Obedience & Foundational Skills

How To Teach Your Dog To Sit

October 28, 2021

Teaching your dog to sit is one of the classic obedience cues. It’s a useful building block to many of the more advanced obedience cues. There’s a reason this is one of the first skills puppies are taught!

To watch tutorial on Youtube instead, click here!

In this post we’ll cover:

  • Two methods of teaching your dog to sit: Lure or capture training
  • Troubleshooting difficulties that you might have
  • Make sitting a default behavior
  • Progressing the difficulty of the skill
Puppy sit

How to teach your dog to sit using the lure method:

Lure training is when you use a treat to guide your dog into a position. We commonly use it when teaching puppies to sit or ‘Lie down‘. Think of the treat as a magnet to their nose; it guides them into the position we want! Lure training is often way faster, but it does not work the dogs brain as much. Also, if the lure isn’t faded out quickly your dog may only offer the behaviour with a treat in front of their nose. Get rid of the lure as soon as you can!

Using luring to teach your dog to sit:

  1. Get your dogs attention. Start with your dog standing. Hold a treat between your thumb and forefinger. Hold the treat right in front of your dogs nose until they notice it.
  2. Silently lure them into a sit. Wait for your dog to notice they treat. Once they have, slowly bring the treat up and over their head towards their back without saying anything. As your dog looks upwards they should automatically sit.
  3. Let your dog know you liked what they did! As soon as your dog sits say “Yes!” and give them the treat. Make sure they’re sitting when they get the treat!
  4. Repeat. Get your dog standing again by calling them to a different spot, or tossing a treat away from you. Repeat steps 1-3.
  5. Add the cue “sit”. When you would bet there’s a good chance your dog will follow the lure into a sit, start saying “sit” as you move the treat above their head. They will associate the command with the action (and want to repeat it because they get treats!).
  6. Stop using the lure. Now it’s time to transition away from the lure. Use your empty hand to motion your dog into a sit while saying “sit!”. As soon as their butt hits the ground again say “Yes!” and give them a treat.
  7. Try with the verbal command only. When your dog is successful ~ 80% of the time, try just saying the verbal command “Sit” without any hand motions.

Troubleshooting difficulties you may have:

What if my dog does not follow the treat? The treat you’re using isn’t motivating enough to your dog! Try using a higher value treat such as liver, cheese, or chicken.

What if my dog jumps for the treat as I’m luring them? If your dog jumps you’re likely moving the treat too high and too far from their nose. Try to keep the treat closer to their nose as you move it backwards. Remember- think of the treat as a magnet on your dogs nose!

What if my dog backs up instead of sitting? If your dogs backs up you were likely moving the treat too quickly. Try slowing down your lure.

How to teach your dog to sit

How to teach your dog to sit using capturing:

Capturing is when you teach your dog to perform a natural behaviour on cue! You wait for your dog to voluntarily perform the behaviour without prompting, then you mark & reward it. When you consistently reward something your dog will start offering it more frequently (what gets rewarded gets repeated). Once your dog starts offering the behaviour rapidly you add a verbal cue to it. Capture training is like puzzle solving for a dog: it’s a lot of fun and works their brain!

Using capturing to teach your dog to sit:

  1. Get ready & wait. Have treats ready, then just watch your dog.
  2. Mark the moment your dog sits. When your dog naturally sits, say “Yes!” and give them a treat.
  3. Repeat. Move or distract your dog so they stand again. Repeat steps 1-2.
  4. Add the “sit” cue. The lightbulb should go off with your dog realizing it’s the sit getting them treats. You’ll know when it has because your dog will start sitting and looking at you expectantly for their treat. Once that happens, start adding the word “sit” as they’re mid-motion of a sit. Reward once their butt touches the ground.
  5. Ask your dog to sit. Slowly progress to being able to ask for a sit BEFORE they’re naturally doing it. Reward.
How to teach your dog to sit

Make sitting a default behavior:

Sitting is an amazing obedience skill because prevents many unwanted behaviors. Think of it this way:

Your dog can’t jump on guests if they’re sitting.

They can’t be excitedly pulling on the leash when they see a dog if they’re sitting.

They can’t be dashing out the front door if they’re performing a sit-stay.

Sitting is the canine equivalent of putting your car in park.

Brandon Mcmillan

A default behavior is one your dog chooses to do without you needing to ask. How can you teach your dog to sit by default?

Don’t take sitting for granted!

If your dog sits in front of you when they come for attention- reward it!

If your dog sits when you’re preparing their dinner- reward it!

Continue to practice sitting during obedience training AND reward it in everyday life. Dogs learn strongly by associations, so let them learn that great things happen by sitting!

Progressing the difficulty:

Dogs are very contextual animals. Your dog may have learned what sit means when asked to do it in the living room, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to follow your cue when more distractions are present. Help them practice!

Slowly increase the difficulty of where you ask your dog to sit.

Ask for sits randomly on walks, before walking out of the house, prior to meals, or while you’re at the pet store. If your dog doesn’t sit when asked recognize that the distractions are likely too high. Take a step back in difficulty and try again!

Teaching your dog to sit is great building block to many other amazing behaviors. Take the time to master this skill!

Happy training 🙂

Disclosure: Happy Hounds uses affiliate links. Purchasing with these links will not cost you any extra, but I get commissions for purchases made through these links. Affiliate links help me to continue to offer free resources & blog posts. I would love if you used them!

How To Teach Your Dog To Sit

About the author:

Stephanie Rombough, DBTMc, is a force-free dog trainer in Edmonton, Alberta. She owns Happy Hounds Dog Training, offering private in-person or virtual dog training services. 

Whether your dog is brand new to leash training OR they have a long history of pulling on leash, this program will teach you what you need to know!

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