Puppies may seem like lovable, easily distracted, puff balls of love, but they are actually blank slates you can train fairly easily and quickly. Okay, they are also puff balls of love and cuteness. Teaching a puppy to sit may seem like an effort in futility, but let’s look at a method that works every time and will not stress out you or the puppy.
Are puppies easily distracted? Absolutely. To make this training method work, you need to be in a room where there are no distractions. No music. No sounds. No other people. The goal is be the only point of attraction in the room.
You are also going to need a treat. The treat should be a small snack, one the puppy is already familiar with from previous experiences.
Your first step is to place the puppy in one of the corners. The puppy should be facing out towards the center of the room. You now want to kneel down in front of the puppy and hold your finger and thumb roughly an inch or two in front of the nose of the dog.
Let your puppy get a whiff of the treat. Now slowly move your hand with the treat just over their head. Keep reaching till you get to their rear end. This action should cause the puppy to lift their head to follow the smell of the treat. At the same time, they should drop their rear end slowly as they follow the treat. Once the puppy sits down, immediately give them the treat and other positive reinforcement.
It is important to emphasize you use this approach in a corner and not the middle of the room. Why? This keeps the puppy from turning around or simply backing up to try to track the treat. Some pups will keep trying to do this, so use your spare hand to keep them in place if necessary.
The Sit Word
You are not going to teach your puppy to sit in one session. The key is to repeat this every day in an evolutionary approach. If your puppy tries to move about during the session, keep practicing until they stop moving about and naturally sit down. Once this goal is reached, start saying the word ‘sit’ before you begin the act. The puppy will start to associate the word with the act and the reward. This will become an ingrained behavior and your dog should always know how to site throughout their life.
The Sit Hand Signal
After a few weeks, your puppy should have the training process down. Congratulations! Now it is time to move to hand signal training. In certain situations, such as when you are on the phone, you will want the dog to sit instead of running around the room. Fortunately, training a dog to sit with a hand signal just requires an extension of our previous training approach.
Place your puppy in the corner of the room as though you are going to repeat the usual training process. Now kneel in front of the puppy and hold out the treat as usual. Instead of moving your hand over the dog’s head, slowly bring it up to your chest. This upward movement will be the visual signal to sit for your dog.
Most puppies will react to this movement by doing one of two things – sitting or walking towards you. If the puppy sits, it doesn’t necessarily mean they understand the command. You need to repeat the process for roughly a week until you are sure they have the process down. Once they do, move the treat to your pocket and try the method with just your hand. If the puppy sits down, reward them immediately to ingrain the behavior.
What if the puppy walks towards you instead? Put them back in the corner and repeat the old method of running your hand over their back. Once they start sitting again, try lifting your hand to your chest again. It can take a bit for the puppy to learn this, so be patient. If you grow frustrated, stop the training and try again the next day. The lesson will eventually take.
You Got It
This training method will eventually produce a puppy that sits on command. Once the lesson is learned, the puppy should continue to comply with the commands as it grows into an adult.
About The Author
Annie Klacks loves puppies [who doesn't?] and works with them at Animaroo.com where you can find information on a wide variety of dog breeds and training approaches.