The Complete Guide to Teaching Your Dog “Sit”

3 min read
Jan 25, 2022

You may want to ask your dog to sit before you place his meal in front of him. You may want him to wait patiently for the green light before you cross the street.

Or you may simply just want to spend some time building your relationship and training commands give you the perfect opportunity to do that.  

Whatever your reason for wanting to train your dog to sit, we have the ultimate guide for doing so.  

Teach your Dog to Sit

Before we start, it’s worth exploring a little dog training 101.  If you know how dogs learn, it makes it much easier for you to help them do it! 

All dog learns based on the consequence of a behavior, even designer breed dogs.  Just like us humans.   

We go to work because we pick up a paycheck at the end of the week or month.  We buy our coffee from that shop on Second Street because they have that super-smooth blonde roast.

If a dog experiences a positive consequence from a behavior, they are more likely to repeat it.  So, if they receive a happy, jovial “good dog,” a treat, a throw of the ball or a tug of the toy after they do something, they’re more likely to think the behavior that preceding this good thing was a good choice to make.

It’s as simple as ABC! 

    A is for antecedent 

    B is for behavior

    C is for consequence 

But when we are training dogs, we do it a little backward.  We start with B and C, then add in A.

Let's Start With the Basics

With your dog in front of you, hold a treat above his nose.  He will sniff at it (providing it is of high value to him – we’re talking liver chunks, cheese, etc.). 

  • Move the treat backward.  His nose should follow the treat. 
  • As it does, he will tip his head backward and his bottom will instinctively touch the ground.  As soon as this happens, give him the treat. You want him to associate his bottom touching the ground with the good thing that happens! 
  • Repeat.  Several times.   

He’ll probably start getting quicker. 

Put it Together

When his bottom touches the ground, you need to label the behavior.  This is what we can call the Antecedent, or A.  By definition, this means what happens before.  Repeat.  Several times.  He’ll soon learn, that when you say this word, you want his bottom to touch the ground because when it does, good things happen.  You will then get to the stage where you can say “sit.”  He will then sit.  Then you can reward.

Once you are both confident in this stage, you can start reducing how often you reward. You can still praise, but when he sits on command, you no longer need to give him a treat every time.  

Some owners choose to stick to a pattern, for example, every third sit, they treat.  However, some dogs get savvy to this and start counting.  They may try only performing a full sit every third command.   

Variable treating can be helpful here. 

There is no rhyme or reason to when you treat, you may treat every other, then every fourth command and then treat two commands in succession.  Here, the dog must perform because they can’t predict which performance will result in a treat.   

Be mindful not to over-train your dog, especially if they are a young pup. 

A tired pup will start to get distracted and not perform.  It’s always best to end a session before you get to this stage, but if they do start to struggle, finish the session on the command you know they can perform, or at least lure them easily into performing. 

You always want to end a session on a high.  They are much more likely to want to train again next time then!

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.