Training your dog to sit is one of the easiest and most useful exercises in obedience training. The sit command can solve a number of simple behavior problems and put your dog on the road to being well-mannered. It’s the equivalent of teaching him to say “please” before greeting guests, going outside, eating dinner, or doing any of the activities he enjoys.
Because dogs walk on all fours, their body structure makes it impossible for them to look directly up overhead without sitting first. You can use this to your advantage to train your dog to sit on command.
Use food or a toy as a lure
Some people debate whether it’s better to teach basic dog training commands with or without the use of food. Depending on your preference, grab your dog’s favorite toy or a few pieces of his kibble. (A single piece of kibble magically transforms into a tasty treat when it’s not sitting in the bowl with the rest of your dog’s food.) You’ll use your chosen lure to guide your dog into the sit position. If you decide to use food, keep a piece in reserve as a reward.
Say the command “Spot, sit”
The command consists of two parts: your dog’s name followed by the training command “sit”. You should say your dog’s name first to make sure you have his attention.
Move the lure over his head until he sits
After you give the command, hold the lure in front of your dog’s nose and then move it slowly up and back over his head. Be sure to keep it close to his nose as you move it back. As your dog follows the lure he’ll move into the proper sit position.
Reward him immediately upon sitting
Use generous praise and petting, along with the piece of kibble if you kept one in reserve, to reward your dog for obeying his first basic training command. You should time the reward to immediately follow the moment when your dog’s rear touches the ground. This will properly anchor the command to the desired response.
There are a couple of common problems that can arise when using this method to train a dog to sit:
Your dog raises his front paws as he sits
If your dog lifts his front paws off the ground as you move the lure over his head, you’re holding it too high. Try again, but this time keep your chosen lure only an inch or so from his nose.
Rather than sitting, your dog backs up to follow the lure
If your dog backs up to follow the lure without moving into the sit position, do the exercise in a corner. You shouldn’t have to push on his hind end to train him to sit. See basics of giving your dog a training command to learn why touching your dog while giving a command can complicate the obedience training process.
Until your dog makes the necessary connection between the obedience command and the correct response, punishment is counterproductive. Refrain from saying “no” and keep your words to a minimum to avoid confusion. The training command and lots of praise are all you need when teaching your dog how to sit.