As a new dog owner, one of the first things you should think about is teaching your puppy basic obedience. This effort will make your life much easier; it helps develop and deepen the bond and understanding between you and your dog. Through training, you can learn how your puppy learns and how quickly they learn. You’ll also learn how they respond to different situations and challenges. The “sit” behavior is one of the easiest to train. Consequently, it’s usually one first we teach a young puppy. Whether this is your first dog or you’re a puppy parent professional, it’s crucial that you know how to teach a puppy to sit.

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Why Teach Your Puppy To Sit

Besides being an easy behavior to teach, the sit command is an important one. A dog who sits is polite. It provides a foundation for you to teach more complex tricks down the road. Teaching your puppy to sit is also essential for molding a puppy into a calm and controlled young dog. Sitting behavior can help curb unwanted behaviors such as rushing the front door or jumping on people in greeting. You can use “sit” to teach your puppy not to knock down young children or elderly folks. There is essentially no limit to the sit command’s usefulness, so a more fitting question is: why wouldn’t you teach a puppy to sit?

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How To Teach A Puppy To Sit

To teach your puppy to sit, you will need high-value treats your puppy enjoys and a quiet space with few distractions. A clicker is optional. For information on how to use a training clicker, click here!

We’ve already said this, but it’s important enough to say again: bring your dog to a quiet room with as few distractions as possible. You want to set your puppy up for success, and their little puppy brains are prone to distraction. Once you’ve found the perfect training spot and your puppy’s favorite treats, you’re ready to teach a puppy to sit.

Teach A Puppy To Sit

  • Begin with your dog standing and hold a treat out to their nose. Make sure you get their interest. 
  • Slowly, lift the treat over their head and slightly towards their behind. The idea is to cause them to look straight up in the air. As your puppy lifts their head to follow the path of the treat, their butt should drop to the ground in a sit.
  • As soon as your dog sits, give them the treat (or click your clicker and give them a treat) and praise them. 
  • Get your dog to stand again so you can practice sitting again. To do so, either lure them into a standing position with another treat, walk away, or toss a treat across the room and then call them back to you. Repeat the first 3 steps a few times.

shallow focus photography of short-coated white and brown puppy sit

Fade Out the Treat Lure

Once your puppy easily follows the treat into a sitting position, you can fade out the lure (use of the treat). 

  • Use an empty hand reaching out over your puppy’s head to lure them into the sit position. 
  • Reward their sit with a treat from the other hand. The movement of your empty hand will become the hand signal for your dog to sit.
  • Once your dog sits for a hand signal reliably, you can add the verbal cue “sit.”
  • If you fade the hand signal over time, your dog can learn to respond to the verbal cue alone.

You may need to practice each progression several times before your puppy begins making the appropriate connections. Have patience, be consistent, and your puppy will be a sitting expert in no time.

A Few Tips To Teach a Puppy To Sit

  • Don’t push down your puppy’s butt. While this is a common way to teach a puppy to sit, it is an aggressive action that can intimidate and even scare your puppy. It’s much better to teach them this first behavior (and subsequent behaviors) from a place of cooperation and fun rather than fear and force.
  • Make sure you give your puppy their treat reward when they are sitting. If you wait until they are standing again to give them the treat, they will think they are being rewarded for standing, not sitting. 
  • If your puppy is having trouble following the lure into a sit, try placing them in the “down” position first, then luring them up into a sitting position. 
  • Another option is to “capture” a sit. Capturing a behavior means waiting for your puppy to offer a specific behavior on their own and rewarding them for it. In this case, you would wait for your puppy to sit, then reward the behavior by giving your puppy a treat. Eventually, your dog will start offering to sit in the hopes of getting more treats. When this happens, you can start adding the verbal cue “sit.”

Making Sit a Default Behavior

A default behavior is one your dog chooses on their own when they have no other cues from you. Getting your puppy to learn to sit as a default can be an invaluable training – and life – tool. How do you get your dog to choose to sit? It might not be as difficult as you think. Simply reward your dog for sitting every time they choose to do so on their own.

Remember, a reward does not have to be a food item. It can be verbal praise (get that excited tone!), pets or scritches, a toy, or a quick play session. The important thing isn’t what you reward a sit with; it’s that you consistently reward your dog for choosing to sit. In time, your dog will offer to sit more and more often in the hopes of getting attention or some reward. A dog that chooses to sit will be calmer and have better impulse control, which are invaluable traits in a hyper new puppy.

Bonus: It’s much easier to take cute pictures of a puppy that knows sit!

brown and white yorkshire terrier puppy on black round plastic basin puppy sit

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