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One of the first behaviors you’ll teach your dog is to sit. After all, if your dog is sitting, they can’t be jumping on you or running around the house. But many dog owners struggle to get their dogs to stay seated. Dogs often pop back up only moments after placing their rear ends on the ground. Other times, dogs refuse to sit at all. If you’re struggling to get a solid sit from your dog, read on for tips and a fun trick.

Steps to Teach Your Dog to Sit

The most popular way to teach sit is with lure and reward training using a handful of delicious treats. A clicker can also help mark the exact moment your dog sits. To guarantee success, train when your dog is relaxed in an environment without distractions.

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The following steps will help you to lure a sit:

  1. With your dog standing, hold a treat to their nose.
  2. Slowly lift the treat over their head and towards their rear. As your dog lifts their head to follow the treat with their nose, their back end should drop to the ground.
  3. As soon as your dog is in a sitting position, click your clicker and/or praise them and offer the treat as a reward.
  4. To get your dog standing again, either walk away and call them over or toss another treat a few feet away. Then, repeat the first three steps.
  5. Once your dog reliably follows the treat into a sitting position, it’s time to fade the lure. Use an empty hand to lure the dog and reward the sit with a treat from your other hand. The movement of your empty hand will become your hand signal.
  6. When your dog reliably sits for your empty hand, you can add your verbal cue (“sit”) right before you give the hand signal. In time, your dog should respond to the verbal cue alone.

Tips for Training Your Dog to Sit

Avoid pushing down your dog’s hind end. That can be intimidating and confusing. Also, be sure to present the treat while your dog is sitting to reinforce that position. If you wait until your dog is standing again, or even lure them inadvertently back to a stand as you search for a treat, you will encourage your dog to pop out of their sit right after their rear hits the ground.

Cocker Spaniel sitting in front of a person on command.
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If your dog is struggling to understand what you’re asking for, you can also lure them from a down position. Start with them lying on the ground, then shape their behavior to work towards a sit, a bit at a time. Hold a treat at their nose, then slowly raise the treat up until they lift their head. Click and/or praise and treat that movement. Next, raise the treat a bit more until they lift their chest off the ground. Continue to raise the treat higher and higher with each repetition until they are lifting themselves into a sitting position.

Finally, you can capture a sit. That means whenever your dog sits on their own, you click and/or praise, then reward the behavior. After a while, your dog will start offering you sits just to earn a treat. When that happens, you can add your verbal cue right before your dog is about to sit.

Make Sitting a Default Behavior

Default behaviors are those behaviors a dog chooses to do in absence of a cue from their owner or other handler. Wouldn’t it be nice if your dog chose to sit instead of jumping or running around? But how do you influence your dog’s decision-making? Well, the more you work on sit in your training, the more your dog will be likely to sit in the future. But to really seal the deal, reward your dog for sitting whenever they choose to do it on their own.

So, if your dog walks over to you and sits, reward that. If your dog sits while you’re filling the food dish, reward that too. And so on. In each situation, you might initially have to ask your dog to sit, but after enough repetitions, they will offer a sit on their own.

Don’t take it for granted! Praise and reward your dog with whatever you can – a treat, a game of tug-of-war, or a toss of their ball. In time, your dog will offer sits whenever they want something in hopes to earn a reward. It becomes their way of saying “please.”

Teach Your Dog to Sit Pretty

Once your dog has mastered sit, you can teach the trick “sit pretty.” This is where your dog sits on their haunches with their front paws in the air in a begging position. It’s irresistibly cute and easy to train.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi sitting up on its hind legs begging outdoors.
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The following steps will teach your dog to sit pretty:

  1. Ask your dog to sit.
  2. Once they are sitting, hold a treat to their nose and slowly lift it up. Your dog should rise to reach the treat. As soon as their front paws come off the ground, click and/or praise, and reward.
  3. Repeat the second step, but bring the treat higher this time so your dog must rise even more before you reward them. Continue to build height until your dog has reached the proper sit pretty position.
  4. Once your dog will sit up with the treat lure, fade the lure by using an empty hand. That will become your hand signal. Continue to reward your dog when they sit pretty.
  5. Now that your dog responds to the hand signal, add a verbal cue like “sit pretty” or “beg” right before the hand signal. In time, they should respond to the verbal cue alone.

If your dog struggles to balance, offer your forearm as a resting place for their front paws until they learn to hold themselves up. In no time, your dog will not only have a solid sit behavior, but an adorable trick as well.

Related article: How to Teach Your Dog to Lie Down
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