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Imagine crouching in a duck blind, perfectly still with your eyes on the horizon. Your Golden Retriever waits patiently by your side, clearly anticipating the excitement to come. You see a flock of ducks descend onto the pond, and your dog shuffles nervously beside you. You command your Retriever to 'sit' and take aim at a bird. The bird goes down into the water and you release your dog from his position with a "Fetch!". He shoots out like a rocket and plunges excitedly into the cold water, swimming fiercely to retrieve his prize.
In reality, your dog may have no idea what a duck is, and is far more excited about his tennis ball and warm spot on your couch than he is about plunging into cold water to retrieve your bird. But 'sit' can be just as important for your dog as it is for a trained hunting dog.
'Sit' is one of the most important and useful commands that you can teach your dog. You can tell your dog to sit to prevent him from running out into the road. You can tell your dog to sit when you are trying to have a nice conversation with a neighbor. You can tell your dog to sit when he is being rude and needs to earn things in his life in order to learn respect. You can tell your dog to sit to help him learn other tricks, like 'shake'. You can even tell your dog to sit when you want him to greet visitors in your home politely without jumping on them. 'Sit' can be used for so many things. So many that there is not enough space in this article to name all of them.
'Sit' is a fairly easy command to teach, and most dogs can learn it within one to three weeks with frequent practice. Once your dog has learned the command, expect it to take him longer than three weeks to able to perform it in any environment or around any distraction though.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If you are using the 'Lure' method, you will also need a corner to practice the command in. If you are using the 'Capture' method then you will also need a small Ziploc bag that will fit into your pocket, or a treat pouch. With all of the methods you will need patience, persistence, and a cheerful attitude.
The Lure Method
Stand in a corner
To begin, take your dog into a corner, so that his back is facing the wall. Stand in front of him, and show him a treat.
Move the treat
When your dog is focusing on the treat, touch the treat to his nose so that he can sniff it, but do not let him eat it yet. Slowly move the treat from his nose toward the back of his head, keeping it high enough for your dog to be able to watch it move.
While you are moving the treat, tell your dog to "Sit". When the treat moves past your dog's head, the only way that he will be able to continue watching it is if he sits.
When your dog sits in order to watch the treat, then quickly praise him and give him the treat.
Repeat luring your dog into the sitting position with a treat at least twenty times. Do this until your dog will begin to sit as soon as you tell him to "Sit" and start to move the treat.
Phase out treat
When your dog will sit before you finish luring him with the treat all the way, then remove the treat from your hand. Hold your fingers together as if you are still holding a treat, and practice luring your dog into the sitting position with your empty hand. Do this until your dog will respond quickly to your verbal command and empty hand. Praise him and give him a treat from your pocket or treat pouch every time that he sits down.
Phase out your hand
When your dog will respond quickly to your hand motion and verbal command before you have completed the hand motion, then begin to phase out your luring hand motion. To do this, tell your dog to sit, and wait seven seconds before luring him with your empty hand. If he sits during the seven seconds, then praise him and give him five treats, one treat at a time.
If your dog does not sit during the seven seconds, then lure him into the sit position with your empty hand again, and give him one treat when he sits. Repeat the process of giving him a verbal command, waiting seven seconds, and then luring him with your hand, until he will sit before you have started to lure him.
When your dog will sit when told to "Sit", without the use of your hand motion, then practice having him "Sit" until he can do it consistently, without needing your hand motion to occasionally help him.
Grow the command
When your dog can consistently sit when told to, your dog has learned sit on command! Practice this command often to improve your dog's performance. Practice in new locations, around many different types of distractions, and farther away from your dog. If you wish to increase your dog's training even more, add a 'stay' command to his 'sit'.
The Capture Method
To begin, fill a small Ziploc bag or a treat pouch with small treats that your dog likes. You can also fill it with your dog's kibble if he is very food motivated. Place the bag into your pocket, or hook the pouch onto yourself and cover it up with your shirt.
Watch your dog
With your treats ready, watch your dog carefully throughout the day. Anytime that your dog begins to sit down, calmly tell him to "Sit", and when his bottom touches the ground praise him and give him a treat.
Repeat telling your dog to "Sit" and rewarding him when he does it. Do this at least thirty times over the course of the next several days.
After at least thirty repetitions, test your dog to see if he has learned the command. To test your dog, show him a treat, and then tell him to "Sit". Wait ten seconds to see if he will do it. If he does not do it, then repeat your command again after the ten seconds. Do this up to five times. If your dog sits during one of the commands, then praise him and give him a treat.
Practice for longer
If your dog will not sit during any of the repetitions, then go back to capturing his sitting for longer. Practice telling him "Sit" and rewarding him when he does, whenever you see him beginning to sit on his own. Do this at least ten more times, before testing him again. Repeat this process until he will sit when you test him.
Practice until consistent
When your dog will sit in response to your "Sit" command when you test him, then practice the command until he will do it consistently.
When your dog will consistently sit, then practice it without showing him that you have a treat, until he will do that consistently as well. When he sits, reward him with a treat from your pocket or your treat pouch.
Continue to improve
Now that your dog knows 'sit', practice the command often, telling your dog to sit before meals, or before going on a walk, or between ball throws, so that your dog will learn to sit whenever he is told to in every day life. Also practice this command from farther away, around different types of distractions, in new locations, and for longer periods of time, to ensure that he will sit in any circumstance.
The Positioning Method
Place your hands
To begin, go to a calm location with your dog. Have your dog stand next to you. Place one hand under your dog's chin, and place two fingers from your other hand on either side of the base of your dog's tail. Remove your hands and then reward your dog with a treat for tolerating your touch. Do this until your dog seems relaxed about being touched. If your dog has ever shown any form of aggression or is afraid of being touched, then do not use this method with him.
When your dog is comfortable being touched in those two places, then place two fingers from one hand on either side of the base of your dog's tail, and place your other hand under his chin. Tell your dog to "Sit", and press your two fingers downward and into muscle on either side of the base of your dog's tail, while also gently lifting up your dog's chin with your other hand at the same time. Do this until your dog sits. When you apply pressure to the base of your dog's tail, do not force your dog's bottom to the ground or pinch your fingers together. You are simply applying a little bit of constant pressure to the area to encourage your dog to move his bottom away from your fingers and toward the ground.
When your dog sits, immediately remove your hands and praise your dog, then offer him a treat.
Repeat telling your dog to "Sit", and then lifting his chin while applying pressure to the base of his tail. Do this until your dog will consistently sit as soon as you tell him to sit, or as soon as you touch his chin and the base of his tail with your hands.
Phase out touch
When your dog will sit as soon as you touch him, but before you have applied any pressure, then begin to phase out your touch. To phase out your touch, tell your dog to "Sit", and wait seven seconds before touching his chin and the base of his tail. Repeat this process until he will sit during the seven seconds before you move your hands toward him.
When your dog will sit before you move your hands toward him, then practice telling him to sit until he will sit consistently without your touch. When your dog will consistently sit when only given a verbal command, then you have taught him the 'sit' command. Great job! Now practice often, in new locations, around distractions, and from farther away to improve his skill. Add 'stay' to this command to increase his reliability as well.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 02/26/2018, edited: 01/08/2021