How to Teach A Dog to Sit


This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons).

'Sit' is a great place to start when teaching your dog or puppy basic commands. It is an easy trick to master and can be useful in training your dog in other commands like drop, roll over and stay. So arm yourself with some tasty treats and let's get started.

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Step 1 - Understand How Dog Training Works

Dogs learn just like humans, by trial and error. Their learning goes on whether we are actively teaching them or not. Dogs learn in 2 main ways - through classical conditioning, or operant conditioning.

When we are training our dogs to perform certain behaviours or tricks, we are using operant conditioning. This is where we pair the appropriate behaviour with a reward, which makes the behaviour more likely to happen the next time. If used correctly through positive reinforcement, operant conditioning can create a wonderful bond between you and your dog, and is so beneficial for their mental health and enrichment. Dogs will naturally seek to perform behaviours that have brought positive consequences, and will try to avoid behaviours that have brought negative consequences in the past.

Step 2 - Gear Up with the Right Dog Training Equipment

Before you start training, it's important to have the right tools to make your dog's learning a success. Everyone who will be involved in training your dog should use consistent techniques to help your dog learn quickly and effectively.

'Luring' and 'capturing' are 2 important words in dog training. 'Luring' means to guide your dog to perform a behaviour by using a tasty treat in front of his nose to get him to move his body into the correct position. The 'lure' is the treat. Capturing the behaviour means that you let your dog know that they've performed the correct behaviour the moment that it occurs. This can be through the use of a specific word or phrase, like 'yes' or 'good boy', or a clicker. This is then followed up by giving your dog the treat. The specific word, phrase or clicker becomes the 'bridge' between behaviour and reward, and becomes an indication to your dog to expect a reward.

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Best Dog Training Treats

There are a wide variety of treats available, but for every day training, we recommend choosing a treat that's soft and easily broken up into small pieces for a bite sized reward.

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Step 3 - Find a Quiet Space

Find a space without many distractions so that your dog can focus. Show him a treat to get his interest.

Step 4 - Lure the Behaviour

While your dog is focussed on the treat, hold it above his head so that he looks upward. Move the treat backwards, just behind his nose so that he begins to tilt his head back.

Step 5 - Capture the Behaviour

Your dog will naturally try to get to the treat, and to do this from his current position he will need to put his bottom on the floor. As soon as this occurs you must 'capture' the behaviour. This is done by either using a clicker or a praise word (like 'yes') and giving him the treat.

Step 6 - Repeat and add in the Command

Repeat step 3 until your dog seems to understand what it is that you are wanting him to do. Once he understands, you can repeat the process but use the word 'sit' as you ask him to sit so that he will associate the action with the command.

Step 7 - Practice and Fade the Lure

Continue to practice and over time you will find that you no longer need to 'lure' him into the sitting position, and he will respond just to the voice command.

Further Reading

New Puppy Guide

Teaching Your Dog to Stay

Teaching Your Dog to Lie Down

Teaching Your Dog to Roll Over

Training Your Puppy to Walk on a Lead

Puppy Training Guide

Flea, Tick and Worm Prevention for Dogs