How To Teach Your Puppy To “Sit”

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Getting a new puppy is so exciting. But you need to teach him what you mean and the rules of the house. In addition to learning his name, one of the first behaviors most people teach their puppy is how to sit on command.

So how do you teach your puppy to sit? There are various ways to teach your puppy to sit. In this article, I’ll explain what they are and how to perform them.

As an obedience trainer, I’ve successfully taught many puppies and adult dogs to sit on cue. Sitting is a great behavior that can be used to help a dog have impulse control.

Teaching Puppy Sit

In this article, I’ll explain why the sit command is so important and the many different settings that it can be used in. I’ll also describe ways to get your puppy to sit on cue. And I’ll cover why a pup may not want to sit and what to do about it.

Reasons Why Teaching a Dog To Sit is So Important

Teaching a dog to sit seems so basic at first look. But a puppy who sits on cue or as a default behavior can participate in more activities and be welcome many more places than one who doesn’t. 

Puppies who jump on people, rush out of doors, or dart into the street usually aren’t welcome in many places. And their behavior can be unsafe for themselves and others around them.

So teaching a dog to sit can improve a puppy’s life. He can go more places, meet more people, and generally have more freedom. 

Teaching a puppy to have some impulse control by teaching him to sit can help him learn to behave calmly even in stimulating environments and situations.

Important Situations When a Dog Should Sit

Once you teach your puppy to sit on cue, if you’re consistent, eventually he’ll sit on his own in those situations. Eventually, he’ll naturally sit to get the rewards he desires. This default sit is what we aim for.

I’ll discuss below how to get your puppy to sit. After he knows how to sit on cue, you can start to use that command in many important situations.

I recommend that people have their puppy sit before feeding him. This helps teach him impulse control in an exciting setting. 

You are also a leader in a positive way. And, practically speaking, he won’t knock the bowl of his food out of your hand and you won’t have a big mess to clean up.

Once your puppy can sit on cue, you can have him sit before exiting your home and before crossing the street. Having him sit on cue during these types of situations is really a safety issue. 

I believe that it’s important for a puppy to sit and stay about five feet back from an opened door before exiting. Then, you would give him a cue when to walk through, such as “heel” or “let’s go.”

By learning to sit far back from the door, your puppy won’t be at risk of dashing out the door and potentially getting lost, hit by a car or stolen. These are horrible situations that can be avoided by teaching what seems at first to be a simple command.

Having your puppy sit before crossing the street also helps him not dash out and potentially get injured. It’s important to use your sit command in other everyday situations. Have your puppy sit whenever you stop walking on your excursions with him in the neighborhood. 

When a dog is under control, your walks are so much more pleasant. And, because they are so much more enjoyable, you’re more likely to take your puppy on longer and more frequent walks. 

So it’s a win-win! Your puppy gets more exercise, socialization, and time bonding with you. And you get more exercise and fun with your puppy.

Have him sit before putting his harness or collar and leash on.

If you teach your puppy to do a default sit where he naturally sits every time someone approaches, he won’t jump up on people. And more of your friends will want to interact with him–and you. 

When you take him on walks or fun excursions to the pet store, more people will come to pet him. I’ve made many friends when taking my dogs out. 

People are naturally drawn to a well-behaved puppy. So, when people came up to my group of dogs and they sat, people would give them a lot of attention and pet them.

And this is something you can practice with your puppy when you greet him. Instead of jumping all over you when you arrive home, work on having him do a default sit.

PRO-TRAINER TIP: Before practicing with your puppy, make sure that he’s had enough exercise to be able to settle down and work. If he has too much energy, he won’t be able to sit or hold a sit-stay. In training, it’s important to set our dogs up to be successful. 

Another bonus of a puppy learning that he gets rewarded for sitting is that he’ll come to you and offer to sit. 

Puppies are smart. He’ll learn that he gets what he wants when he sits. So if he wants to play, teach him that he has to sit before playing. Then, the next time he plays, he may offer a sit behavior without your verbal cue. 

I taught my Aussie mix Millie to sit before she wants something. She has a lot of excess energy and needed some impulse control and exercise. 

So she learned to sit before she plays ball before she plays games like tug and before she is fed. It really helped her get self-control in other situations too,

The Mechanics: How To Teach Your Dog To Sit

As is true of most dog training exercises, there’s more than one way to teach a puppy to sit. Dogs are individuals and they learn things in different ways and at various speeds.

Luring Into a Sit From a Stand

One way is to lure your puppy into position. You would do the following steps:

  • Hold a treat in your hand just in front of your dog’s nose. You can hold it between your fingers, which will help smaller dogs see and smell it. 
  • Slowly move the treat back towards your pup’s forehead, letting him sniff it as you move it. This should cause his head to go up and his rear to lower to the ground.
  • As soon as his rear hits the ground, praise him (“Yes!”) and immediately give him his reward treat.
  • Repeat the above steps a few times. Always end on a successful note and don’t spend more than five to 10 minutes per training session. 
  • Your entire training session should include only a few repetitions of each command. You don’t want your puppy to become bored with the training.
  • I don’t use a verbal cue of sit until he’s performed the sit behavior a few times and begins doing it without the food lure. After a few repetitions, add the “sit” cue.
  • If your puppy’s jumping for the treat, you’re probably holding it too high.
  • Once your puppy starts offering to sit, you can start to fade the food lure.
  • Eventually, as you fade the food lure, just give the verbal “sit” cue. Of course, praise and also reward after most times he sits.
  • Over time, as your puppy starts to sit on every cue, you can give treats more randomly. Give treats almost all the time, then a little less frequently over time, Still give verbal praise (“Yes! Good sit!).

What if your puppy doesn’t sit when you tell him to? If he’s just learning, add the food lure back again with your verbal sit cue. 

Then, again start to fade the lure as soon as your puppy understands what’s expected and starts offering to sit when you cue him to sit.

What if your puppy backs up instead of sitting when luring him into a sit? Generally, this occurs when someone moves the treat lure back too fast. So just move it more slowly back when luring your puppy into a sit position.

The motion you made to lure your puppy into a sit can actually become a hand signal for him to sit.

Luring Into a Sit From a Down

Another way to train a dog to sit is by luring him up from the down position. This is usually more difficult to accomplish than luring a dog back into a sit from the standing on all fours position. 

  • When your puppy is lying down, you can put a great treat in front of his nose and very slowly move the treat straight up. 
  • Your puppy should do a sort of push-up and wind up into a sitting position. 
  • Praise and reward with a treat immediately after he sits.
  • If he isn’t lured up into a sit by the treat, you may have to use a higher-value treat or make sure that your puppy’s hungry when you practice.

Capturing the Sit Behavior

What can you do if your puppy won’t lure into a sit with a treat? You can try capturing when he sits. 

Most dogs will sit on their own at some time. They may not understand that’s a behavior that we desire, but it’s a natural position for most puppies. 

All we have to do is reward that position for the puppy to understand that sitting is a behavior that we desire. A general principle of dog training is that behavior that’s rewarded will repeat itself.

One of my rescues was a sheltie named Lady. She was an older adult around seven years old when I rescued her. 

She knew her name but didn’t know any commands. And she wouldn’t lure back into a sit with a treat despite being very treat motivated. 

So I waited until she sat on her own. As soon as she did, I rewarded Lady with a great treat. 

Then, a light bulb went on and she started to sit every time she was around me. It was really cute to see how excited she was when she realized that a behavior she did all her life could be so highly rewarded. 

I praised and rewarded that behavior and eventually added the cue “sit.” She learned to sit on a verbal cue and I eventually gave fewer treat rewards but still praised her behavior.

PRO-TRAINER TIP: Have your training treats ready before giving your puppy a command. You need to immediately verbally reinforce desired behavior and give him his treat. A training treat should be no larger than the size of a pea. You can even mix some of his kibble with the more high-value treats so that the kibble absorbs the scent of the great treats. By doing this, you won’t give too many calories with new treats.

Teaching Sit-Stay

After you teach your puppy to sit on cue, you will want to teach him to stay. In order to do this, make sure that he’s had enough exercise and doesn’t want to bounce up. 

Then, stop rewarding him as soon as he sits. Instead, wait a few seconds before praising and rewarding with a treat after he sits. 

Eventually, add more time randomly, requiring him to sit for longer times off and on. You can add the “stay” cue after the “sit” cue. 

In teaching a dog to stay, there are three factors to consider: distance, duration, and distraction. I believe teaching a puppy to sit for longer durations until you release them is required before adding distance moving away from your pup or adding distractions. 

After your pup will sit for at least 20 or 30 seconds on your command, you can start to take a step away, reminding him to stay before you move. 

You can also add a hand signal for stay, such as putting your flat hand palm facing him right in front of your dog’s nose before you move. 

Give the signal and tell him to stay. Then, after a few seconds at first, take a step back to him. Over time, add longer times that you step away. 

As your puppy’s able to handle it, over weeks, move away at further distances then return to him before you release him. 

In the beginning, while he’s learning what “stay” means, don’t call him out of it to come. If you do, he may anticipate getting up and it will break his stay. 

Wait until he really understands that he’s supposed to remain in a sit until you release him before you call him out of the sit-stay to come to you..

In addition to teaching your puppy to stay, you should also teach him to generalize the behavior to other settings. So teach him that he has to perform a sit in different rooms and on your walks after he understands what sit means and will perform it on each try. 

Only add these distractions after he understands what sit means because you don’t want to add distractions until he can handle them.

Reasons Why Your Puppy Might Not Sit

If your puppy isn’t luring from a stand or down into a sit, you need to discover why to fix the problem. Make sure that you’re luring the treat slowly and not too quickly for him to follow it. 

If you move the treat too slowly, he also may not lure into a sit. So try different speeds of moving the treat for your puppy. Generally, just a steady relatively slow lure motion with a treat works.

If you’re trying to teach your dog how to sit on cue by capturing when he naturally sits, make sure that you have your reward treats ready to give him immediately after he sits. 

If you’re fishing for the treats, he may be doing other behaviors than sitting by the time you have the treats ready. Dogs will comprehend only that they’re being rewarded for behaviors that occur immediately before getting the treat.

There are other reasons why a puppy or adult dog may not sit. There might be a physical reason why he doesn’t want to sit.

He may have a genetic problem with his hips, knees, muscles, ankles, or joints that limit his ability to properly sit. Or he may have some sort of injury that makes sitting difficult. 

He may be too obese to comfortably sit. Or he may have a condition such as arthritis or impacted anal glands that make sitting painful.

If you’ve tried to get him to sit and he doesn’t even with great treats, it may be time for a vet visit to rule out a physical problem. 

If your vet finds a physical problem, she can set up treatment, rehabilitation, or management program as is appropriate.

If it turns out that sitting just isn’t possible or desirable for your dog, don’t despair. You can teach him to do a stand-stay or a down-stay instead if your vet finds that these are better for your pup.

Some dogs won’t sit because they’ve had a negative experience in the past when they sat. 

I was training some greyhounds, who had been former racing dogs. They apparently had been harshly corrected if they sat in view of people. 

So the scared dogs would not lure back into a sit. But, because they were physically able to sit, they would eventually sit on their own once they felt comfortable with the people who adopted them. 

The new owners started praising and rewarding when they sat. And eventually, the dogs realized that sitting was something that was rewarded, they began to sit and wait for the praise and great treats they got afterward.

Another reason a dog might not want to sit is he isn’t comfortable with the surface he’s on. Sometimes a dog wants a certain surface, such as carpet, rather than a hard surface like tile to sit on. 

A hard surface may not be comfortable or maybe too cold or hot for some dogs. Dogs without much hair like pit bulls, greyhounds, or chihuahuas will feel an uncomfortable surface more than a dog with a longer coat will. 

And some dogs with thick coats like shelties or German shepherds may slide on a slick surface like tile, linoleum, or wood and may not like sitting on those surfaces.

What NOT To Do: Don’t Try This at Home

It can be really frustrating when our pups don’t behave as expected. But if your puppy doesn’t lure into a sit or if he doesn’t sit when he’s around you, it’s important to try to find out why. 

As I described above, there may be a behavioral reason such as things that occurred in his past or a physical reason why he won’t sit.

If you’re not sure why a vet visit is probably in order to ensure that there isn’t a physical reason why he’s unable or unwilling to sit.

It’s important not to physically force him into a sit. If he has a physical reason not to sit, you may cause him injury or pain by doing so. 

Even for dogs that don’t have a physical reason for not sitting, pushing his rear down can cause hand shyness in puppies. And it can even cause reactivity or aggression in some dogs. 

The techniques listed above of luring a dog into a sit or capturing the behavior of sitting are much better than using brute force.

Also, get into the habit of saying the command just once. If you say “sit, sit, sit, sit, sit,” that becomes the command to the puppy.

FAQs

How old does a puppy need to be to learn how to sit?

Even a very young puppy can learn how to sit. Usually, a puppy isn’t placed in a home before he’s eight weeks old. 

After he settles into your home, you can start with some basic commands such as learning his name and responding to a sit cue.

Some breeders or rescues even work with puppies before they reach their forever homes, rewarding when a puppy sits so that he learns it’s a behavior we desire. 

How do I train a stubborn puppy to sit?

First of all, there are no stubborn puppies. I understand that it may seem that way sometimes. But when a puppy isn’t performing the behavior we want, he’s usually confused, not rewarded properly, has too much energy, or has a physical problem. 

So if your puppy has had enough exercise and you have great rewards that he likes, you just have to find out what method to use such as luring him into a sit with a treat or capturing when he sits and praising and rewarding him.

Make sure that you praise and reward immediately after he sits.

What are the best ways to teach my puppy to sit?

Usually, you can lure a puppy into a sit by placing a treat just above his nose and very slowly moving it back towards his forehead. Have a great treat ready and immediately praise and give him the treat after he sits. 

Or you can praise and reward immediately after he sits on his own and capture the desired behavior. Remember: young puppies have very short attention spans.

So perform just a few repetitions during each training session and always end on a successful note.

How long does it take to teach a puppy to learn how to sit?

Some puppies can start to sit during their first training lesson. But it usually takes any puppy at least a few weeks to start to perform a reliable, default sit in various situations.

Final Thoughts

Teaching a puppy to sit is really important. It can teach impulse control and be used in many real-life situations. And it can potentially even save his life. 

He can learn to perform a default sit when he greets you and others. It can keep him from darting outdoors or into the street.

If your puppy won’t sit for some reason, a vet visit’s in order to determine that there’s no physical reason for his inability or reluctance to sit.

Have you taught your dog to sit?

What methods did you use?

Please tell us about it in the Comment Section below.

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How To Teach Your Puppy "Sit" - puppy sitting in the grass.

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