Dog Training – Teaching the SIT Behavior

OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog to get into a SIT position, wherever they are, when given a single visual or verbal cue and to remain in position until released or given another cue.

Sit, color copy-witht textRemember, you must remain quiet during these exercises so that your dog can concentrate on learning and not become distracted. All communication will be via hand signal and the clicker. Do not put your hands on the dog as this will detract from learning. Praise such as “Good Dog” is okay after you have clicked and treated.

For this exercise, you are going to start by using a treat to lure the dog into the proper position, then click and treat as soon as the dog does what we expect. You will want to quickly wean away from having the treat in your hand before you click.

  1. Place a treat in the palm of your hand and cover it with your thumb. Allow your dog to sniff the treat. Make certain the dog is targeting by moving your hand from side to side. If your dog is following the treat he is targeting.
  2. With the clicker in one hand and a treat in the other, lure your dog into a sit by slowly moving the treat up and over your dog’s nose and head. Hold the treat right up to your dog’s nose. The goal when luring your dog to sit is to get their head up. Once the head is up and back, the rear typically falls into a sit. Note: If your dog jumps up, you are holding the treat too high or too far away from the dog. If your dog backs up you can start by practicing this exercise in a corner.
  3. The precise instant your dog’s rear hits the floor, click, and then feed him the while he remains sitting.other than the one you used for a lure. Do not be alarmed if your dog gets up immediately after eating the treat. Remember, the click marks the end of the behavior and the beginning of the reward process. If your dog remains sitting, simply take a step back and your dog should get up. Repeat this step or no more than 3 to 5 repetitions.
  4. Next, mimic the same motion as in step 2 only without the food lure in hand, rewarding the dog with a click and treat for every sit. With your palm facing up, gradually start giving the signal further away from your dog, as this will become your hand signal for sit. While we will continue to reward the dog, it is important to phase out the use of the lure and wait for the dog to respond to the hand signal. Repeat this step for 3 to 5 repetitions.
  5. Now we will start to build some duration into the behavior by beginning to delay the click. For example, the next time your dog sits, silently count to two before clicking and treating. Yo-yo the amount of time you pause before clicking from immediate to up to 5 seconds. Yo-yoing, as we call it, means do not making the behavior more difficult by increasing the expected duration every repetition. For example a five behavior series might look like this; instant click, wait 2 seconds, wait 1 second, instant click, wait 2 seconds. Do this for several repetitions.
  6. Move to a new location and repeat steps 1 through 5 until your dog is readily offering to sit in response to your visual cue. Practice this behavior in at least 5 different locations.
  7. Change your orientation to your dog. If you have been standing, try sitting in a chair while repeating steps 1 through 6. If your dog has always been directly in front of you try having them sit by your side. You may need to return to the lure, but if this is the case be sure to only lure once or twice. Continue until your dog is readily offering to sit with you in varied positions.
  8. Change your distance to the dog. Either have someone else hold the dog’s leash or attach the end of the leash to something secure. Step 1 foot away from your dog and use your hand cue for sit. Continue until your dog is readily offering to sit on a single hand cue. Continue to practice this at varying distances to the dog.
  9. When your dog is responding well in a wide range of environments, you are ready to add the verbal cue. When you start adding the verbal cue, practice in a familiar environment with no distractions.
  • Say “sit” approximately 1 to 2 seconds before you give your dog the hand signal for “sit”. It is important to briefly separate the verbal cue “sit” from the hand signal “sit” because if the cues occur simultaneously the dog is more apt to respond to the visual cue and not learn the audible cue as well.
  • The instant the dog is sitting, click and treat.
  • Do NOT immediately repeat the verbal cue if your dog does not sit. Ignore the dog for about 15 seconds before trying again. If the dog does not perform the behavior after 2 or 3 attempts you are not ready to add the verbal cue to the hand signal. Wait until the visual cue is more reliable before attempting to add the verbal cue.
  • After repeating the above sequence several times, your dog should start to associate the word “sit” with this behavior. As you work on this do not click and treat when the dog sits without your first giving them a visual or verbal cue to sit.
  1. When your dog is responding to the verbal cue, it is time to proof the behavior.
  • Work on SIT in different locations (bank, post office, class, etc.)
  • Work on SIT with you in different orientations to your dog (in front of, behind, on left side, on right side, sitting, etc.)
  • Work on SIT at various distances to your dog.
  • Work on SIT for various durations.


Automatic Sit

OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog two additional signals that will cue them to automatically move into the sit position. One cue will be a person approaching, which is very useful in preventing jumping. The other cue will be you stopping when you are walking with your dog. This is great for curbside safety and is an essential behavior for the AKC Canine Good Citizen test and the Therapy Dog International therapy dog test.

Note: Before starting on the Automatic Sit, your dog should reliably sit when given a verbal or visual cue in a wide variety of situations.

Automatic Sit When a Person Approaches

  1. Have several people approach you, one person at a time. When the person is within handshaking distance, give your dog a cue to sit. Click and treat as soon as your dog sits.
  2. Repeat the above step with many different people, in different locations over several days. When you think your dog is ready, do not give the cue to sit, but wait for them to do it themselves. If the dog sits within two seconds of the person being in handshaking distance, click and treat.

Automatic Sit When Stopping

  1. Put your dog on a leash and start walking. As soon you stop give them a cue to sit. Click and treat as soon as your dog sits. After the dog has consumed the treat starting walking again and after a bit, stop and again ask them to sit, clicking and treating as soon as they sit. Continue in this manner, making sure to vary the time and distance you walk in between asking for the sit.
  2. After you have completed the above steps in many locations and situations just stop and wait for the dog to sit on their own. If the dog sits within two seconds of your stopping, click and treat.



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