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There are just a few different methods for training sit. The three main ones are:

  1. Reward - Using food to lure the dog into sit.

  2. Force - Pulling up on the leash or pushing down on the dog’s bum.

  3. Capturing - When the dog sits on their own praise and reward them.

If you are wondering why there are different methods and the pros and cons to either method you can check out the Sit Debate article. This article will go over the methods we find work best.

In the case of training sit we find Reward to be the best method for beginning training. This is then followed up with a modified Force technique

Core Rules Applied

1. Energy Spectrum (Hyper vs Tired) - Make sure your dog is tired enough that they naturally want to sit. You don't want them bouncing off the walls for this.

2. A to B Rule - Start by luring your dog and work to upright positions and then begin distance training (Super Proofing).

Beginning Training

To teach sit, using a food reward to start is easiest.

1. Lure the treat slowly over top of the dog’s nose towards the back of their head and wait till there bum touches the ground then say “yes” and reward.

2. If the dog jumps do not move your arm up and away, keep your hand low so the dog learns to stay on the ground and then you may lure.  In some cases you may need to burn off some energy before the dog can concentrate enough (Core Rule: Energy Spectrum - Hyper vs Tired).

3. Practice in a low distraction area and work your way to more distracting areas.

Dogs are 8 times better at reading physical cues than people are so a physical hand signal will be much easier for a dog to understand than verbal.  You can use whatever hand signal you like (as long as it is different from any other hand signals you may have).  We use a hand signal where your palm is facing you with your arm pointing to the ceiling. The reason we use these is you can exaggerate with a big arm movement when your dog is at a far off distance. Many people like the snap and point but that is difficult for a dog to see at a distance.

Progressing to Upright Hand Signal

At the beginning you are luring the dog into a sit with your hand and some kibble. You then want to progress to a standing hand signal like the one pictured above. How do you get there? Utilize the Core Rule: A to B Rule and work one little step at a time.

  1. You began by luring the dog into a sit with kibble.
  2. As the dog understands step one you will lure them into a sit but have your hand a couple inches above their nose as you lure them into a sit.
  3. Work your way a bit higher with the command a few inches at a time until the dog sits with you giving an upright hand signal.
  4. It is often easiest to go from luring close to a fully upright hand signal in one step. A lot of dogs will make the connection that quickly. This is done according to Speed Reading Rules which is a part of the A to B Rule.

  5. Introduce the verbal command by saying “sit” and then give the upright hand signal. Then praise and reward when the dog sits. After a few repetitions you can say “sit” and wait a few seconds before giving the hand signal. The dog will start to anticipate that the verbal command “sit” means the same as the hand signal. Now the dog understands to sit with either the hand signal or the verbal command.

Distance Commands

After your dog understands Sit with you close up you will want to begin doing distance commands. See the article on Distance Commands.

Put your dog on leash and have someone stand on the leash or tie the dog up (dogs seem to prefer when someone is standing on the leash instead of being tied up but they can learn to be good with it. If you are just tying the dog up since you are alone work on your stay command first. This will associate good things with being tied up. Then you can go back to training distance commands).

Training distance commands first in a low distraction area will make it much easier for your dog to understand their commands when you increase distractions such as going outside. Even if your dog understands their commands from a distance inside you will likely need to go back close to your dog and even lure them with food once you have increased distractions. Even if you so much as play back the sound of dogs barking in your house on your stereo that may be enough of an increase in distraction that you will have to practice closer to your dog.

We like to train dogs to do Sits and Downs to about 250 meters (Super Proofing on the A to B Rule). That way anything 100 meters and less seems very easy to the dog.

Introducing Leash Pressure

To proof up sit and make it easier for the dog to get it right in higher distractions you can start to incorporate leash pressure upwards to mean sit as well.  This is how you teach that:

1. Once the dog has an understanding of sit with a hand signal you will then pull up on the leash with a bit of pressure and give the command to sit.  As soon as the dog sits you will then release that pressure and praise.

2. Repeat many times until you can pull up on the leash gently and the dog will sit.

This becomes very handy for higher distractions as you now have a physical way to communicate sit with your dog.  If you just give a verbal cue or use a treat you may find that you could say “sit” a hundred times or have a piece of steak in front of them and they still will not sit.

Proofing Sit

Now to get your dog into a very quick sit and stay in sit until you say “free” (see article on Release Command to learn why having a release command will increase your dog’s obedience) is done by:

1. Having the dog in a sit, increase the distraction level a small amount such as playing a dog barking on the stereo at a quiet level.  If the dog gets up say “Sit” every second while giving small tugs up on the leash until the dog resumes sitting then stop and praise.  This will teach the dog that they must stay in sit until told otherwise. Wondering about repeating the command? See the article on Repeating Command Debate.

2. Say “free” when you want to release your dog and lure them out of the sit and praise.  

3. Do this in small stages as you don’t want to cause your dog too much stress. Start increasing distractions until you reach whatever distractions you expect to encounter.

4. Sometimes we find it easiest to incorporate sit with a fun exercise such as fetch or tug where the dog must sit first and then they are given the cue to fetch or tug.

How to get a very fast sit

For this you will say “sit” and a half second later you give a quick tug up on the leash.  This will teach the dog to sit very quickly when hearing the command to try to avoid the correction.  Note: this does not mean you need to yank really hard on the leash, just give a quick small tug upwards. Your goal is to train the dog with very light pressure commands.

Problems to Encounter

  • Dog is hyper, jumping up, squirming a lot - Exercise the dog a bit first. Check out the article on Core Rule: Energy Spectrum - Hyper vs Tired.
  • Dog is not too hyper but still jumps up a lot - Commonly when people lure the dog into a sit with food they may have their hand a bit too high. When the dog jumps up, people often lift their hand up higher which aggravates the problem. If the dog jumps you should lower your hand back down to bring the dog back down to the ground.
  • Dog almost sits but then stands - This typically happens when luring the food over the dogs nose, the people push back too quickly. You want to make sure the dog’s nose is following your hand and it also helps as you push back over top of their nose to also go down at a slight angle in line with their back. This lures the dog back a bit and down which often gets the bum to touch the ground.
  • Dog nips constantly at the hand - See the article on Nipping.
  • Dog is getting frustrated - Sometimes it helps to take a break by playing a game of fetch or tug. You may also want to work on something that requires higher energy or lower energy according to the Energy Spectrum.

Luring to Sit

Sit lure 1 Sit lure 2 Sit lure 3 Sit lure 4

Leash Pressure for Sit

Sit leash pressure 1 Sit leash pressure 2 Sit leash pressure 3 Sit leash pressure 4 Sit leash pressure 5