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How to Train Your Dog to Sit

Cara J. Stevens
Sept. 30, 2015

Teaching your dog "Sit," the most basic command, opens the door to a wonderful owner and pet relationship.

When you learn how to train your dog to sit, you're taking the first step toward a connection that continues to grow. Somehow you intuitively understand when your dog needs you, when he's happy or sad, or if he is hungry, scared or angry. And your dog may seem to read you just as well.

"The 'sit' command is one of the easiest commands to teach, and it's a great way to get acclimated to learning how to teach your dog," says Jeff Adler, a dog trainer and the owner of Off Leash K9 Training in Cincinnati. When a dog is in the sitting position, you have his attention, and he's poised and at-the-ready to accept his next instructions.

"Sit" is the best command to start with, as it lets you and your dog know that you're in charge and able to communicate with him -- essentially, it's a training conversation starter. "Once dogs get the easy stuff like 'sit,' says Adler, "you can challenge them to harder commands, adding distractions, duration and distance as you train so they stay in their position until otherwise told no matter what is going on around them." With your dog's mastering of "sit," you open the door to a whole new level of collaboration and friendship.

How To Train Your Dog to Sit
Dogs feel relaxed when they are low man on the totem pole and know what is expected of them. Teaching them basic commands actually increases their comfort level. Most dog experts agree that well-trained dogs make happier and healthier pets.

Here are three easy steps to teach the "sit" command:
 

  1. Start in a big open space with no distractions. Arm yourself with lots of tiny treats.
     
  2. Begin by holding the treat above your dog's head. She will eventually sit naturally as she cranes her neck up to reach the treat. Once her rear end touches the floor, give her the treat and praise her at the same time.
     
  3. Once she's sat down successfully three or more times, begin to say the command "sit" just before raising your treat-filled hand over her head. Once again, praise and give the treat as soon as she sits.

 

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rcjn8v5nfDU


While the video above suggests weaning off the hand signal after your dog learns the behavior, there are a number of good reasons to pair a verbal command with a hand gesture. "When your dog gets older, he may lose part or all of his hearing, so if he is used to hand signals then he will go off of that," says Adler. "Also if you are far away or in a loud place, hand signals help get your message across loud and clear."

Training with Treats
A treat is a reward for doing what you ask, not an inducement to perform for you. "A dog should listen without any means of a bribe," says Adler, although he adds that part of the praising you give to your dog for doing the command properly can be a treat or a toy along with verbal praise and petting.

"It's not good to coerce a dog into doing what you want by feeding them," he adds. "You should use it as a motivator for accomplishing a goal. That way the dog views the treat as a praise for doing what they are told, not to 'bribe' them into listening." Treats should end up being the reward for sitting, not the reason for it.

Want more dog training tips? Check out these 15 Helpful Dog Training Tips From the Experts.

Cara Stevens is a freelance writer living in Connecticut with her husband and two children. She has authored several books for children and writes frequently about parenting, hair care, DIY crafts, food and healthy living.

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