Sitting is a relatively easy command to teach your dog. To many experienced trainers, it is the first one on the list and can give you a great jump start to develop a relationship with your dog, set him in the mood of learning new stuff and giving you the role of the leader.
The Importance of Language
As you may know, the first thing to do is to teach your dog to respond to his name, in other words, to pay attention to you. This can also be achieved by your overall attitude: body language, speech and tone. Dogs are smart creatures but it is important that you use short words, a clear tone and gestures that can help the dog associate your movement to the command. At the beginning of every training session, get your dog’s attention by using all these elements mentioned, and always keep a bag of tasty treats, as dogs learn with positive reinforcements.
In order to teach your dog how to sit, you must follow simple steps that are very easy for both you and your pet. Simply put you need to:
- Get a treat in your hand and make your dog move around following your hand, then stop and place your hand over his head. The dog will sit, by instinct.
- As soon as the dog sits say as clear as you can “sit”. When the butt of the dog touches the floor try using a positive voice reinforcement like “good!” or “good boy!”. Be happy about it.
- Immediately after you do this, give the dog the treat that is in your hand.
- Repeat a few times, you will notice that the dog will obey to the “sit” command much faster than at the beginning
Try not to repeat the command more than once each time, so the dog gets used to obeying at the first time he is asked to do something. Also, keep your body language calm to ensure your dog does not get confused and understands that he is following orders and not playing. Ensure a fast sequence between the voice command, the voice reinforcement and the treat, so your dog gets conditioned to follow orders.
Once you managed to get your dog to master the first step, it is time to make him understand that he is not going to get a treat every time he follows the sit command. To do this you just have to make a few changes to the previous step. Every two or three times he sits, give him a treat. The rest of the times just say “good” or “good boy” and give him a gentle touch. This is because the dog will associate the verbal positive reinforcement with the promise of a treat, and eventually he will understand that he must follow the command and he will get a reward now or later.
Sit and Stay
Once your dog follows the sit command, you can condition him to stay longer in the position just by making a few changes to the previous step. In order to achieve this, increase the time between the verbal positive recognition (“good boy”) and the treat, but put another command in the middle (“stay” or “done” to either start a new or finish the last command), that way your dog will not confuse sitting with staying and breaking position. To put it easier, follow these steps:
- Ask your dog to sit. Once he dog sits say “good” or “good boy” a few times, for two or three seconds, and then break position by saying “break” or “free” or whatever word works best for you to let your dog know that he does not need to remain in this position.
- Try to think of a word that will not usually be used in other contexts besides ending the sit command.
- You can also try saying “sit” and once the dog sits, say “stay” and using another hand gesture for this command, like placing your hand open in front of the dog.
- Keep the dog in the stay position for a few seconds and then break by saying “free” and giving him a treat.
- Keep repeating this sequence, increasing the duration until you are satisfied.
Remember to use gesture at the beginning of every new command and eventually your dog will understand that both the words and your body language refer to the same command. Eventually these can be used independently with the same result.
Increase Distance and Time
As with the last part of the previous step, it is important to not only increase the time your dog stays sitting but also the distance that you can put between you and your dog. This is simply achieved by slowly moving apart while saying “stay”. Eventually your dog will stay longer no matter how close or far you are from him. Always remember to keep rewarding him for following instructions. Try to make training something that you do everyday for a few minutes a few times a day with your dog, and he will learn within weeks to follow the essential commands.