training a dog to sit

Do you find you need to repeat commands a few times before your dog listens? Or use a hand motion? Or show him you have a treat? That means that he really isn’t listening to you  You need to teach him that sit means sit!


All those things weaken your ability to communicate with your pup and they teach your dog he only has to listen if he wants to. Would you offer $10 to your child to make him go to bed each night? Of course not!  So then why do we offer our dogs “pay” every time we want them to do something?  Shouldn’t they just listen?


In nature, the mother dog bites a pup on the neck when he doesn’t listen and the pup immediately responds. The Alpha dog corrects the same way. There are no cookies for doing it their way. You either do what they want… or else.


When we try to turn that completely around, it is bound to not always work. So, I introduce consequences for dogs when they don’t listen. Here’s an example:


Rather than asking a dog to sit over and over while waving a cookie in his face, or “pronging” him relentlessly (which is cruel & unfair), I tell my clients to do the following:


1. Show your dog you have something wonderful – a treat, his bowl of food, his leash.  This is also a great exercise for when you come and your dog is excited to see you, or when guests come to visit.  Teach him to sit to be petted as the reward – since, after all, all he wants at htese times is human attention. :

2. Say “sit” – ONE time

If the dog sits, you say “good dog” and

3. give him the reward, or pet him for greeting.

Or, if your dog does not sit right away, you

3. simply turn your back and walk a few steps away.


Your dog will think “oh no!! I want that treat/pet/toy! Don’t go away!” and usually proceeds to follow you. You simply wait a few seconds and then turn back to face your dog and ask him once again to “sit”. Most likely, he will comply and you can reward. If not, you turn and walk away again.

sit means sit

Rocky does a perfect sit for a treat.


Of course, this is only done once the dog actually knows the command (preferably without a hand motion) and is just “being stubborn” – as most owners like to call it. In reality, the dog is just doing whatever he was trained to do. Perhaps he thinks he should wait for 3 repeats, since that’s what you usually do. But once it is made clear to him that sitting immediately gets a reward, and ignoring you gets a “punishment” of you ignoring him right back, he will opt for the immediate reward.


So make sure you’re teaching your dog to listen the first time, because you often don’t get a second chance to stop a dog once he’s on the run.