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Have you ever seen a Service Dog wait outside of a store while his owner went inside to do something? Did you watch him remain perfectly seated while people and perhaps even animals passed by? Were you amazed as the minutes ticked by and the dog remained in place? Finally, his owner appeared and he rose from sitting to return to his owner's side and to walk away at a perfect heel.
It is always so impressive when you see a really well-trained dog. Chances are that that dog learned to sit when he was a puppy, just like your puppy. German Shepherds are very intelligent dogs, who tend to love to work and to please their owners. Your little guy might seem very far from becoming as skilled as that Service Dog, but he is probably very trainable and eager to learn what you have to teach him.
Knowing how to 'sit' is not only nice for passing a Puppy Obedience Class, but it is also extremely useful in everyday life. Knowing how to sit can make your dog more polite. It can keep him from pulling on the leash when you meet others while out on a walk. It is essential for nearly every canine sport. It precedes many other tricks, such as 'stay', 'shake', balancing things, and holding items. It is an important step for teaching other commands, such as 'down'. It can be used to get your dog's attention, and it might even save your dog's life one day, if you need your dog to stay seated around cars.
As a working breed, your German Shepherd will probably benefit from being given commands to do to earn his daily rewards as he grows. 'Sit' is a great command to have your dog do before meals, before being taken for a walk, or before being thrown a ball. Incorporating commands into fun activities can stimulate your dog mentally, and 'sit' is a simple command that is easy for your puppy to learn.
'Sit' is a fairly simple command. Expect this to take between five and ten days to teach. Most puppies will understand the 'sit' position rather quickly, but it might take your puppy longer to learn how to sit when only given the verbal command. If your puppy is afraid of being touched, it is best to avoid doing the 'Position' method. Instead, choose a less confrontational method such as the 'Treat Luring' method or the 'Capture' method. When using the 'Position' method, be sure not to force your puppy's bottom all the way to the ground. You are simply applying pressure to the base of the tail while lifting your puppy's head, to encourage your puppy to lower his bottom to the floor. Forcing your puppy's bottom to the floor too strongly could injure your puppy's legs if done incorrectly.
To get started, you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If your puppy is really food motivated, then you can use your puppy's dog food as treats. If you are using the 'Capture' method then you will also need small bowls or zip-lock bags to place the treats into, as well as good timing, careful attention, and patience. If you are struggling to get your puppy to sit using the 'Treat Luring' method, you will need an empty corner in a calm room to practice in, in order to keep your puppy from backing up. Teaching your puppy to sit should be fun for both of you. Make sure you bring a fun, upbeat attitude, and lots of patience to each training session.
The Treat Luring Method
Face your puppy
To begin, have your puppy stand in front of you, facing you. Show your puppy a treat in your hand.
Move the treat
When your puppy is focused on the treat, touch the treat to your puppy's nose and slowly move the treat from your puppy's nose toward the back of your puppy's head, keeping the treat high enough for your puppy to see it. This should cause your puppy to look up to follow the treat. When the treat gets to the point where your puppy cannot look up any higher to follow it, then he will have to sit in order to view it.
When your puppy begins to sit, tell him "Sit" and when his bottom touches the floor, immediately praise your puppy and give him the treat to eat.
Practice in a corner
If your puppy will not sit when you move the treat, then try moving the treat slower so that he will follow it. Also try practicing in a corner, so that he cannot back up to follow the treat. Repeat the process until your puppy will sit. It is normal for it to take several attempts the first time.
Phase out the lure
Practice luring your puppy into a 'sit' with the treat until your puppy begins to sit before you move the treat. When your puppy is doing that, then tell your puppy to "sit" and wait seven seconds before showing him the treat to remind him. When your puppy will consistently sit before being shown the treat, then only show him the treat after he has sat down and he is receiving it as a reward.
Practice this command often to improve your puppy's skill level. Practice this command around new forms of distractions, in new locations, and from longer distances. Incorporate this command into your puppy's daily life by having him sit for meals or before going on a walk. Gradually decrease the amount of treats that you reward your puppy with, until your puppy is receiving treats only at random times or for better performances, such as sitting in a very distracting environment, sitting more quickly than before, or sitting when given the command from farther away.
The Pressure Method
Touch your puppy
To begin, touch your puppy on his lower back, right above where his tail meets his back, and give him a treat, then touch him under his chin and give him a treat. Do this until he is comfortable being touched in both places.
Place your hands
When your puppy is comfortable being touched, place one hand under his chin, so that you are gently cupping his chin. Place two fingers from your other hand on the base of your puppy's tail, with one finger on either side of where his tail meets his back.
Lift and apply pressure
Tell your puppy "sit" and gently lift up your puppy's chin while also applying pressure down and inwards on the base of your puppy's tail. The area on either side of where your puppy's tail meets his back is a sensitive area, and applying pressure there should make your puppy sit. You are not pushing your puppy's back end to the floor with force though. Doing so could result in injury if your puppy were to lock his legs.
When your puppy's bottom touches the floor, remove your hands while praising him, then immediately give him a treat.
Repeat the process of lifting your puppy's chin and applying pressure to the base of his tail until he begins to sit as soon as you place your hands in those areas, but before you have lifted or applied any pressure. When your puppy sits as soon as you touch him, then command him to sit and wait seven seconds before touching him to remind him. Repeat this until your puppy will consistently sit when simply told to sit, without your touch.
Now that your puppy knows how to sit, practice often by having your puppy sit before meals, before walks, during games, and before being petted as well. Continue to improve his skill level by practicing around various types of distractions, in new locations, and from greater distances. Congratulations on teaching your puppy to 'sit'!
The Capture Method
Keep treats available
To begin, place treats in an easily accessible location, such as in bowls or zip-lock bags, placed out of your dog's reach in various locations throughout your home, or kept in your pocket at all times while training this.
Watch your dog carefully throughout the day. Anytime that your puppy begins to sit down, quickly tell him "sit" in a calm voice, and when his bottom touches the ground, praise him and offer him a treat. Repeat this process whenever you see him sitting.
Use just the command
When you have "captured" your puppy sitting at least twenty times and rewarded him, then try to tell him to 'sit' when he is not already about to do it on his own. After you tell him to sit, wait at least fifteen seconds to see if he will sit. This will give him time to think about what you are asking him to do. The first time that he sits when told to, praise him enthusiastically and offer him five treats, one at a time.
Continue to try
If your puppy will not sit when told to, then continue to practice "capturing" him sitting when he chooses to do it on his own. After you have successfully caught your puppy in the act of sitting and rewarded him for it several more times, then try telling him to "Sit" again. Repeat this process until your puppy will sit when you tell him to.
Now that your puppy knows how to "Sit", continue to practice often. You can reward him for sitting throughout his day with treats, his meals, attention, walks, toys, games, and anything else that he considers enjoyable. Practice having him sit around distractions, in new locations, or from further away to improve his skill. Add more complex tricks to this command, by having him 'stay, hold items, 'shake', or balance things on his head. Continue to enjoy training your puppy!
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021