wikiHow to Teach Your Dog to Sit

Four Methods:Establishing a Training EnvironmentUsing the Treat TrickOffering Physical GuidancePraising the Dog's Natural Behavior

Teaching your dog how to sit on command is one of the simplest behaviors you can teach and it's usually the first command in basic obedience training. Sitting can be a useful behavior for many situations, but the training process is also the beginning of establishing relationship roles between you and your dog. Once your dog learns to sit on command you will have his attention, which will make future training that much easier. Certain methods typically work better for puppies while others are more suited for older, less energetic dogs.

Method 1
Establishing a Training Environment

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    Take it slowly. Dogs, especially puppies, have a limited attention span and are easily distracted. Keep this in mind during the training process and know that you will have to take it slow at first. Give your dog breaks to allow him to fully focus during the training sessions.[1]
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    Select an appropriate environment. The training environment should be an area that the dog is comfortable with that is relatively free from distractions.[2]
    • A room indoors can be an ideal place, where you have more control over the dog’s activity level and can confine him to better focus his attention.
    • Be sure to let other people in the house know that you will be working with the dog, so that they avoid introducing distractions that could interfere with the training session.
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    Avoid training outdoors if possible. Outdoor training sessions offer a much less controlled environment and many more distractions. Training outdoors also limits your ability to confine the dog and thus maintain his focus.
    • If you must train outside, you will either need a secure area to prevent your dog from running off or use a leash for control. This can greatly limit the effectiveness of training techniques and can make training much more difficult.
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    Read your dog’s mood. If your dog starts the training session strong—paying attention to you, responding to your commands, and participating in the training—but then starts getting distracted, take a break. Your dog may be getting overwhelmed. You might need to find a less distracting environment or make your training sessions shorter to start with (5 minutes instead of 10 minutes, for instance).

Method 2
Using the Treat Trick

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    Obtain a variety of small treats. Because you will be giving your dog many treats during training, you should opt for very small treats. You can also use healthy human foods that are good for dogs, such as pieces of apple, carrot, green beans, or chicken.[3] If the dog you are working with is overweight, you may be able to find a reduced calorie or diet treat, or even use individual pieces of diet dog food.
    • Always check to be sure that human food is dog-safe. There are many foods such as grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, or avocados that can be harmful to dogs.
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    Capture your dog’s attention. As with the teaching of all behaviors, the first step is to get your dog's full attention. This is best accomplished by standing directly in front of your dog with him facing you, so that he is completely focused on you and can see and hear you clearly.
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    Show the dog a treat. Hold a treat in your hand so that he knows you have it, but also so that he cannot nip it from your hand. He will be very curious about how he should go about getting the treat from your hand. You should now have his full attention.[4]
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    Move the treat from the dog's nose to behind his head. Keep the treat very close to the dog’s nose, then slowly raise it over the top of his head. He'll follow the treat with his eyes and nose, looking upward and in the process placing his bottom on the ground.
    • You'll need to hold the treat close enough to the dog's head so that he won't try to jump up to get it. Keep it low enough to the ground that he'll sit.
    • If your dog’s bottom isn’t fully reaching the ground, you can help by gently easing him into a full sit position while keeping the treat in the same position.
    • If your dog tries to back up to follow the treat rather than raising his head and sitting, try the treat trick indoors in a corner to start with. This will limit the dog’s ability to move backwards, and may facilitate the sitting.[5]
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    Say "sit" as the dog sits and reward him with a treat. When your dog’s rear end makes contact with the ground, say “sit” in a firm voice, then immediately offer him the treat as a reward for sitting.
    • Try to limit your verbalization. If the dog doesn’t sit right away, don’t say “no, sit” or introduce other commands. If you limit your speech to just the command and the praise, the command word will stand out more clearly to your dog.[6]
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    Praise your dog’s behavior. Reinforce the treat reward with praise; rub his head and use words such as "good boy". This reinforces the fact that he did something that pleased you. Do this every time your dog completes the sit action during the training session.[7][8]
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    Release your dog from the sit position. You can release your dog from the sit command by using a command word such as "release" or "free" while taking a step back and encouraging him to come to you.
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    Repeat the trick for 10 minutes. After a while he may get bored, so take a break and resume training another time. Aim for at least 2-3 short training sessions every day.[9] It will likely take 1-2 weeks of consistent training for your dog to catch on.[10]
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    Wean your dog off treats. When you first start training with the treat trick, give your dog a treat each time he sits. Be sure you always offer enthusiastic praise as well. After a week or two, when your dog is reliably sitting for treats, offer the treats intermittently but continue to offer praise. You will (slowly) work towards getting the dog to sit with your hand signal and the “sit” command with no treat, then with only the “sit” command.[11]

Method 3
Offering Physical Guidance

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    Use this method for rambunctious dogs. This method is used to give you better control over the dog that you’re working with, and it’s better suited for very active dogs.
    • The key to working with unruly dogs is to maintain control with the use of a leash and harness and to reinforce positive behavior. Negative behaviors during training should be ignored; if you respond to them, you are reinforcing them.[12]
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    Put your dog on a leash. You need your dog's attention and for him to stay in place during the training session. Using a leash will help you to accomplish this and keep him close to your side. If you strongly prefer not to work with a leash, you can still use this method to train your dog as long as he will stay by your side.[13]
    • Hold the leash taut so that your dog is close to you, but not so tight that it makes him uncomfortable.
    • You may need to try different types of harnesses or collars to find what works for training your dog. A head halter or a harness that attaches at the dog’s chest rather than on his back may offer you more control over the dog’s movements and behavior.[14]
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    Stand next to your dog and encourage him to sit. You will help him lower from the standing position to the sitting position by very gently pushing on the area directly above his rear legs. He may be confused at first, but after a moment he'll get the picture and sit.
    • Don't force your dog to sit. Pushing him too hard could scare him or hurt him.
    • Never hit or spank your dog. You won't teach him how to sit this way; you'll only teach him to fear you.
    • If the dog fights you and refuses to sit, try walking him around on the leash a bit to “reset” the sit session, then stop try to ease him into the sit again.
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    Say "sit" as his bottom touches the floor. Keep your hand in place for about 30 seconds so that he associates the position of sitting with your command.
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    Repeat the gentle sit. You should repeat this process several more times, rewarding and praising your dog for each successful sit attempt. Continue guiding him to the sitting position with your hand for as long as necessary until he learns to sit with only your voice command.
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    Change environments. If your dog is consistently resistant to the sitting position, you should try moving to a different surface that your dog may be more comfortable on. You can also try taking a break and trying again later after giving your dog a period of “quiet time”.
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    Be persistent. With an especially energetic dog, it can take weeks of practice until he gets the hang of sitting on command. To help in calming your dog and speeding up this process, remember to remain calm yourself and speak in a calm voice. You can also try scheduling your training sessions during a time when distractions are minimized and after the dog has had plenty of exercise and is hopefully less energetic.
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    Practice an unassisted sit command. Once your dog will sit regularly with your assistance, it is time to try without your help. With your dog still on the leash, practice saying "sit" when your dog is standing without using your hand on his lower back. Initially, continue to reward him each time he sits on command eventually progressing to where he will sit on command without needing a treat.[15]

Method 4
Praising the Dog's Natural Behavior

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    Use this method with calm older dogs. This method is less likely to be effective with a puppy, but works well with older dogs who have a relatively calm demeanor.
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    Work with your dog in a comfortable environment. It's best to start your dog's training in a home environment with limited distractions. Work indoors in a relatively small area, but allow the dog to move around freely.
    • Remember that this is a time for training and not just observing. You should remain calm and try not to alter your dog's natural behavior.
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    Observe your dog until he sits. Do not do anything to coax your dog into sitting, but allow him to move around freely until he sits on his own.
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    Say “sit!” and reward the dog immediately. Be sure that you say “sit” and give the reward the moment the dog's bottom drops to the ground. Speak clearly and in a friendly tone. Reward the dog by petting him on the head and saying "good boy!" or giving him a small treat.
    • Avoid yelling at the dog in a stern voice. Dogs don't respond well to negative reinforcement.
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    Repeat the exercise as often as possible. In order for your dog to learn to associate the act of sitting with the word "sit," you'll have to practice often. Try staying close to your dog for half an hour to an hour, using the above technique to train your dog each time he sits.
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    Tell your dog "sit" when he is standing. Once you have successfully trained the dog to understand what the word “sit” means, work on getting him to sit when you ask him to.[16] When he follows your instructions, reward him right away. Continue practicing until he is able to sit on command without needing a treat.


  • Praise your dog every time it performs the command correctly.
  • This is not something that happens right away for every dog. You need to practice every day until he learns it and then every few days so he remembers it.
  • Love your dog and have patience. You will need to do this many times before he gets it.
  • If your dog is just not getting it, don't push it. Stop before you both get frustrated and try again tomorrow.
  • Don't hit or yell at your dog if he/she doesn't get it right the first time. Keep practicing and try not to get frustrated.
  • Every once in a while, let other people in the household try to make the family pet sit.

Article Info

Categories: Basic Commands