Training your Dog to Sit Down
Training your dog to sit reliably is very important because 'sit' is a control position. When a dog is asked to sit, it cannot be actively jumping, pulling or engaging in some other unwanted behaviors.
Sit, therefore, is a crucial command that should be part of your dog's repertoire of trained behaviors.
Best of all, any dog can be easily trained to sit, from an 8 week old puppy up to a senior dog. Yes, indeed you can train an old dog new tricks!
While several years ago dogs were trained to sit by pushing them on the rear or giving a downward yank on the collar, nowadays, kinder training methods are employed by professional dog trainers.
Current trends in the dog training world tend to gear towards the rewarding world of positive reinforcement training, a training method based on scientific principles. Training your dog to sit this way will allow him to develop a stronger bond with you and become more receptive to learning long-lasting behaviors.
Let's review different ways of training your dog to sit using different reward-based techniques...
Training Your Dog to Sit Using a Clicker
Clicker training involves the use of a noise making box which produces a clicking sound.
While most dogs are not very good in math, with clicker training dogs learn fairly quickly the equation that "click=treat" in the same fashion as they realized through experience that "doorbell=guests" or "leash=walks"! How's that for intelligence?
However, the mathematical formula does not end here, indeed, once your dog has figured out that "click=treat", he may be ready to absorb more challenging formulas, such as "when I put my rear on the floor, I hear the click which equals treat".
We will see 2 different ways to help your dog understand this formula by training him to sit with the use of a clicker. I will also show you how to teach dog to sit without using a clicker.
Teach Dog to Sit Through Capturing
Capturing, as the name implies, is a training technique where the dog is rewarded for engaging in a behavior he does naturally. This method requires good observation skills and good timing since spontaneous behaviors must be "captured" as they unfold. Eventually, even the most hyperactive canines will sit, and this is why dog owners must be ready to click and treat .
With time, the dog starts associating that the click happens the exact moment his rear touches the floor, which is ultimately what is reinforcing the behavior. The sitting behavior therefore should increase in frequency.
To recap, here is a step by step guide to training your dog to sit:
- Wait until the dog's rear is about to touch the floor
- Click right at the moment the rear touches the floor
- With your dog sitting down, deliver the treat immediately
Because dogs tend to repeat behaviors that are rewarded, you will see an increase in frequency in your dog's sitting behaviors. Now is the time to give the action of sitting a name.
Right when you notice your dog is about to sit, add the cue "sit" followed by the click right when the rear touches the floor. Immediately deliver the treat. With time, your dog will sit when asked to and you can start gradually fading the clicker replacing it with a "good boy" or "good girl" pronounced before delivering the treat.
Teach Dog to Sit Through Luring
You may be unwilling to wait for your dog to sit spontaneously, and therefore, it does not hurt to use a "life line".
Luring, as the name implies, is a training method where the dog is elicited into a position with the aid of a lure. Just as a fish follows a lure, a dog's nose follows a treat. You will therefore need to arm yourself with some tasty ammo.
Training your dog to sit using the luring method would involve the following steps:
- Have your dog stand in front of you
- Bring the treat from your dog's nose backwards towards his head slowly with an upward hand movement
- As your dog's nose points upward, his rear should start lowering in a sitting position
- Right when the rear touches the floor click the clicker
- Immediately deliver the treat
At some point, once your dog reliably sits with the hand movement, you will want to add the verbal cue "sit". Say the command "sit" before using the hand movement, and gradually make the luring gesture less and less evident. Eventually, your verbal command will replace the hand gesture.
The clicker can also be faded once the dog responds well, and can be replaced by a "good boy" or "good girl" pronounced before delivering the treat.
Train your Dog to Sit Without Using a Clicker
Did you know that you can also teach a dog to sit without the use of a clicker?
In this scenario you would follow the "Clicker Training a Dog to Sit Through Luring" directions from step 1 through 3, but then in step 4 you would praise instead of clicking and then immediately deliver the treat.
Dog owners often claim: "my dog sits perfectly in the living room, but then he fails to sit when at the dog park or on walks. Why is that?"
The answer to this problem is that the dog was not trained enough around distractions. Make it a good habit to ask your dog for sits at increasingly higher levels of distractions. If your dog has still a hard time focusing on you, try investing in high-value treats so to better get his attention and have him respond to you.
I call my dog by his name and put his collar and leash on. While holding the leash in the left hand, I show him the treat. I let him sniff it, lick it, anything to get his juices flowing! But… I don't give it to him just yet.
After a minute or so, when the dog is excited, I slowly raise the treat over his head. To get a better view of the treat, he has no choice but to sit down. As he is sitting down, I tell him in a firm and authoritative voice "Sit".
With my dog in a sitting position, I give him a treat and offer some verbal praise.
Have you noticed what I did not do? I did not use any force to get him in a sitting position.
Repeat this exercise a couple of times per day, but don't overdo it. Ten to fifteen minutes per session is enough.
Another trick I like to use is to say "Sit" every time that I see my dog sitting down on his own. This technique reinforces the association between the action (dog sitting down) and the command ("Sit").
You can use variations of this technique to get your dog to follow any command.
Benefits of Training a Dog to Sit
There are many benefits deriving from training your dog to sit. The following are only a few examples of the many advantages that sum up when you teach dog to sit:
- A sit can teach an excited dog not to jump when you pet him until all 4 paws are on the floor
- A sit can be asked upon putting the food bowl on the floor so to teach the dog good self-control and manners
- A sit can be asked before opening a door to prevent a dog from dashing out suddenly
- A sit can be asked when your dog is undergoing a medical exam and needs to stay still for a few minutes
Last but not least, a sit can be a great alternative behavior to ask in order to prevent a dog from engaging in unwanted behaviors. As already mentioned, a dog sitting down cannot jump, chew the sofa, scratch the door, raid the trash, or chase the cat if it is sitting with all 4 paws on the floor!
Here is a brief video about training your dog to sit. It demonstrates some of the things we just covered in this article and provides additional tips...
Training your dog to sit is not complicated and will not take a lot of your time. And you can start working on this basic obedience command as soon as you bring your puppy or dog home.
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Want to learn more?
If you need help with teaching your dog obedience commands or just trying to understand dog behavior, I recommend this dog behavior and obedience training guide.
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