How To Teach a Dog To Sit

Having a difficult time teaching your dog to sit? Set aside just five minutes to start teaching this basic trick!

Next Project
Time

Multiple Days

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

Less than $20

Introduction

Training a dog to sit is one of the simplest but most practical tricks a dog can learn. It teaches your dog manners, safety and patience, among other things. Read on for how to teach your dog to sit in four simple steps. The two of you will have it mastered in no time!


Tools Required

  • A clicker (optional to be used in place of or in tandem with a verbal marker)

Materials Required

  • Dog treats

Project step-by-step (8)

Step 1

Find Some Space and Patience

  • When training your dog, it's essential to pick an area that encourages your dog to move about and reset the behavior.
    • Someplace comfortable, such as your living room or kitchen, will put them in the optimal mental headspace for learning.
  • Come prepared to be patient.

Teach your dog to sit

Step 2

Attract Your Dog's Attention

  • Hold a small, tasty dog treat to you dog's nose.
    • Pick something your dog can smell in your hand, such as a little bit of cheese or fresh meat.

Teach your dog to sit

Step 3

Get Your Dog to Sit

  • As your dog sniffs for the treat, slowly move your hand back and over the dog's head in an arc.
    • As your dog's head goes back to look at the treat, their rear end will lower to the ground.
    • Note that over time, this arcing hand motion over your dog's head will become their visual cue to sit.

Teach your dog to sit

Step 4

Mark the Desired Behavior

  • As soon as your dog's bottom touches the floor, use the clicker and/or verbal marker (i.e. say "good.")
  • At the same time, reward your dog with the yummy treat in your hand.

Teach your dog to sit

Step 5

Reset and Repeat

  • Place a fresh treat slightly in front of your dog to encourage them to stand up again.
  • Repeat Steps 2 through 4.
  • Continue for a minimum of three minutes, but no longer than five minutes.

Teach your dog to sit

Step 6

Practice

  • Repeat practice sessions three times each day for sessions of three to five minutes.
    • This practice should always be in a similar environments to start with (e.g. quiet family room).
  • Once your dog is sitting eight out of 10 times using the visual cue — your arcing hand motion over your dog's head — you can progress to the next step (adding a verbal cue).
    • Expect this to take three or four training sessions, over a couple of days.

Teach your dog to sit

Step 7

Add a Verbal Cue

  • Say "sit," pause, then add your visual cue (the arcing hand motion).
    • Don't make this dog training mistake: Always add any new cue BEFORE using the old one, not the other way around.
  • Click or mark at the same moment as before — just as your dog's rear end touches the floor.
  • Repeat as before — in three to five-minute training sessions, three times a day — until your dog begins to preempt your hand motion, sitting simply on the verbal cue.
    • Verbal cues can take anywhere from one to 10 training sessions for a dog to learn.
  • Have a little party with your dog to celebrate learning their new trick!

Teach your dog to sit

Step 8

Set Your "Sit"

  • Practice your dog's "sit" in different settings to make the trick stick. (What your dog can perform flawlessly in the kitchen they may struggle to understand at the dog park.)

    • As with teaching any new dog behavior, take it back to basics and slowly work up the end result.
    • If your dog struggles, go back to the environment where they learned the trick so they can perform it successfully again.
    • Keep at it until your dog can easily sit in many different environments. It will likely take up to two weeks.
  • Reduce the number of treats.
    • Once your dog has proofed the behavior in different environments, you can start to reduce the number of treats you give as a reward. Start by rewarding every other sit and progress to rewarding with their favorite dog toy.

Teach your dog to sit