Basic Training, Part 2: Sit

In part one of my Basic Training series, I talked about the command, “Touch” and how to use it in everyday life. In part two, I am going to talk about the command, “Sit.”

It’s pretty obvious on why you teach your dog to sit. But below are some of the ways I like to incorporate it into my dog’s everyday routine.

Politely wait for dinner. Instead of having a dog that is under your feet as you try to prepare their dinner, ask your dog to sit and wait until you give them the OK to start eating. This allows you to prepare their dinner in peace and it also teaches them polite manners and self-control.

Asking them to sit before getting their harness and leash on. I love taking dogs for walks, but I hate it when my dog is jumping up and down, running to the door and back to me, or just going insane the minute I grab their leash. If I am going to walk a dog, the least they can do is sit nicely as I get their leash on. Once I get their harness and leash on, I give them a release word that tells them, “now it’s OK to go insane.” At least until we start the walk.

Asking them to sit before going outside or coming back inside. You might be seeing a pattern here, but I love a polite dog. I appreciate when a dog scratches or barks at a door to inform me that they need to go out. But I like to instill polite behavior and some self-control, so I ask my dog to sit before going out the door. I don’t care if my dog goes ahead of me out the door, but I at least appreciate a little bit of patience.

Asking them to sit before coming up on the furniture. Think of sit as your dog’s way of saying, “please.” Instead of them telling you it’s time for a cuddle, have them ask nicely and then give them the OK. Again, this teaches polite behavior and self-control. And there are times when it just isn’t OK for them to be on the furniture. But if you are anything like me, you will allow them up 99.9% of the time.

OK, enough with the “polite behavior” talk. Below are the steps you should follow when teaching your dog to sit.

Start with your dog in a stand position (all four paws on the floor).

Hold a treat in one hand, very close to your dog’s nose.

Slowly move your hand over your dog’s head and towards the tail, keeping your hand very close to your dog’s nose.

When your dog’s hind end hits the floor, praise (“good!”) and reward with the treat.

Repeat four times. (To move your dog from a sit position into a stand position, hold a treat in one hand close to your dog’s nose and slowly move it forward until your dog is in a stand - see below for more detailed instructions.)

Next, start with your dog in a stand position, say “Sit” and then make the same hand signal (hand close to your dog’s nose, then slowly over the head) but without the treat in your hand. When your dog’s hind end hits the floor, praise and reward with the treat. Repeat four times.

As you practice, gradually modify your hand signal. Most people use one of the following signals: (1) Start with your arm at your side (hand close to your leg), then bend your elbow and bring your hand up to your shoulder; or (2) start with your elbow bent, hand by your shoulder, then point at your dog’s hind end.

Finally, say the cue word “sit” and wait to see what happens! Be patient – your dog may need a moment to think it through. If your dog is unsure, use your hand signal to help your dog get into the sit position. Praise and treat!

Practice alternating between a verbal cue and a hand signal until your dog is proficient with both. The verbal cue is handy when your hands are full (for example, if you are carrying groceries or making dinner), and the hand signal is helpful when you cannot talk to your dog (for instance, if you are on the phone or your dog is at a distance).

Are there any special ways that you use sit with your dog?


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