Puppy Training: How to Teach a Puppy to Sit

Puppy training can be a lot of fun when done right, and often much easier than you think. Here's how to teach a puppy to sit in 7 easy steps.

Bringing home a new puppy is so exciting, and puppy training can play a huge part in helping your puppy get settled in. We brought ours home two weeks ago, and it has been so much fun watching her play and explore her new surroundings.

Puppies are naturally curious, and once they get their bearings you will suddenly see their wonderful characters come to life.

Their confidence grows as they become more and more familiar with you, and you will very quickly see them learning new things by themselves. But it is very important to teach your puppy a few things from the very beginning, so that it doesn’t start out learning the wrong things, which you will then have to spend time correcting later.

Why Teach Your New Puppy to “Sit?”

Young mother and her daughter playing and hanging out with their new puppy at home

Dog owners who take the time to teach their new puppy the rules from the very beginning become pack leaders, which is a very important concept in the canine world. If your puppy knows who the leader of the house is, then it will grow into a much more relaxed, well-behaved, and fulfilled dog that is a beloved member of the family.

When you teach your puppy new commands like “sit,” and you continue to maintain your authority by reinforcing your puppy’s basic training, consistently and every day, you will in effect be providing your puppy with mental stimulation; and this is just as important as love, affection, good nutrition and exercise.

When you provide your dog with consistent mental stimulation you make it use its brain more; when its brain is occupied by constructive activities that strengthen your bond, then it is not being consumed with destructive activities like ruining your house and causing chaos!

How is the “Sit” Command Useful in Puppy Training?

A young woman training a Labrador puppy to sit at a park

Once your dog learns how to “sit” on command, you can then start to implement it into your everyday routine, and use it as a way to let your new puppy know what is expected of it. A young dog that is given boundaries, limitations and expectations will soon learn that it has to work for your attention, and that certain types of behavior are not acceptable.

For example, you can teach your dog to sit and wait patiently for food to be served. This is a very important practice because it mimics the respect a younger dog would naturally give to higher members in their pack at feeding times.

Young dogs would naturally learn to give older dogs space when food is being consumed, and they would have to wait for their turn to feed. You can tap into these natural instincts by teaching your dog that you expect it to sit and wait for its food. This way, your puppy will not grow up thinking that it is in charge of the food – which can make food times stressful for both the dog and owner!

When a dog sits and waits for its food, it knows that the food belongs to you, and that you are providing it to it, which gives the dog a sense of hierarchy.

Dogs are much happier when their owners can display this kind of authority; it provides the same kind of stability and sense of security a child benefits from parents know how to take control of unwanted situations and lead the way to desired behavior.

The “sit” command also becomes useful when you have to put the dog’s collar and leash on before taking it for a walk. If you teach your dog to sit, then you can save a lot of time because you won’t have to chase it all over the house every time it is time to go out or come home from the dog park!

Starting and ending a walk in this calm and authoritative manner means that your walk is likely to be much more pleasurable because your dog will soon learn who the leader is, and it will be happier to follow rather than drag you down the street!

Other useful “sit” scenarios include making vet examinations and grooming visits easier. When it gets older, you will be able to leave it tied up outside a shop, or sit nicely together outside a café in the summer. It is also fun to show people that your dog knows how to sit and is well-behaved.

People with small children will also be much more willing to let them pet your dog if it is well-behaved. Interaction with a variety of different people and situations is important for socializing your new puppy. So teach it to “sit” as soon as it has gotten used to you and its new home.

Here’s how to teach a puppy to sit, step by step:

A dog giving a paw or high-five

This is a useful puppy training method that encourages your puppy to use its own brain, and work things out for itself. Note: This method can be more tricky if your puppy is bigger and more ‘mouthy.’

Puppies have sharp needle-like teeth, and sometimes if the puppy was taken away from the puppy litter too early it won’t have learnt bite inhibition, which means it doesn’t knows how to use its teeth during play without clamping down and hurting you.

When you use this puppy training method, if your puppy is overly motivated to get at the food in your hand, then you may experience some discomfort.

TIP: Make sure your puppy’s nails are clipped short, and pull your hand away from the puppy’s mouth, making a soft but clear “uh-oh” sound if it starts to bite too hard. The puppy will learn that biting means the tasty treat gets taken away and that it should stop.

Step 1:

Arm yourself with plenty of small treats that you can fit into the palm of your hand. You can use puppy kibble or small bits of cheese. Just make sure that your puppy is very interested in whatever you are offering!

Sit down on the floor and lure your puppy in front of you by holding the treats in your fingers and letting the puppy sniff and follow your hand around to the front of you.

Step 2:

Your puppy will probably lick and nip and try to get to the yummy treats in your hand. This is fine, but don’t release the treats fully until the dog has placed its bum on the floor. Remember: At this stage your puppy doesn’t know what the word “sit” means, so there is no point in saying it. You don’t have to use your hands to press the puppy’s bum down to the ground either.

Many trainings tips suggest this but it is not necessary. Puppies are very intelligent little creatures and their brains will be one hundred per cent focused on trying to figure out how to get this treat out of your hand. If the treat is yummy enough, the pup won’t need prompting; it will try anything.

All you have to do is be patient and make sure you maintain the puppy’s interest in the food by letting it lick and taste and grab at your hand.

Step 3:

Sooner or later you will see that your puppy will place its bum on the floor, which will be a total coincidence of course, but that doesn’t matter. You must immediately reward the dog with quiet praise and open your hand so it can get a treat.

You never have to go over the top with praise. The more excitement you project, the more distracted your puppy will become. It is much more effective to utter a calm “good boy” or “good girl,” and let the treat get the message across.

Step 4:

Now close your hand and let the puppy figure out for itself how to get access to the treats again. As soon as it puts its bum on the ground, you reward it with praise and a treat.

Step 5:

Once it has managed to sit a few times during this practice, it is time to start using the word “sit”. So the next time your puppy places its bum on the floor, say, “Sit” in an upbeat voice at exactly the same time, and reward it with praise and a treat.

The puppy still won’t have associated the word with the action, but it should be subconsciously in the process of learning that by putting its bum down, it gets access to the treats. By introducing the verbal command, too, you are subconsciously conditioning the puppy’s brain to make an association between the sound of the word and the action.

Step 6:

After a few goes, now try to use the verbal command to initiate the action before the puppy beats you to it. You might be very surprised when the puppy automatically sits when it hears the word.

This is because you have allowed the puppy’s brain to make the association by itself. When an animal has to go through a process to work something out for itself, it learns much faster, because the whole process is a natural and instinctive one. It learns by simple repetition and association.

Step 7:

Finally, you should make the training more challenging by adding a visual command as the final association. If you have the treats in the palm of your closed hand facing upwards, simply tilt your wrist upwards so that you remove the treat momentarily from the puppy by blocking it, without moving your hand away, and say, “Sit” at the same time.

Your puppy’s brain will immediately rewind through everything it has just practiced with you to try to figure out what you want, and it should figure it out pretty quickly. You can then later practice getting your puppy to sit by using just the hand gesture without the verbal command.

It is always a useful idea to teach a puppy new tricks with a combination of hand and verbal gestures, and to practice each of these in different scenarios so that your puppy becomes really good at it!

Our new puppy learnt how to sit in about 5 minutes! Puppy training session should only last between 5 to 10 minutes because puppies have such short attention spans, and you want to end the training on a positive note so that your puppy feels good about the experience.

End your puppy training session on a high with lots of love and affection and a little bit of play, to reinforce the training as a fun and positive experience that the puppy will be eager to try again next time.

Share your puppy trainings tips with us!

If you have been having lots of fun with your new puppy, tell us about it! We love to hear stories of cute little puppies’ first experiences and progress! How and what did you teach your puppy?


About the author

Zara M.

I love to write, draw, take photographs, dance tango, write in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook and ogle other people’s Filofaxes. Oh – and I like LOTS of sugar in my tea! I want to inspire you, and show you the world through my eyes.

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