“Sit” is the most basic command that a dog will learn, and is most often the first. If a dog doesn’t know a single other command or trick, they may still know how to sit. Likewise, if a dog doesn’t know “sit,” they probably don’t know anything.
In addition to being a very basic command, sit is also one of the most useful commands. This may not be immediately obvious; what benefit do you get from making a dog sit? In reality, making a dog sit can often calm them greatly. Sitting is a passive posture, and will naturally stop a dog from moving around. Also, the mere act of getting a command can often help to calm and focus a dog. A dog that is misbehaving will often calm down and start listening to you once they have followed on command, no matter what it is. Since sit is the most basic command, it is the easiest and quickest one to use.
Before beginning to teach your dog, you should understand how a dog learns.
How A Dog Learns
Dogs are highly intelligent creatures, and are better than any other species at reading human emotions–including other humans. But they simply don’t learn in the same way that humans do. If you want another person to do something, you can simply tell them to do it. Dogs, however, cannot learn simply by being told. Dogs need to learn by association.
What this means is that a dog learns to associate a command with an action. A dog doesn’t really know what the word “sit” means. Rather, they know that, when they hear that sound, they are supposed to sit down. This is because the sound of the word “sit” and sitting down are associated in the dog’s head. The difficult part of training a dog is building this association.
A dog learns all tricks in approximately the same way. First, the dog performs some action: in this case, sitting down. Then, the dog is given a command word–“Sit,” in this case–followed by positive reinforcement–for example, a treat.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when training a dog to sit is that, if it’s not going well, don’t blame the dog. They’re most probably not being difficult on purpose; they just don’t know what it is you want. Teaching a command or a trick requires you to effectively communicate information to another species, which is never easy.
However, it should be noted that dogs are particularly good at learning tricks from humans, and even the most stubborn dog can be taught. The sit command, in particular, can be effectively taught in one or two training sessions.
The Teaching Process
As discussed above, sit is a fairly simple command. One reason for this is that, unlike some other tricks and commands, it is only made up of a single action. It is also easier to teach a dog to do something that they do naturally–dogs are likely to sit down on their own all the time, making it much easier to teach them.
Below is the step-by-step process for teaching your dog the command “Sit.”
Step One: Find a place without too many distractions. Your dog’s attention should only be on you.
Step Two: Get a bag of small dog treats, or pieces of dog food. Anything that your dog likes to eat can be used as motivation, but whatever it is, make sure that you don’t use big pieces.
Step Three: Hold the treat in front of your dog’s nose and slowly raise it up and back over their heads. This will encourage them to move backwards into a sitting position. It may take a few tries, but eventually, your dog will begin to sit down.
Step Four: As your dog sits, say the command word in a strong, clear, friendly voice. When starting off, use the same command word every time. A good command word is “Sit,” both because it is the most obvious command, and because it is short and simple.
Step Five: Give them the treat as a reward.
Step Six: Repeat steps three and four several times.
Step Seven: Eventually, move on to saying the command word, waiting for them to sit, and then giving them the treat. After a few repetitions, they will realize that sitting down when you say your command word will earn them a treat. Once they figure that out, they will be quick to follow your command.
Step Eight: Give the command without giving them a treat. This will teach them to do the command at any time, not just when you have food in your hand.
Even the most stubborn puppy can learn to sit in a few hours. Getting a dog to stay sitting may be a bit more difficult, but just getting your dog to follow a voice command is a huge step towards a well-trained dog.