Sit command training

“Sit” is one of the simplest commands, but it’s incredibly useful–after all, your dog can’t jump all over a guest, dash into traffic, or do any number of things you don’t want her to do when she’s sitting.

How to teach “sit”: The food lure method from a standing position

This method uses a food treat or piece of kibble both to lure your dog into the sitting position and to reward her for responding to the command. If your dog isn’t very motivated by food, you can use a favorite toy in place of the treat.

  • Slowly move the treat from just in front of your dog’s nose, then up and back over her muzzle to between her eyes. Keep the treat just an inch or so away from your dog the whole time. As your dog’s head tilts up to follow the treat, her rear end should automatically go down.
  • As soon as your dog’s butt hits the ground, praise her and give her the treat.
  • Repeat the exercise several times.
  • Once your dog gets the hang of it, introduce the verbal cue: Tell her “sit” just before you move the treat from in front of her nose to above her head.
  • Once your dog starts to respond reliably, begin to offer treats sporadically, only for the quickest, crispest sits. Eventually you can phase out food treats entirely.

If it’s not working

Your dog jumps up. You’re holding the food lure too high–try again with the food just an inch above your dog’s head.

Your dog backs up. You may be moving the treat too far back over your dog’s head; aim for between her eyes. If that doesn’t work, you can try putting your dog in a corner when you practice the “sit” command.

How to teach “sit”: The food lure method from a down position

  • With your dog lying down, quickly move the food lure up and back over her muzzle, starting from in front of her nose and moving toward her eyes.
  • As your dog’s head goes up to follow the treat, she should rise into a sitting position. Praise her as soon as her butt hits the floor, and reward her with the treat.
  • Repeat the exercise several times.
  • Once your dog gets the hang of it, introduce the verbal cue: Tell her “sit” just before you move the treat from in front of her nose to above her head.
  • When your dog starts to respond reliably, begin to offer treats sporadically, only for the quickest, crispest sits. Eventually you can phase out food treats entirely.

If it’s not working

Your dog doesn’t sit up. Your pup may not realize the treat is there. Try waggling the treat or clapping your hands to get her attention.

Your dog rolls over onto her back. If you take one step back and pat the ground in front of your dog’s nose, she’ll probably roll back onto her stomach. As soon as she’s on her tummy, move the lure from in front of her nose to between her eyes to get her to rise into the sitting position.

How to teach “sit”: Alternate method

Whenever you’re around your dog and see her start to sit, tell her “sit.” As soon as her rear end hits the floor, praise her and reward her with an ear scratch, tummy rub, or a treat if you have one on hand. She’ll soon begin to associate the word “sit” with the action.

Advanced “sit”

Once your dog has the hang of the “sit” command, you can slowly make it more challenging. Stand a foot away from your dog when you ask her to sit, then two feet away, and keep increasing the distance. Ask her to sit when your back is turned; when there’s another person or dog in the distance, then fairly close by, then right next to your dog; when you’re bouncing a ball; when there’s kibble scattered around her; and so on.

Add a new challenge only if your dog is responding reliably. If your dog gets confused, take away the challenge and try again, moving more slowly this time.