Teaching your dog to sit is one of the most important things you can do — and it will help with all sorts of other commands. Ben Randall explains how to get your dog to do it, every time.
Why do we use the word sit?
I know this might sound obvious, but ‘sit’ is the command that’s used to tell the dog to sit down in a seated position, with its bum firmly on the ground. This, for me, is a good position to sit the dog in whenever there are distractions or dangers, because we need them to be in a calm, seated position if there are roads, cars or livestock in the vicinity. It also enables us to put the lead on.
I’m Ben Randall, an award-winning dog trainer—you can see more about me and my work at @beggarbush on Instagram. I’m Country Life’s canine agony uncle; so far we’ve covered things including recall training, crate training a puppy and stopping your dog from barking at the doorbell. If you’d like to ask a question of your own, email firstname.lastname@example.org, but for now here’s this week’s query.
‘I’ve been trying to teach my 18-month-old labradoodle to sit, consistently and correctly, without half hovering his bum off the ground, since he was a small pup, but he doesn’t always do it when asked and, sometimes, ignores me altogether,’ writes KD from Herefordshire. ‘How do I go about reinforcing this command in a positive and effective way?’
I hear lots of commands for sit, such as: ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘wait’, ‘waaaaiiiiiiitttt’ and many more, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Here’s how to teach your dog to sit quickly and calmly each and every time you ask it — and at the first time of asking.
Five steps to teach your dog to sit, every time you ask it to
1. Use your dog’s meal times to teach the sit
A good time to practice the sit with a young or an old dog is around meal times. I start with the food bowl in one hand and with the flat palm of my hand facing the dog, so I am standing above the dog and it’s looking up at me. Usually, when the dog sees the food bowl, it will naturally lower itself into the seated position. And, as soon as he or she does this, I say the command ‘sit’.
Next, I take a piece of kibble from the bowl and reward the dog, then I repeat this process two to three times. Once I am happy the dog is waiting and pausing before he or she gets the reward, I move on to stage two.
2. If your dog sits nicely, send it towards the food bowl
The dog is asked to sit as in stage one. The food bowl is then placed on the floor, but you will have to have good timing if the dog decides to move before you tell it to. Once the dog is sitting for a period of time in a calm and relaxed manner, give the ‘ok’ or ‘fetch’ command, as a way of releasing your dog from the sit position and allowing it to eat its food from the bowl as a reward for sitting patiently when asked.
3. What if the dog will not sit and keeps moving towards the food?
As soon as the dog moves out of the sit position towards the food, stop the dog by putting one hand on its chest and one hand on its collar, and giving the ‘sit’ command. Then release your hand and, if the dog moves, hold on to it once more. The dog will soon start to realise that, if it moves, it will not get the food reward.
4. Ask your dog to sit and stay while you do something else
Once the sit and the patience is starting to sink in with your dog, ask him or her to sit quietly in an area within the room whilst you prepare their food. Place the food down on the floor in the usual place where you feed your dog. Once the food is on the floor, continue clearing up or putting the kettle on and gradually increase the period of time that you ask your dog to sit and wait before sending it for its food.
Once you are happy that your dog is sitting patiently for its food, and a good period of time has passed, walk towards your dog and reward him/her with the fetch command (or, in other words, go and eat your food!).
One of the key things with this exercise is that all the dog’s enjoyment and reward is coming from you, which will help to build a stronger bond, trust and better partnership.
5. Do this exercise in the garden, too
Once steps 1-4 are fully established, use the lighter mornings and nights in the spring and summer to practice this outside, so the dog gets used to doing it inside and out in multiple different environments.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk