How to Train a Puppy to Sit

Golden Retriever Puppy Sit and Stay
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One of your main responsibilities as a dog owner is to train your dog to respond to basic commands. The most important of these basic commands include Sit, Lie Down, Stay, and Come. As is true with all aspects of dog training, being firm and consistent in your training methods is the key to success. Teaching your puppy to sit is not very difficult as long as you use the right training sequence and you are consistent in rewarding your puppy for good behavior.

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Step-By-Step Process

If you are consistent in utilizing this training sequence you will have no trouble at all teaching your puppy to sit.

  1. Start by kneeling in front of your puppy – if you are on his level you will be able to make better eye contact with your puppy so he pays better attention to you.
  2. Hold a small food reward in your dominant hand, pinching it between your thumb and forefinger.
  3. Place the treat in front of your puppy’s nose, about an inch away.
  4. Give your puppy the “sit” command then immediately move the treat forward toward the back of your puppy’s head.
  5. Your puppy will likely lift his nose to follow the treat and, as he does so, his bottom will naturally lower to the ground.
  6. As soon as your puppy’s rump hits the floor, praise him and give him the treat.
  7. Have your puppy stand up and repeat this sequence several times.

Tips for Reinforcing your Puppy’s Training

It shouldn’t take more than a few repetitions until your puppy starts to get the hang of it. As long as you immediately reward your puppy for sitting after you give him the command, he will quickly learn to associate that command with the action. Repeat this training sequence several times per session and complete two or three training sessions per day until your puppy begins to respond consistently with the correct behavior. After your puppy has learned the “Sit” command you can begin to phase out the food rewards – you do not want your puppy to become dependent on rewards to follow your commands. Follow this sequence to phase out food rewards:

  1. Kneel before your puppy and keep a few treats in your pocket.
  2. Hold your hand as if you were holding a treat, pinching your thumb and forefinger together, and hold it in front of your puppy’s nose.
  3. Give the “Sit” command and move your hand the same way you did while holding the treat.
  4. When your puppy sits, praise him and give him a treat from your pocket.
  5. Start to reduce the frequency with which you offer the food reward – continue to praise your puppy for good behavior but only give him the treat every other time.
  6. Eventually, you should only offer the treat occasionally but, if you have trained your puppy properly, he will still respond to the “Sit” command.

While you are teaching your puppy to sit, you should expect a few hiccups along the way. When you start to move your hand forward with the treat, your puppy may simply back up rather than sitting down – if he does, take him back to the starting position and try again. Remember, keep your training sessions short and fun in order for your puppy to stay interested and to learn quickly.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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