How to teach a dog to sit

How to teach a dog to sit by Anna Hope


  • Ensure you begin in a calm place; the house is quiet and there isn’t much going on around you.
  • Choose your marker, a clicker or marker word, if you are unsure of these please see our article here. Marking is the critical part of training and makes your training quicker, stronger and keeps training successful. You will only need it for as long as it takes your dog to learn something. For example, if you are using it to teach your dog to sit then you only need to use a marker in your training until you are at the stage where your dog sits when you ask them to. They know it so you don’t need your teaching tool any more.
  • Choose some tasty food. If you are at home you can most likely use some of their dry kibble. You only need something small.

When we teach our dogs something:

  1. We need a cue, a visual or verbal cue. A hand signal or a phrase.
  2. A marker – a clicker or marker word/thumbs up (as applicable).
  3. A reward.
  4. Set yourself some criteria.

How to teach a Sit.

  1. Hold a small piece of food close to your dogs’ nose, allow them to sniff and slowly raise your hand upwards. Keep in contact with their nose.
  2. Their body should move with their head raising and bottom lowering. Watch closely and as soon as their bottom touches the floor MARK it (say good/click).
  3. They then get the food.
  4. Repeat! Lots!

Once your dog is doing this well, move on to the next step:

  1. With no food in your fingers, hold them to your dogs nose as before and move your hand in the same way upwards.
  2. As soon as your dogs bottom touches the floor, mark it.
  3. Then present them with a treat.
  4. Repeat! Lots!

To continue:

Once your dog is doing this well you can add in the name for it. Before you use your hand at their nose, say ‘Sit’ and everything else is the same. Still raise your hand, mark and reward.

The it’s a matter of practising this everywhere and always remember to say the word ‘sit’ BEFORE you use your hand. Your hand signal for a sit then becomes a hand raised and the word ‘sit’ actually begins to mean something to your dog.

Once they are consistently doing this well you don’t need to reward them with a piece of food every time. Instead, vary it and give them a treat every 3rd or 4th time for example.

Useful to know: when your dog is super distracted you may need to go back to step 1 in those circumstances. For example, if your dog is sitting all of the time but struggles when a family member returns home, this is normal, give them time and go back to step 1 in these circumstances.

They’ll soon pick it up again.

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