat in your fingertips.
  2. Get down to the puppy’s level (crouch beside her) and say “Sit” as you hold the morsel just above her nose.
  3. She will reach up for the morsel: keep it right above her nose while moving it backward, above her head.
  4. Hold it there—as she lifts her head to eat the food, her other end will automatically be on the ground, sitting.
  5. Praise her warmly.

If you have another morsel handy, do it again right away: say “Sit,” hold the treat above and behind her nose (as though you wanted to tease her), then move it slowly back as she reaches up for the treat until her nether region sits down. The minute her butt touches the floor, give her the morsel and say as many enthusiastic words of praise as you can without feeling too silly.

It does not matter how long her bottom stays on the ground. It’s okay if she gets up instantly, since this command is not about “stay.” This exercise is about making “sit” a positive and rewarding experience.

II. Teach Your Dog To Sit Using Your Hands

The “scoop-under-her” method works for small dogs or younger puppies. It requires you to crouch down beside the puppy. Place your right arm (if you’re right-handed) behind the puppy beneath her tail, with your forearm directly behind her knees. This will allow you to scoop her off her paws and fold her back legs under her from behind. Your other hand goes on her chest. As you say “Sit,” press lightly with the one hand on her chest and press against the back of her knees with your other arm, scooping the pup down into the sitting position.

A variation of this method for adult dogs is lifting gently on the attached dog leash with one hand and pressing gently with your other hand on top of the hip bones, guiding the dog into a sitting position.

Reward Your Dog When She Sits

The best reward for “sit” is a chest rub or scratch. It encourages the dog to stay in the sitting position to receive this pleasurable touch. People often think patting on the head is good, but the head pat can make a dog duck down, almost to escape it, especially if the person has a heavy touch. Scratching or massaging the chest area is rewarding and also maintains the sitting position naturally.

Use The Most Effective Tone Of Voice With Your Dog:

Do Not Say “Sit” With An Up-Inflection In Your Voice

  • You don’t want to ask any command as though it is a question. With “sit,” many people seem to naturally put a question mark in their voice after the word “sit.” But you’re not asking whether the dog is willing to sit—you are just giving her a quiet command to do so.

Remember To Use A Happy, Warm Voice

  • That is how the dog knows she has pleased you—the tone of your voice, not what you’re saying. People say a bunch of words on the false assumption that their dog understands English. You can be certain that a dog’s primary reaction is not to a string of words, but to your tone of voice, your facial expression and the praising touch from you. So you need to be sure all those things register as positive.

Smile When You Praise Your Dog

You may not be sure if your voice is friendly enough. It might sound silly to you, but if you’re smiling, your tone of voice is almost certainly upbeat. Smiling will affect your tone and make it warmer.

What To Do If Your Dog Won’t Sit

If your dog resists you, it’s because she doesn’t understand what you want. Don’t get impatient without giving her a fair chance to comprehend your desires. If you have a breed that’s known for being independent or headstrong, don’t assume the worst of your dog before you’ve given her a chance. Every dog is an individual and deserves your full support. Give every dog the benefit of the doubt in this and all training. Show your dog what you want and she’ll give it to you, provided you haven’t made it into a battle.

Do not make sitting into a shoving match. It isn’t a test of wills. Or muscle strength. If the dog sits but gets right up, that is fine: do not become angry or annoyed or react negatively. You are not teaching “stay,” just “sit.” So if she stands up, view it as another chance to practice the “sit:” tell her “Sit” in a nice voice, guide her into it and praise her warmly.

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