Teaching “sit” for 0 to 6 months

Overview

“Sit” is one of the most useful commands, as well as one of the easiest to teach. A dog can never get in trouble — pulling, jumping on visitors, running into the street — when he’s sitting.


Steps to teaching “sit”

  1. Find a quiet spot free of distractions.
  2. Get your puppy’s attention by saying his name and waggling a food treat in front of his nose.
  3. When he turns toward you say, “Sit,” and slowly raise your hand ever so slightly, keeping it as close to his nose as possible.
  4. As his head rises to follow the treat, his bottom will automatically sit down. As soon as his bottom hits the floor say, “Yes” in an upbeat, happy tone and reward him with a bit of food.
  5. Repeat several times.
  6. Gradually make it more challenging by adding, one at a time, the three D’s: duration, distance, and distraction. First, duration: each time your pooch sits on command, on the next try add one second to the delay between when his rump hits the floor and when you deliver the reward. Then, distance: stand one step further away from your puppy each time you give the command. Finally, add in distractions, such as facing a different direction or bouncing a ball when you give the command.
  7. Go slowly when adding challenges, and if your puppy ever goofs, go back a step until he’s getting it right again.
DogTime tip: Resist the temptation to push on your puppy’s back to force him into a sit. Thanks to something called the opposition reflex, he’ll just brace against the pressure. It’s much easier to lure him into position by raising high a treat or toy.

Troubleshooting

Your puppy jumps up rather than sitting:
You may be raising your hand too high; try keeping it just an inch from his nose. It’s also possible your hand movements are too jerky. Aim for smooth and steady.
Your puppy pops out of his sit before you have a chance to praise or reward:You may be taking too long to praise and reward. Try saying ‘yes’ the moment his rear hits the ground, and deliver the reward one to two seconds later.
Your puppy doesn’t sit completely:You may be rewarding him too soon. Make sure his rump is actually on the ground, not just heading toward it, before you tell him ‘yes’ and offer the treat.