How to teach your dog to sit

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The command “sit” is the first stage in the learning process for many dogs and owners, given that it employs the dog’s spontaneous skills.

We want to teach you two simple techniques so that your dog responds to this basic command and starts to learn to control themselves and sit when you ask them to.

A dog’s sitting position is the basic position in canine training. Your dog must know the command “sit” and respond to it immediately, whatever the situation may be: when there are children playing nearby, when the postman comes, in the presence of other dogs, etc.

This position will allow your dog to focus their attention and make them forget about their natural impulses. What’s more, a seated dog won’t bother your neighbours when you are in a lift with them, or children when they are leaving school.

The passive method

This method is used by taking advantage of your dog’s natural behaviour to sit down when they feel like it. By doing this, they won’t perceive the command “sit” as an order, but as a position that suits them and gets them treats and their belly rubbed. The method is very simple, but it requires a lot of attention and good timing.

Every time your dogs sits of their own free will, you can say the command “sit” and praise them with sweets and belly rubs. You have to know how to recognise and anticipate when your dog is going to sit down to say the word at the exact moment. Your dog will quickly associate the word with this position.

The solution so as to not have to keep an eye on your dog all day waiting for them to sit down is to make the most of play time. When you are about to throw the ball, your dog is going to sit down naturally while they are waiting and following your movements. Make the most of this moment to tell them to “sit” before throwing the ball.

The active method

This consists of encouraging your dog to adopt the seated position.

For balance reasons, a dog that lifts their head and moves it back is obliged to sit down (in order to not fall). We are going to use this situation to teach them.

Take a treat and hold it above your dog’s nose. They will lift their head to look and smell it. Then, extend your arm towards your dog’s hips. To carry on looking at the prize, they are going to move their head back, and their natural reflex will be to sit down to be able to keep an eye on the treat and not turn around like we would do.

The majority of dogs instinctively sit when doing this exercise. All that is left to do is add the word “sit” at the adequate moment and, lastly, give them the well deserved prize.

Some more rebellious dogs walk backwards instead of sitting down. If this is the case with your dog, you can always try the exercise in front of a wall or in a corner so they are unable to walk backwards.

The second step of the method involves repeating the exercise without the prize. Then they follow the same rules but without a treat in your hand.

Lastly, repeat the exercise without moving your arm so that your dog only responds to the verbal command.

Advice on how to teach your dog to sit:

  • Remember not to force your dog and especially don’t push on your dog’s hips to get them to sit down. Doing this will only cause your dog to resist and try to get up. Even if you manage to get them to sit down using force, your dog will see the command as a restriction and the word “sit” will be associated with a submissive position and they will no longer do it naturally. What’s more, dogs hips are fragile and you could hurt them.

  • Begin the exercise in a familiar and calm place like your house, without lots of distractions for your dog, and then you can practise in the street, and even around other dogs.

  • Like any other exercise, prepare to be patient because your dog’s learning completely depends on your willingness to teach them. Remember that the only failure is when you stop trying!

  • Try not to overwhelm your dog with training, and always try to end it after they have done something well, after their deserved treat and verbal praise. This way your dog will be wanting to spend more time with you learning new things.

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