How to Teach a Dog to Sit and Stay (A Brief Guide)

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – well, what about teaching new dogs the oldest trick in the book? Sitting is probably the thing we associate most with dog ownership, but so many people just starting out with a puppy get a little crestfallen when their pup doesn’t immediately plant their butt on the ground at the first bark of “Sit!”

There are a number of reasons for this (inexperience with training, unfamiliarity with a new owner) and a whole lot of things you can do about it. Read on to find out a little bit more about what makes your dog tick, and the ways in which you can teach your dog to sit.

How to Teach a Dog to Sit In a Nutshell

First, Check Out this Video from an Expert Trainer

Step 1: Use All Your Tricks to Get Them to Sit

For your first go-around on dog training, it’s going to be necessary to pull out all the stops. Your first attempts at teaching your dog to sit should involve you using the following things:

  • Holding out a treat for the dog, keeping it close to their nose but slightly high – this encourages the dog to look up, which will naturally make him or her want to sit.
  • Saying “Sit!” in a calm but authoritative voice while you make this hand motion.
  • Keep moving the treat further and further back over the dog’s head (keeping it close), until the dog sits.

Once the dog is seated, say “Yes! Good dog!” and give them the treat. You can even give them a little pet as encouragement. (Who are we kidding? You’re going to pet your adorable puppy anyway. How can you resist?)

Teaching the Sit Command Step 2: Wean Them Off the Treat

teach a dog to sit politely

Once you’ve got a little practice with your dog using the treat method, now comes the hard part: getting your dog to sit simply for the love of the game.

Do the same procedure that you did before with your hand and the gentle command of ‘Sit,” but this time keep the treat in your pocket or your other hand.

Just use your empty hand to guide the dog to a sitting position.

When your dog sits, reveal the treat from its other position and give it to them. This stage of the process is crucial, as it allows them to still be rewarded for the act while getting used to the idea that you, not the treat, are what they are obeying.

Teaching a Dog to Sit Step 3: Cut Out the Hand

teaching a dog the sit command

Eventually, the hand will have to be weaned out of the equation, so that your dog successfully associates your verbal command of ‘sit’ with the act of sitting.

Each time you do the trick with your dog, be sure to use your hand less and less, making smaller movements and pausing more before starting your hand movement as you make verbal commands.

Keep doing this, adjusting enough hand movement to make your dog clue in that you want him or her to sit.

Eventually, as you use your hand less and less, your dog will simply know that ‘sit’ means ‘sit,’ and ‘yes’ means good. (Be sure to start delaying gratification for him or her too; hold off on the treat for a second or two after ‘yes’ so they know they want the approval, not just the food.)

Finally, Show Your Dog When to Sit

As soon as you’ve gotten to the point where your dog is just sitting on verbal command, you should be able to get them to sit for others too. When your dog meets others, they’ll wag their tail and jump around in anticipation (as dogs do).

However, if you can catch it early and command him or her to ‘sit’ before they get too worked up, your properly trained dog will calm down and sit to greet the new person. Be sure to reward this with a treat and a ‘yes’ so they know they’ve done the right thing.

With these tips (and a little patience), you should be well on your way to getting your new dog to do the simplest, most rewarding thing your best friend can do for you – obey your commands. Not only will you have a cute, obedient little buddy, you’ll have another way of showing your dog you love them!

A Few More Great How-To Videos 

Other Great Resources

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