A woman teaching her dog to sit.

Teach Your Dog “Sit”

In basic obedience, one of the first skills we teach a dog is to sit. It’s a great start to creating impulse control and teaching your dog an alternate behavior to jumping up and begging for attention.  


How to Teach: 

  1. Begin in a low-distraction environment. It may be helpful to start them out on a leash to keep them focused. 
  2. Use the lure technique by holding the treat between your thumbs and index finger, having your palm open, and facing the ceiling. Slowly move the treat from the dog’s nose up over their head and move back toward the tail. As the dog watches the treat move over the head, its rear should naturally go down toward the floor. When the rear end connects with the floor, mark the moment with your verbal marker like “yes” or “good dog” and offer a treat reward. Jumping is another natural response to luring food over your dog's head. If this happens, reset and move your hand closer to close the gap to avoid the jumping response. 
  3. Practice the lure-and-reward process 4 to 5 times. Once your dog is performing at about an 80% success rate, then you can add the verbal cue and/or hand signal. The hand signal is a flat palm facing the ceiling. You are simply removing the treat from your thumb and index, and your hand will move from your leg, palm up, to about chest level. You will still mark the moment your dog performs the behavior and offer a treat reward with the opposite hand. Reward with the opposite hand so we can incorporate the hand signal in the learning process. It’s important to treat them with the opposite hand so they understand the hand signal, and not because they think it's a delivery of a treat. 
  4. Practice the hand-signal process 4 to 5 times. Once your dog is performing at about an 80% success rate, then you can add the verbal cue; sit. Practice the same process with the combination of the hand signal and verbal cue. Just like before, when your dog's rear is placed on the floor, mark the moment and offer the treat rewards. 
  5. Practice the complete verbal cue and hand signal combination for about 4 minutes, 5 times a day for about 3-5 days. Once your dog is responding pretty much 100% of the time, it’s time to move to different environments to practice. Start with moving to a different room in the house, then the backyard, and graduate from there. Make sure you aren’t rushing. Give your dog time to adjust to the new environment and perform the skill correctly 100% of the time. If your dog is not performing 100%, they are not ready to move forward yet. 
  6. When we are first teaching a new behavior, we reward the first 10 successful repetitions in each new environment to ensure the behavior is generalized in all situations. Then you can maintain behavior with the combination of verbal praise, life rewards, and treat reward. 
  7. If you are working with small breeds of puppies, you may want to close the gap by working from your knees. 
  8. Once your dog is reliably sitting on cue, practice withholding treats for short periods of time. This will teach your pup impulse control and is the starting point of learning to wait and stay. 

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