How To Train A Dog To Sit

By Sarah Jeanne Terry

It's the command you assume every dog knows, and it's the first command you'll likely try with a dog of your own. That's right — sit!

Photo of a Beagle dog
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When I got my new puppy, I remember just staring at her, wondering how I was going to be able get her to sit. Sometimes, she would just land in the right position, and I wondered how I should communicate to her that I wanted her to be seated when I said, "Sit." I tried to make a psychic connection by staring at her intently, but that totally failed. She just stared back.

Even though it's a VERY common behavior, someone actually has to teach a dog how to sit. If you've recently adopted a pup that needs to learn the move, well, you're in luck. Here, we provide a quick and thorough guide for how you can get your dog to sit on command.

Girl in autumn park training her dog in obedience
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The benefits of sit.

Why should I bother teaching my dog to sit, you might ask. Well, this move offers a lot of training benefits for your dog. First of all, sitting is the starting position for many other training commands, so if your dog can't sit, it will have trouble moving forward with other training.

Plus, sitting helps control your dog's behavior. Have you noticed that when your dog gets excited, it moves a lot? Sitting helps to keep your dog still, which helps keep it calm. This comes in handy out on walks when they get startled or defensive.

Sitting also helps by getting your dog's attention focused on you. You always want to make sure your pup is focused on you when training, and sit helps you achieve that. There are two popular methods for teaching your dog to sit that we've broken down for you here. Which one will work depends on your pup's love of treats and ability to pay attention.

Mixed Pit Bull Breed Being Trained
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How to train your dog to sit – Method No.1: The Lure

For most dogs, the first hurdle they need to overcome is learning exactly what you're asking them to do. Now, it's likely that you've seen your dog in a seated position already, but how do you get them to understand that position means sit? One way to do that is by luring them into a position.

  • Step 1: Grab your pup's favorite treats.
  • Step 2: Hold the treat on the end of its nose, so it can really smell it.
  • Step 3: Say, "Sit" as you move your hand in a slow motion back toward the dog's tail and slightly up. This should make them naturally fall into a seated position.
  • Step 4: Praise them and give them the treat.

Here's a helpful video that demonstrates this technique.

How to train your dog to sit – Method No. 2: The Physical Demo

Another way to get your dog to understand what you want it to do, particularly if it is not quite getting there using the lure method, is to physically guide your dog into the proper position. Some dogs need this method if they are particularly rambunctious or don't respond as well to food incentives.

  • Step 1: Do NOT have a treat in your hand, because your dog will not be able to cooperate.
  • Step 2: Place one hand on your dog's chest, and another on its rear legs.
  • Step 3: Say, "Sit," then press down gently on their rear and slightly back on their chest, which should guide them into a seated position.
  • Step 4: Praise and reward.

NOTE: Be sure not to force your dog into this position, but instead, just gently guide them into what should be a very natural position.

Why using a clicker can be really beneficial.

When dog training, a small "clicker" device can be incredibly helpful. These handy little gadgets make a simple "click" sound when pressed. But they're hugely helpful for your dog.

dog obedience training with clicker
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When you reward your dog during training, you often give them treats. But how often are you ready with a treat at the exact moment your dog does the right behavior? Sometimes, if something goes wrong, you'll be fumbling with treats for a few seconds, which means you lose the valuable immediacy that will link the command with the behavior in your dog's brain.

With a clicker, the goal is to click RIGHT as the appropriate behavior occurs. So when a dog works on sit, you "click" right as their butt hits the floor, so they understand when the correct behavior happened.

Progressing your dog's sit.

Regardless of how you trained them, at the beginning, most dogs get a guide from you at first. Practice sit 5-10 minutes per day to help your dog really shine. As your pup gets better and better, start to remove the guide. If you're using a treat lure, try to get to a place where you're not holding the treat, just doing the hand gesture. If you're physically guiding your dog, start by taking one hand away, then take both.

Ideally, you'll want your dog to sit on just a verbal command, with little to no guidance from you. Once they master that, you're ready to move on to more advanced tricks!

How about some more training tips? Head over to our training hub or scroll through this tutorial on training your dog to smile.