How to Teach ‘Sit’

By Jerry D. Patillo, CPDT-KA
© 2014 Phoenix Behavior Consulting

25 Uses for Sit

54-9983a. Place a small treat in front of your dog's nose.
54-9983a. Place a small treat in front of your dog's nose.

To teach your dog how to sit on cue, have your palm open and facing the ceiling. Hold a food treat in the same hand with your thumb and index finger. Hold the treat just in front of your dog’s nose. Lift the treat slightly above your dog’s eye level. If you raise the treat too high, then your dog will have a tendency to jump up to get the treat. Push your hand away from you slightly over your dog’s head. When your dog looks up at the treat, it will probably put its butt on the floor to keep an eye on the treat going over its eyes. As soon as it sits, click! AFTER you click, give your dog a treat. Praise your dog warmly.

54-9985a. Raise the treat slightly above your dog's eye level.
54-9985a. Raise the treat slightly above your dog's eye level.

Don’t say your puppy’s name or the word “Sit” just yet. That will come later. Just watch your dog follow the food lure. The click (or your “Yes!”) will tell your dog that putting its butt on the floor is what earned it the reward. The click will automatically release it from that behavior. So, you don’t really care what it does after the click (unless your puppy is jumping up or chewing on your shoe!). You can give the treat directly to your dog. Or, you can toss it on the floor a few inches away from your dog. This will get it out of the Sit position. This will give your pup another opportunity to practice the behavior again.

54-9990a. Don't bring the treat up too high, or your dog may jump up to try to get the treat.
54-9990a. Don't bring the treat up too high, or your dog may jump up to try to get the treat.

Once your puppy is sitting reliably 80% of the time, you can start issuing the cue, “Sit!” Think of it in terms of A, B, C — Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence:

A – Antecedent. This is the cue, prompt, or command that comes before the desired behavior. Call your dog’s name to get its attention, then tell it what you want it to do. “Rover, Sit!”

 B – Behavior. With the treat in your hand, lure your dog into the desired position, in this case, “Sit!”

C – Consequence. Immediately when your dog does the desired behavior, click! AFTER you click (or say “yes!”), give your dog a treat. In other words, the instant your dog’s butt hits the floor, click! After you click, give your dog a treat. The click is actually a “bridge” between the behavior and its consequence. It tells your dog (1) which behavior (2) earned the reward.

Say the command only once; don’t repeat it over and over. You don’t want your dog to learn that this is the “Sit, sit, sit, sit, SIT!” command. And, you don’t want it to learn that “Sit, sit, sit, sit, SIT!” means “I can ignore Mommy and continue doing what I was doing.”

Say the command once. If your dog does not sit immediately, give it 45 seconds to respond. If it does not sit within those 45 seconds, then stop saying the word “Sit” for a while. Lure the dog into a Sit position ten more times without saying the word. Then try A-B-C again: (A) Say “Sit.” (B) Lure the dog into the Sit position. When your dogs sits, click! (C) AFTER you click, then give your dog a treat. A little patience usually makes the light bulb go on in your dog’s head. The moment your dog’s behind hits the floor, click! and then treat.

If you need help teaching your dog to sit on cue, or any other behavior, please call us today. We can help!