The Sit Command

April 01, 2017

--by Julie Morrill

These three puppies-in-training learned to sit within two days with about thirty minutes of training.

The sit command is such a basic beginning command with articles and videos plastered all over the internet, I wasn’t even going to write about it, but you have asked, so here goes.... Like every command, the sit command takes patience and consistency to make it work.

To begin teaching a puppy to sit, you first need to get him in a standing position facing you. Take a piece of kibble in one hand and hold the treat a few inches above your puppy’s head. Slowly move your hand over his head and away from you so that he’s forced to look straight up and maybe a little bit back. Eventually, he will sit in order to keep his eye on that piece of kibble in your hand. Say “sit” only once as his rear end is about to touch the ground. The second his hind end hits the floor, give him the kibble treat and give him lots of exuberant praise, petting, and love. Repeat this series of instructions. It will usually take only one or two times to get your puppy to sit without having to move your hand over his head. The hand signal we use is holding out the palm of our hand facing him. He will quickly learn to recognize that hand signal.

There are times when a puppy won’t set his hind end on the floor right away. If he jumps around to try to capture the treat in your hand, turns in circles, or does everything but sit, you’ll have to change tactics. In these cases, have your puppy stand facing you. Hold one hand over his head and, with your free hand, squeeze gently on your pup’s waist. Press down firmly and gently on his lower back until his rear hits the ground. Then immediately give him the kibble treat and praise him profusely. That’s usually all it takes.

Praising your pup and giving him a treat will initially cause him to break from his sit and jump around excitedly. That's okay for those first two days of lessons. We train a pup to remain seated on about the third day of training. In the beginning, start with five minutes of "sit" training and end on a happy note by tossing a piece of kibble into a kennel. When your pup learns to run into the kennel to get the kibble, you're teaching him the "kennel" command too. Close the kennel crate door, leave, let him cry for about ten minutes, and then release him for another five-minute "sit" lesson. We usually repeat this entire series twice the first few days, which totals to around thirty minutes a day.

On the third day of sit training, we stop rewarding a puppy with kibble when he breaks from his sit position. We gently push his hind end back down to the ground and say "sit," holding our palm facing him. He knows there's kibble in one of our hands, so he'll pay close attention to that hand signal. He remembers the kible and he smells it. We don't give him the kibble until he is able to stay sitting for about three or four seconds and as soon as we reward him, we have our hand ready on his lower back to press down and keep him sitting so he doesn't break from the sit command. Don't forget to release him from the sit command with the "okay" command, which means he's free to move around at will. (We don't allow jumping, though. If you haven't learned the "off" command, you can read about it in our July 2015 BLOG.)

The sequence goes something like this: Say "sit," hold up your palm, wait a few seconds, reward with kibble, press his hiney down if he tries to break, say "sit" again, wait one second, say "Okay" to release him from sitting, and praise him with lots of petting.

Repeat the above sequence four or five times, kennel him for ten minutes and repeat once or twice more and always end on a successful, happy note.

Short and sweet is what I’d call a puppy’s first lesson with the “sit” command. Try it and you’ll find it’s just as easy.

In next month's blog, you'll read about how we teach the "sit-stay" command, which means backing away and getting your puppy to remain sitting for longer and longer periods of time.

Happy training to you!

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