Sit is one of the first things we want to teach when we start training a new dog. (Ever stop and wonder why that is?) But we tend to forget just how useful it really is. We’re about to change that and show just a few of the ways you can put your new family dog training skills to work.
1. Sit to say please
This is my absolute favorite use for the sit behavior. Instead of demanding what they want by jumping or snatching, dogs learn to ask politely for the things they want. It’s a little different because we’re not actually saying the word “sit.” Instead, we’re waiting for the dog to do it on his own, then rewarding him. Just like you’d rather your child say please on his own rather than you having to always prompt him, it’s better if your dog learns an automatic sit to ask for things. Teaching it is crazy simple. Just hold up a treat (or anything else your dog really wants) and let him try to figure out how to get it. No words to “help” him get it right. Eventually he’ll give up jumping and snatching and sit. Immediately give him the treat. Practice this with his toys, the food bowl, anything he likes. Your goal is for him to automatically sit when he sees something he wants.
2. Sit to greet
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s impossible for your dog to jump on guests and sit at the same time! Teaching him what you want him to do is much faster and easier than telling him “No, no, bad dog” when he jumps up.
When your dog wants to greet a guest, step on the leash to prevent him from jumping up. We highly recommend a harness where the leash attaches to the chest – much more effective and safer.
Have the guest stand back out of the dog’s reach until he gives up and sits on his own. No words or eye contact from you or the guest while he’s pulling and trying to jump. Trust me, this is the most important part!
When your dog sits calmly, the guest can approach to pet. Avoid petting on top of the head, as this will prompt the dog to jump up. On the chest or body is much better.
If your dog tries to jump again, have the guest turn and walk away immediately without. one. word. Try again when your dog has had a chance to calm down.
3. Sit at the door
There are few things more annoying (and potentially dangerous) than a dog blasting through an open door. So, let’s teach him to sit politely at the door instead!
Start with a door that leads to a fenced area, in case your dog bolts. Or do this exercise with your dog on leash.
Stand between your dog and the door with your hand on the knob. Block him from trying to get to the door, using your body. Pro tip: take a step or two into him, and he will likely sit. Only help him out with a sit cue if you have to.
When he sits, you’re ready to open the door a crack. He’ll probably get up and try to get to the door again. Shut it and get him back into a sit.
Repeat, gradually cracking the door wider and wider, until you can open the door all the way with your dog holding a sit. The less you say the better. Your dog will learn that getting up makes the door close. This exercise will take less and less time as your dog catches on. Dogs are savvier than you might think!
4. Sit to put on the leash
Ever try to put a leash on a wriggling dog? Having her sit first makes it so much easier! If she pops up when you go to put the leash on, just straighten back up, and have her sit again. She’ll soon figure out that she doesn’t get to have her leash put on and go outside unless she sits.
5. Sit while you unload groceries
Your dog will need to know the sit-stay cue for this one. Practice putting your dog in a sit-stay, then unloading the contents of one bag of groceries before rewarding your dog. When he’s able to sit while you unload one bag, try unloading two, and so on. If he pops up, you’ll know you’re asking him to stay for too long.
6. How to train your dog to sit
Training your dog to sit is super easy. If your dog already sort of knows sit, but doesn’t respond every single time, go through these steps.
Hold a piece of food straight over your dog’s head so he has to stretch up to sniff it – but not so high that he’ll try to jump up. The principle is, the head goes up, the bum goes down.
When he sits, mark the instant his bum hits the ground with a verbal “yes!” or click, and deliver the treat. If he backs up or jumps for the treat, quietly put it behind your back. Wait a few seconds before trying again.
When he can sit when you have food in your hand five times in a row, try making the same motion with no food in your hand. This is the beginning of the sit hand signal.
If he can sit five times in a row, with no food in your hand, try making a faster movement with your hand, like a scoop upward. This is your sit hand signal.
Have you noticed what I’m not saying? Sit! Dogs learn much faster with hand signals, because we’re speaking their language. If you want to cue sit with a word, say “sit” a second before you give your hand signal. Not during or after you give the hand signal. Your dog will learn that the word sit predicts the hand signal and will start to sit before you get a chance to give the hand signal.
We hope these ideas will get you started putting sit to work in your everyday life. And wow, these are just a few of the possibilities! See how many uses YOU can come up with!
Want to learn real world uses for other basic cues like down, come, and stay? Join us for one of our group classes! Get the deets here.