Teach Your Puppy to Sit

Teaching the 'sit' cue is the first cue many dog owners want to teach their new dog or puppy. This cue can be used when you need your puppy or dog to focus her attention at certain times; for example, at the curb before crossing the road, in front of a food bowl before eating, at the front door when someone is coming in, and before the leash is attached.

Training Technique:
You can teach your dog to sit quickly and painlessly by following these easy, force-free steps.

  • Hold a treat by your dog’s nose and wait for him to figure out how he is going to get it out of your hand. Some dogs will lick or paw at it, but do not give it to him until he puts his behind on the floor.
  • Repeat this until your dog is sitting reliably then add the word 'sit' as he is in the process of sitting so that he begins to associate the word with the action.
  • When he is sitting repeatedly, start saying the word 'sit' as you present the treat to him.
  • Please note that if your dog is snaps at the food in your hand, you should be very careful and substitute a toy for the food. Using toys to teach this instead of food is also effective if your dog is more toy-motivated.
  • As with any cue, teach this in short increments so that your dog does not get bored, and be aware of your pup or dog’s physical comfort.
  • Sitting too much can be uncomfortable, especially for larger dogs.

© Dana Cubbage Photography 2013

Photo by Dana Cubbage Photography |

What NOT to do:

  • Never force your dog or puppy into a sitting position.
  • Do not use the leash to pull or yank the dog into a sit or physically push the dog’s bottom to the ground.

These techniques are ineffective—not to mention confusing and frightening for your dog.

Problem: My dog will not sit, even when I follow these instructions.

Solution: First of all, be patient! There might be too many distractions for your dog to focus on or your dog might not feel comfortable sitting in that particular environment. The surface might be too slippery, cold or hot or the action of sitting might be hurting him.

Problem: My dog sits, but then stands right up again.

Solution: Only reward the dog when he has his behind on the ground. If he stands before you reward him, remove the reward behind your back with an ‘uh oh’ vocal cue. Wait for a few seconds and repeat until the dog waits for his reward before he stands. You can also teach him a ‘release’ cue such as ‘ok’ to indicate when he can stand from the sit position.

Why Does My Dog Need to Know This?
As with all cues, sit is a valuable safety cue. You can use it at times or in situations when you need your dog to be seated and still. It helps improve and redirect a dog’s focus onto you, as well as building a language of communication between you.

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11 thoughts on “Sit

  1. Prajna

    To be honest, I thought for sure the pup in this video must have already had some training. Learning to sit in 5 minutes seemed impossible. Until I tried it with my nine-month-old puppy, Whimsy! We adopted her about six weeks ago, and today I tried Victoria's method. In 5 minutes she was doing it, just like Dylan! Even better, when I did a second session about three hours later she remembered the cue and sat right away, over and over. Thank you so much!

  2. Matthew

    Absolute truth of training: it is never too late to teach any dog any trick or obedience with the exception of health concerns. Have at it!

  3. Matthew

    You can actually start training at any age from noise tolerance as a new few weeks old puppy to basic sit at 8 weeks or older, as long as your dog/puppy is accustomed then she will take to the training well. So, enjoy your puppy and have fun training at your leisure.

  4. Matthew

    You can do 10-60 minute sessions depending entirely on your dog's tolerance. Every dog is different.
    You as the owner need to pay attention to his cues when he's had enough at the session though. If you pay attention these cues will be obvious.
    I usually don't recommend more than 3 60-minute sessions a day but it's absolutely not necessary to work that long.
    Also, always make sure your session ends on a good note. Whether that be a really good performance by your dog or a good fun game to end things so you don't end on "work" and walk away in your dogs eyes. You always want to end on a note that is rewarding to the dog which will also change his mindset from thinking he's working to playing.

  5. debbie

    My dog is 1 year old and terrible at meal times. How can I stop her trying to take the food off everyone's plate. If I shut her in another room she just howls.

  6. YouMakeMeFeelLikeA

    I also learned a similar positive method that incorporates luring the treat directly over the dog's head so that you manipulate a sit without touching them. They will automatically try to get the treat as it moves over their head which forces them to sit. My dog learned this in 3-4 tries and sits well on command both verbally and non-verbally.

  7. Michelle

    I am just working with a feral 2 yr old foster Lab. Beautiful but fearful (not aggressive fear, paralyzing fear). We've been working together 10-12 weeks. He's made awesome progress on house training, moving in the house, or just going through a doorway. He won't take treats for fear of being "caught" although he is incredibly affectionate and loves affection. He loves going out - so that is my "treat". He's afraid of hand movements (you know how you can guide the dogs nose back until there is a sit?)...I wondering what might be done at the door. I'll try cheese since thats his favorite treat. Any other suggestions? He will back into me and sit on my lap? Can that be a way of at least teaching him what sit actually is? At least in the beginning? I realize there is much much more at play any suggestions welcome. He trusts me...but Im the only one right now

  8. Myranda Miller

    Now. Don't wait. If you want your dog to listen well, start now. A puppy can learn a lot easier when they are younger.

  9. Tyrone Robinson

    my boxer puppy knows how to sit,stay,come,roll over,shake,hi five,and to jump i wanna teach her more but i dont know how so what else should i teach my dog and how? and i wanna teach her how to bark/speak but i cant do that she isnt much of a barking dog

  10. PhinsUp

    I work with a lot of fearful dogs for a rescue group. I currently have a foster who was afraid to take a treat from my hand. I started by briefly holding it in front of his nose (so he would associate me with the treat), then put it on the ground in front is him and stepped away. I gradually stepped less far away, until he would pick it up from the ground with me standing right in front of him. Then I held it in front of him. At first he would wait a bit before he took it, now he takes it right away.

    You can also try free-shaping. Whenever your dog sits, say "sit" right when his butt touches the ground. Then praise him just like you would if he sat at your command. He'll start to associate the word "sit" with sitting and getting praise.

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