How to Teach Your Puppy to Sit – Obedience Basics 101

Probably one of the first things you can teach your puppy is the command “sit”. This is one of the most basic commands that will teach YOU the fundamentals of training a puppy. It is with those building blocks that you and your dog will learn cues from each other and will ultimately streamline any training down the road.

Combine the Cue and the Treat

It is very important to utilize a cue when giving your dog a treat to acknowledge good behavior. This will facilitate the transition from NEEDING to give puppy a treat every time to keeping a treat as “once in a blue moon” special.

One of the most common ways is by purchasing and using a clicker. Basically it helps your puppy associate the act of giving the treat with the sound of the click, and therefore the sound of the clicker will provide the same level of praise and acknowledgment of behavior as giving puppy a treat, without actually giving a treat.

You don’t necessarily need to purchase a clicker, as using a clicking sound with your tongue, or snapping your fingers, or other self-made sounds would also suffice, but the clicker is most effective as it is never a sound used within our regular speech whereas other self produced sounds may appear at random and confuse the puppy.

Using the cue at the same time as the treat will also prevent puppy from only performing actions if there is food involved. The cue is designed to provide the same level of praise as a treat, so once you begin taking the treat away and using just a click, there won’t be any loss of praise.

Step 1: Get Puppy into a Natural Sitting Position

This may a challenge initially depending on the dog. The best method I have used is by holding the treat slightly above the dogs head. It isn’t necessary the first one or two times you do this to use the command “Sit” but it certainly doesn’t hurt either. What is important is just making sure the puppy is fully sitting on their haunches and bum on the ground before giving the CLICK and treat and follow it up with praise; “GOOD BOY/GOOD GIRL”.

Do this several times over and over until you, and your puppy are both comfortable with the command, and with the praise before we move on to the next step.

Teach a Release Word

The main intent is not to teach your pupperoni pizza that the act you require to get a treat is on your bum and immediately back up again. Use a release word such to indicate that the “sit” is finished and it is time for treat and praise. You will not want to use a word that may come up in regular conversation, as that can just cause confusion for the pup. Rather, a word like “free” or “release” are good and simple words to use.

Now this step should be done with maximum patience on your part. Initially you want to use just a little time in between your canine companion actually sitting and using the release work. Maybe about one second or so. As they start to get more used to that, you can begin increasing the time before you allow them to release. If your puppy does jump up before you’ve used your release work, that’s fine, just get them to sit again.

I find that encouragement such as saying “Good Girl” helps my pup know that while she is sitting and waiting patiently for me to give her the command to release, I am pleased with her and she is doing the right thing, although this is more relevant as your puppy advances through the steps and is able to wait longer. Avoid using a cue from your clicker, as the whole point of that is to eventually replace the use of giving a treat as reward.

Time to Wean Off Treats

The last step is getting your puppy to understand that a treat isn’t required for everything good they do. The motivation should never be JUST food, but rather the possibility that there may be food involved.

Once your puppy has mastered the “sit”, and awaiting a release word, now this can be done by intermittently giving treats after accomplishing the full command process (sit and release). This is where the use of a cue such as a clicker comes in handy, as it certainly helps speed up this part of the process, since its purpose is to replace giving a treat anyway.

If you chose not to use a clicker, no worries! It just requires as much patience as all the previous steps. Just use the same slow and steady learning curve you’ve been doing for all the other steps. Begin by giving the puppy a treat every second time. Slowly over time start to build that up to every third time, then use variable times. (IE: do it after two times, then after four times, then after three, etc.)

Eventually you will find that puppy will come to you for a treat, but will sit anyway whether you have a treat or not, as the possibility of there being a treat is motivation enough to follow your commands.

Remember These Tips

Here are just some take away tips for you to consider when training your puppy to sit:

  1. BREAK YOUR TREATS UP. The nice thing is a dog can’t tell the difference between a massive treat, and a nibble. It helps prolong your treat supply and gives you more opportunities to help teach your pupper.
  2. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE. Anytime you are considering moving on to the next step, consider how comfortable your puppy is with where you are currently in your training. If you are still having to correct and reset and try again, it probably isn’t time to start working on the next steps. THIS IS NOT AN OVERNIGHT PROCESS.
  3. CONSISTENCY IS KEY. Doing your training for consistent intervals, in the same environment help reduce confuse and make puppy feel comfortable. This is the easiest way to help speed up the training process. Doing training outdoors, for example, just provides a ton of extra distractions to take away from the training process.

Now that your best friend is familiar with sitting, and a release word, you may take these skills into the world and show off to your friends and family how well-behaved your puppy is.

If you enjoyed this content, please leave a comment below in the comment section and let us know your experiences, or any tips and tricks you may have that can help others in their journeys.

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