Teaching your dog to sit provides the most basic groundwork for almost every cool and advanced trick your dog can perform. It is such a core skill that puppies as young as 6 weeks old are able to learn how to sit and respond to the sit command. Along with down, come and stay, sit is the cornerstone of a well-behaved pup.
After following these steps and practicing with your eager pup, your dog should be able to:
- sit squarely on his/her hindquarters (rear end)
- remain in the sit position until you give the reward/release command
- respond both verbally and physically (sit hand motion) to the sit command.
Steps:Position yourself, with a tasty treat, in front of your dog. Stand or kneel based on your dog’s size. The key is to hold the treat a little higher than your dog’s head so they do not feel the urge to jump and grab it from your hand but also that they cannot simply take it from you while they are standing. Proceed to move the treat straight back over your dog’s head towards its tail. Your dog’s nose will follow the treat, tilting his/her head back and causing their hindquarters to drop into the sit position. Remember to move the treat slowly over their head. As soon as your dog’s rear touches the ground, immediately reward your dog with the treat WHILE verbally saying “Sit”. This establishes the exact moment your dog will know it’s done the trick correctly. Repeat. Repeat these actions with more treats. Remember to say the “Sit” command when your dog’s rear touches the floor and promptly reward them with both treats and praise. The goal is to associate great rewards when your dog’s hindquarters touch the floor!
After a short while, or maybe a few practice sessions, your dog will begin to consistently respond to the “Sit” command. At this point, begin waiting a few seconds before rewarding your pup with a treat. However, make sure they are always in the correct sit position. Do not reward your dog unless they are doing exactly what you want to teach. Dogs live in the moment and if not properly rewarded the correct position, you may inadvertently be confusing your dog on what they should be doing in order to get a treat. Practice and Refine. The hand motion over the dog’s head to tilt their nose up and drop their rear into a sit can be relaxed as your dog becomes more proficient with the trick. This can be changed into simply holding the treat in your hand, palm facing to the dog and downwards, and raising your wrist to mimic the “over-the-head” motion. (It is very similar to flicking a light switch on.) Along, with the verbal “Sit” command, the wrist motion can be practiced until your dog begins to respond without moving your hand directly over their heads to their tail to force a sit.
photo by Nick Saglimbeni, from 101 Dog Tricks
Within a week of practicing, your dog should be responding to the “Sit” command verbally and physically. The longer you hold the reward, when your pup is in the proper position, the more skilled your dog will become at holding the sit dog trick.