How to Teach a Dog to Sit – 5 Easy Steps
by Jessi Larson
As a new dog owner, you and your pup have lots of firsts ahead of you, and when it comes to your dog’s first trick, it usually starts with the “sit” command. With this guide, we’ll show you how to teach a dog to sit in no time!
Sitting is a basic building block for subsequent advanced commands and helps keep your pup calm and focused when necessary.
But even though sitting is a natural position, now comes the fun part of figuring out how to teach a dog to sit.
If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t worry – the process is quite straightforward and requires little preparation.
Let’s dive right in and review the step-by-step process of how to teach a dog to sit.
Before You Get Started
Little work is required when preparing to teach your dog to sit, but you should be ready with plenty of bite-sized treats to motivate and reward your pup’s efforts.
Choose some that are likely to raise your dog’s interest. We love Zuke’s Mini Naturals as a training treat. They’re healthy and small in size, so you can give them to your dog over and over again as you work on this new skill.
If you are planning on using a clicker during training, you should also have it at hand for the process.
When choosing the place for your first training session, try to go for a private spot that’s free from distractions. You can and should eventually increase these distractions to test your dog’s focus, but for now, you’ll want a nice, quiet setting to begin with.
Define What Sit Means
When teaching your dog to sit, it’s important that you know what your end goal looks like.
Some dogs will try to cheat the system and hover with their bottoms still floating in the air, so make sure you don’t reward this behavior. Instead, wait for your dog to fully sit on the ground before offering a treat.
It’s also good to define whether you want to simultaneously teach your dog to stay in the sitting position and, if so, for how long.
The amount of training you’ll need to put in will depend on your final goals, but you should aim for short 5-10 minute training sessions to avoid any frustrations.
How to Teach a Dog to Sit: Getting Started
Now that you’re armed with treats and/or a clicker and know exactly what behavior you’re looking to teach, you’re ready to start the training process.
Just follow these simple steps, and remember to stay patient and compassionate to your dog – especially in the puppy stage.
1. Present a Treat
Start with showing your dog a treat and bringing it just above its nose. Make sure you’re not holding the treat too high above your dog’s head, or it will be tempted to jump up and get it.
Next, move the treat toward the back of your dog’s head, while keeping it close and not too high up. Your dog might react a few different ways at first, such as smelling your hand and turning up its head to the treat, but it should eventually get into a sitting position.
If that approach fails, wait for your dog to naturally sit down on its own, then offer plenty of praise and reward the behavior. Give lots of verbal cues such as “yes,” “good job,” or “you did it!” This should make your pup understand the performance you’re after.
2. Offer Immediate Praise and Reward
As soon as your dog comes to a full sitting position, present your reward and give a click if you’re training with a clicker.
Be sure to offer plenty of verbal praise and support as well as some physical affection like tummy rubs.
3. Introduce a Verbal Cue
The next time you repeat this process, introduce the verbal command “sit” when showing your dog the treat.
Again, offer lots of praise and reward immediately with a treat and click. Repeat the word “sit” each time so that your dog learns to associate the verbal cue with the desired behavior.
4. Remove the Treat
After enough repetition, you shouldn’t need to move the treat to lure your dog into a sitting position.
Instead, the “stay” command should sufficiently signal what behavior you’re expecting your dog to perform.
5. Add Distractions
You should continue to practice the “sit” command for about 5-10 minutes per session across many different surroundings.
Although you started out in a private distraction-free environment, it’s time to take your pup out of their comfort zone to test the “sit” command in a more challenging setting.
If you’re training a puppy, you might find that getting them to a sitting position isn’t as easy as it seems. That’s perfectly normal – puppies are full of energy and excitement and may need a little help understanding what’s being asked of them.
Just wait until your puppy sits down on its own, then offer lots of verbal cues like “yes,” “sit,” and “good job” and immediately reward the behavior with a treat.
Do this until your dog connects the dots between sitting and your verbal cue.
Final Thoughts on How to Teach a Dog to Sit
Figuring out how to train your dog to sit should be a fairly simple process that lays the foundation for many advanced tricks down the line.
More importantly, it keeps your dog calm and connected to you – their owner. Follow our steps and keep your training sessions on the short side between 5-10 minutes.
As is the case with teaching any command, avoid using negative reinforcement or punishment if your dog struggles to learn. Always end your sessions on a positive note and keep things upbeat.
With plenty of patience, repetition and practice, your dog will have mastered their very first trick!
Watch a Training Video
As you learn how to teach a dog to sit, sometimes it helps to see the process in action.
Lucky for us, dog trainer Zak George has put together a video on the topic. It’s another great resource on how to quickly teach your dog to sit.
We love George’s positive, fun and informational style, and he has a wide variety of videos on other training topics that are great to check out.
Bonus Training Tip
As you work on how to teach a dog to sit, you may get frustrated or impatient at times. Don’t worry, that’s totally normal!
If you feel like you’re not making progress and getting annoyed, just take a time out, breathe deep and count to 10. This will help you feel refreshed and ready to start again.
Training a dog requires patience, persistence and consistency. The goal is to continually and clearly communicate your expectations in a calm but confident manner.
Dogs can sense if you’re hyper or angry, so taking a few moments to regroup will make the training process more successful.
Top Dog Training Books
Figuring out how to teach a dog to sit is just one small part of the overall training process. To ensure your dog is obedient and well-behaved, we recommend you learn as much about dog training as possible.
When you train a new dog, it provides a solid foundation on how they should behave for the rest of their life. The more education you can get, the better.
If you put in the work now, the following years will be so much easier!
When we first got Toby, we spent months working on training. Believe me, it was exhausting at times.
The result, however, is that he became a well-behaved dog who listened and followed our commands, and that made our lives much easier in the long run.
If you’re looking for extra support, we highly recommend the following books to aid in your training journey.
You saw Zak George’s video above on how to teach a dog to sit. He’s got even more great advice in his book Dog Training Revolution.
If you liked his style, you’ll enjoy this complete guide to raising a dog. It covers all the bases and will provide you with a solid foundation for training.
We read The Art of Raising a Puppy when we first got Toby and highly recommend it.
Written by the Monks of New Skete, the book includes invaluable information and advice every dog owner should know. There’s a reason it’s a classic!
House training a dog is a challenging process. Ask any pup parent, and they’ll tell you how messy, frustrating and exhausting it can be.
The book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days teaches you infallible methods that will help housebreak your pup and make life so much easier for you.
Dogs are super smart creatures, and teaching them new tricks is great for their mental and physical health.
We purchased 101 Dog Tricks for Toby a number of years ago. He had learned basic commands and we were looking for other ways to keep him mentally stimulated.
This book was a great way to find new tricks, provide mental and physical stimulation for Toby and bond with him in the process.
If you have children in your home, Puppy Training for Kids serves as a great introduction to caring for a dog.
Dogs are a big responsibility, and this book helps kids understand all the work involved with training and raising a puppy.
This guide to how to teach a dog to sit is designed to help you teach your dog this important skill. The sit command helps you settle your dog and get them to focus and is a great starting point for learning other skills.
If you have a new dog and are looking for additional resources, don’t forget to check out our puppy guide. Happy training!