How do you teach your dog to "sit" on command?

By: David Coax

A good start to dog behavior Training is teaching a dog to sit on command. How do I teach my dog to "sit" on command?

At the start of the dog behavior training use a food treat, hold the food over the dog's nose and slowly move it up and back over the dog's head. As the dog follows the food with its head, the dog will sit down. Now couples the word “sit" with the action. The upward motion of the hand, as you hold the food treat also serves as a visual for the dog. If the dog lifts front legs you have the food treat too high. As soon as the dog sits, say "Yes" and give the treat. Numerous repetitions will be required for the dog to learn the association of food to command.

Gradually, as the dog understands the command, only give the treats intermittently. You should practice sit in many places throughout your home and outside environment, examples are sitting before crossing the road, it is especially important to teach your dog to sit by the front door. A dog who readily sits by the front door will do better when greeting guests. After many repetitions your dog will associate the command and “Sit”.

There will come to a stage where your dog will hear command of “Sit” but will not carry out the physical action of the command. (She knows the command but refuses to carry it out). This is where negative reinforcement comes into action (Please read information on Motivation principles). All that is required is a common sense and consistent approach that uses a clear and well time correction.

One method of negative reinforcement is using a good quality check chain that should be properly fitted around her neck attached to a quality leather lead during all training exercises.
To perform the correction on her all that is required is a verbal que of “Ah Ah” and one quick well-timed pull on the lead. This will be all the correction that she needs to perform the action of sitting and complying with your command. Always after the command is complied to add verbal encouragement of “Yes”, Enthusiasm in your voice.) You can measure the amount of pull on the lead by using a scale from 1 to 10. Some dogs only required a small amount of pull say around 1 to 3 where other dogs are very tolerant and can put up with larger amounts of negative reinforcement a pull on the lead of a force required can be around 6 to 9. You need to be very aware of the pull required on your dog as too much pull say level 7 on a dog that only need a level 3 can cause your dog to such down, become withdrawn and not enjoy training. Every dog is different and if you are unsure please consults with your trainer.

The last stage of the “Sit” command is what I call the “PROOFING”, this is where your dog knows your command and complies but is distracted and moves from the “Sit”. So how do we get her not to be distracted and comply maintain “Sitting”?

First we use the command of “sit” and dog complies, we add verbal positive reinforcement of “Yes”. We then add a distraction of rolling a ball past her or having someone running past. If your dog goes to move, use negative reinforcement that is described above i.e.: a clear and well timed correction. Again a verbal que of “No” and a quick well timed pull on the lead attached to the check chain at the appropriate level. When she complied add the verbal positive reinforcement of “Yes.” You will need to practice distractions often until your dog is not influenced by distractions and all of her attention is focus on you. Most importantly your dog must know and perform the command with ease before “Proofing” is applied.

At the completion of the 3 stages of Starting with Positive reinforcement then moving to negative reinforcement and ending with the “Proofing”. Your dog will hear the command and perform it without getting distracted. It is up to you as the dog’s trainer/ Owner to get the dog to perform and how you train is up to the length of time spent and how often you train will determine the results that you achieve.

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