Train Your Dog To Sit Using Positive Reinforcement

Train Your Dog To Sit Using Positive ReinforcementTraining your dog to sit is definitely one of the easiest lessons.  It’s also one of the most important.  Having your dog sit on your command can defuse potentially stressful situations between dogs or even save your dog from danger if there’s cars or commotion.  Plus it’s respectful on your dog’s part to listen to your request.  The key is teaching them to sit no matter what the distraction.




Training ‘SIT’, method 1

Train Your Dog To Sit Using Positive Reinforcement

stay calm when training

To begin, stand and face your dog.  Hold a small ball or treat, something that’ll keep your dog focused on your hand.  If you’re using a treat, keep it in your closed fist hand so your dog isn’t tempted to jump and grab it.  Now slowly step toward your dog, raising your hand barely above your dog’s nose and toward the back of their head as you say ‘ssssit’.  Drawing out the ‘ssssss’ will keep your dog calm and help them to focus.  As your dog’s eyes follow your hand, their automatic reflex action is to sit because of their body length.  Once your dog is sitting, praise them and give them the treat or toy.  Practice often throughout day for only 1 or 2 minutes at a time.  And always stop when they did a good job to keep their confidence up.  As they improve wean out the treat.

Train Your Dog To Sit Using Positive Reinforcement

never physically force your dog

Training ‘SIT’ method 2

If method 1 isn’t working for you try this one.  Give the command to ‘ssssit’.  Hold the treat so they can lick at it.  At the same time, place one hand on your dog’s hindquarters and gently push down.  If these actions are done simultaneously, your dog will ease into the sit position.  Two mistakes to avoid with this method: 1) Don’t push hard!  You never want to hurt or physically force your dog, 2) Because you have to physically touch your dog, some dogs will get excited and lose focus.  So help them succeed by staying calm.

In everyday life when you see your dog sitting, make a point to praise them for a ‘good sit‘.  Reinforcing what ‘sit‘ means in a positive way will help your dog.  It’ll also raise their confidence.

Proper sit position

Train Your Dog To Sit Using Positive Reinforcement

proper ‘sit’ position

The proper sit position is your dog sitting squarely on both hips.  If their butt doesn’t touch the ground, they’re not sitting.  Nor are they sitting if their butt touches the ground then springs right back up.  And if they lie down, they’re not sitting.  Sit means sit, that’s it!

And when you say sit, your dog should simply sit right where they are.  If they procrastinate, shift around, do a dance or wait for you to physically put them into a sit position, they’re not trained….YOU ARE!  So sit means: ‘sit right where you are when I say sit‘.  If your dog’s heeling on a walk beside you and you say sit, they should sit beside you, not swing out in front of you and sit.  If you’re at a door and you ask your dog to sit, they should sit facing whatever direction they were facing when you said sit.  Also, if you have to say sit 3 times, your dog is not well trained.  Once your dog knows the word you should only say it once.  If you find you’re repeating yourself you may have to do some focus exercises with your dog.

Hand signal for sit

Train Your Dog To Sit Using Positive Reinforcement

bend fingers only

Train Your Dog To Sit Using Positive Reinforcement

flat hand facing up

Put your hand flat out in front of you with your palm facing up.  As you say sit, bend your fingers straight up and keep your palm still.  If you do this every time you say sit, your dog will relate the hand signal to the action of sitting.  After a few days test it.  Get your dog to look at you then just give the hand signal with no verbal command.  If they sit, lavish them with praise.  If they don’t, do it again but use your voice.  Keep trying until your dog will sit with only the hand signal.



Train Your Dog To Sit Using Positive Reinforcement

teach in a variety of locations

Teach in a variety of different locations

Dogs think in photographs.  So make sure you ask them to sit in all sorts of different situations.  You can train your dog to sit beautifully in the privacy of your own home.  But once their surroundings change they may look at you like you’re nuts.  So when you’re out on a walk, stop and ask your dog to sit.  At friends houses, ask them to sit.  If you go to dog parks, have them sit before entering and exiting.  And always praise them when they sit.  But remember, if you pet them they might get excited and get up. So use verbal praise until you have released them from their sit.

Written by Brenda McBurnie, Certified Dog Trainer and Natural Nutrition
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  1. […] your dog sit.  Get a treat or favorite toy to give your dog something to focus on.  Stand about two feet in […]

  2. […] means ‘stay in this exact position until I tell you otherwise‘.  Whether your dog is sitting, standing or lying down.  Whatever position they’re in, they need to hold that position […]

  3. […] have your dog SIT.  Now stand about two feet in front of them and face them.  Then bend down and step backward.  […]



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