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So you’ve welcomed a new puppy into your life. Like most puppies, your new friend is probably full of energy and curious about the world. You are likely looking for a way to corral his energy and start building a foundation for a well-behaved dog. Training your puppy to put his rear end on the ground on command is a great way to begin the training process and teach your puppy some good manners.
'Sit' is one of the most basic commands your puppy can learn and one of the easiest when you are starting out. It is considered a foundational command, as it creates a base for puppies to begin learning 'stay', 'down', and other similar commands. The 'sit' command helps your puppy learn self-control and focus, an important skill for a young, energetic animal. While 'sit' is easy to learn, your puppy likely has a short attention span, so it may take a few weeks of short sessions before he is reliably sitting on command.
Training your puppy to sit will take a good deal of patience. It is important during this process to stay calm and not raise your voice. You want his first experience with training to be fun so he will want to continue learning.
Gather some treat and your clicker, if you are doing clicker training. Choose a calm area of your house to begin training. You want a space where your puppy can focus on you without being interrupted by noises or other distractions. For any method you choose, you should train in short sessions of five minutes or less.
The Food Lure Method
Get on your puppy's level
First, you want to make sure you are on the same level as your puppy. Crouch, kneel on the floor, or sit in a chair so you are at the same height as your puppy.
Use the treat as a lure
Hold the treat about an inch away from your puppy’s nose and slowly move it up and towards the back of his head. Your puppy should follow the treat with his nose as you move your hand up. As he does so, his rear head will lower towards the floor.
Reward the behavior
As soon as your puppy’s rear end touches the floor, click or use a bridge word, such a “yes” or “good,” and then immediately give him a treat. You do not need to add in the command word right away.
Repeat the process
Wait until your puppy gets up. If he walks away from you, wait for him to come back or call him over. Then repeat the process. Use the food to encourage him to sit and then immediately click or say your bridge word and reward the behavior.
Add in the verbal command
After a few repetitions, you can add in the verbal command. You can do this by saying “sit” right before your puppy’s rear end touches the floor and then rewarding him. Over time, he will begin to associate the word “sit” with getting a treat.
Continue working on 'sit', giving the command earlier and reducing the lure.
Wean him off the treats
As your puppy becomes familiar with the command, begin giving him treats less frequently. You should still praise your puppy every time he sits, but you are slowly working towards him sitting without any treats at all.
The Guiding Method
Squat or kneel next to your puppy
For this method, you will need to be within arm’s length of your puppy to guide him into the proper position. Sitting down or kneeling on the ground is a good way to achieve this.
Show him the way
Place one hand on your puppy’s chest and the other behind his rear legs. Using gentle pressure, press upward on his chest and against the back of his knees. As you guide him into the sitting position, say “sit.”
Give him a reward
Once your puppy is sitting, give him a treat. You want the reward to come as close to the action as possible so your puppy associates the treat with the “sit” position.
Reinforce the behavior
Your puppy will likely stand up soon after reaching the sitting position. Repeat the process of guiding him into a sit and rewarding the behavior several times.
Let him try on his own
After practicing a few times, try saying "sit" without guiding your puppy. If he sits, reward him. If he doesn’t, guide him into the position while saying "sit" calmly and firmly. Reward him as soon as he is sitting.
Make rewards sporadic
Slowly, your puppy will begin to connect the word “sit” with the action and reward. As he learns the skill, you can alternate between giving him a treat and another reward, such as petting him or giving him a toy. This process helps reinforce the behavior.
The Wait and Reward Method
Choose a marker
For this method, you need to settle on a word to mark the behavior you are looking for. A marker can be a click or a certain word, such as “good” or “yes.” You will use this marker every time your dog sits to mark the behavior you want.
Wait for your dog to sit
This step requires some patience. You will need to wait until your puppy naturally sits down. As soon as he sits, use your marker and give him a treat.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Continue to watch your puppy and use your marker combined with the treat. It will take a few tries for your puppy to realize what is happening.
Some dogs simply sit more than others. Using this method may take a while. You will need to be patient and continue to reward your puppy immediately every time he sits down during your training sessions.
Add in the command
In the beginning, you are only rewarding the desired behavior. Once your puppy catches the idea of the game, he will start to sit over and over to get more treats. When you notice this happening, you can add in the verbal command by saying “sit” just before his rear end touches the ground and then rewarding the behavior.
Phase out the rewards
Your goal is to get to the point where your puppy doesn't need a treat to sit on command. As your puppy progresses, give him treats less often. You should keep using the marker until you are confident your puppy is fully trained on the "sit" command.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 02/15/2018, edited: 01/08/2021