Teaching “sit” command

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. Note: This is suggested for dogs who are at least 6 months of age.

Steps to teaching “sit”

  • Find a quiet spot free of distractions.
  • Get your dog’s attention by saying his name and waggling a food treat in front of his nose.
  • When he turns toward you say, “Sit”, and slowly raise your hand ever so slightly up, keeping it as close to his nose as possible.
  • As his head comes up to follow the treat, his bottom will automatically go down. As soon as his bottom hits the floor say, “Yes,” and reward him with a bit of food.
  • Repeat several times.
  • 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 dog 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.
  • Go slowly when adding challenges, and if your dog ever goofs, go back a step until he’s getting it right again.
DogTime tip: Resist the temptation to push on your dog’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 with a treat or toy.

Troubleshooting

Your dog jumps up rather than sitting:
You may be raising your hand too high; try keeping it just an inch away from your dog’s nose. It’s also possible your hand movements are too jerky. Aim for smooth and steady.
Your dog 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 to say ‘yes’ the moment his rear hits the ground, and deliver the reward one to two seconds later.
Your dog 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.