The Complete Guide to Teaching Your Dog “Sit” - PetFirst
The Complete Guide to Teaching Your Dog “Sit”
Pet Care & Health

The Complete Guide to Teaching Your Dog “Sit”

by MetLife Pet Insurance
4 years ago

You may want to ask your dog to sit before you place his meal in front of him, you may want him to wait patiently for the green light before you cross the street. Or you may simply just want to spend some time building your relationship with him.

Training commands give you the perfect opportunity to do just that.  

Whatever your reason for wanting to train your dog to sit, we have the ultimate guide for doing so.  

Before we start, it’s worth exploring a little dog training 101.  If you know how dogs learn, it makes it much easier for you to help them do it! 

All dog learns based on the consequence of a behavior, even designer breed dogs.  Just like us humans.   

We go to work because we pick up a paycheck at the end of the week or month.  We buy our coffee from that shop on Second because they have that super-smooth blonde roast. 

If a dog experiences a positive consequence from a behavior, they are more likely to repeat it.  So, if they receive a happy, jovial “good dog,” a treat, a throw of the ball or a tug of the toy after they do something, they’re more likely to think the behavior that preceding this good thing was a good choice to make.

It’s as simple as ABC! 

  • A is for antecedent 
  • B is for behavior
  • C is for consequence

But when we are training dogs, we do it a little backward.  We start with B and C, then add in A.

When training sits, it goes a little like this.  

With your dog in front of you, hold a treat above his nose.  He will sniff at it (providing it is high value enough – we’re talking liver chunks, cheese, etc.).  Move the treat backward.  His nose should follow the treat.  As it does, he will tip his head backwards and his bottom will instinctively touch the ground.  As soon as this happens, give him the treat.  You want him to associate his bottom touching the ground with the good thing that happens! 

Repeat.  Several times.   

He’ll probably start getting quicker. 

Now we need to throw our A into the mix.   

When his bottom touches the ground, you need to label the behavior.  This is what we can call the Antecedent, or A.  By definition, this means what happens before.  We want him to be able to sit on command, don’t we?  

Repeat.  Several times.  He’ll soon learn, that when you say this word, you want his bottom to touch the ground because when it does, good things happen.  

You will then get to the stage where you can say “sit.”  He will sit.  Then you can reward. 

A – Antecedent – Command 

B – Behaviour – He sits 

C – Consequence – Treat/praise 

Once you are both confident in this stage, you can start reducing how often you reward. 

You can still praise, but when he sits on command, you no longer give him a treat every time.   

Some owners choose to stick to a pattern, for example, every third sit, they treat.  However, some dogs get savvy to this and start counting.  They may try only performing a full sit every third command.   

Variable treating can be helpful here.  There is no rhyme or reason to when you treat, you may treat every other, then every fourth command and then treat two commands in succession.  Here, the dog must perform because they can’t predict which performance will result in a treat.   

Command with variable treating can also be added to your daily walks.  In a 30-minute walk, give yourself a target of asking your dog to sit 15 times.  You may treat 13 of those commands, you may only treat 4 or 5.  A few days later, try it again and mix up when you treat.  It helps to solidify his training and also makes the walk a little more interesting.   

Be mindful not to over-train your dog, especially if they are a young pup.  A tired pup will start to get distracted and not perform.  It’s always best to end a session before you get to this stage, but if they do start to struggle, finish the session on the command you know they can perform, or at least lure them easily into performing. 

You always want to end a session on a high.  They are much more likely to want to train again next time then!

We hope these tips helped you and your furry friend bond and learn how to sit on command!

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