How to Train Your Dog to Sit

Training your dog to sit is one of the most basic skills, and also sets the foundation for many others. Here is exactly what should happen: the moment the guide stops, the dog should sit close to his left side. And here is exactly how to go about training your dog:

Hold the leash tightly in both hands, with the right hand at the side, and with a loose grip in the left hand at the left side. But do not slip the hand through the loop at the leash end.

Walk forward and stop suddenly, at the same time giving in a sharp voice the command SIT. Drop the leash from the left hand. Still holding the leash in a tight grip raise the right hand, and at that moment press the lower part of the dog’s back to the ground with the left hand while repeating the command SIT.

The guide should then assume a standing position, once more with the command SIT. Throughout this procedure, avoid changing the position of your feet. The dog should still be at your left side.

What is the dog’s reaction? He will attempt to get up on his feet, to jump to one side, possibly to lie down or sit sidewise.

black and white photo of man, woman and dog
Image: Frank Kern | Library of Congress

Here are the corrections: This exercise offers little difficulty when executed correctly, though failure may be traced to various inconsistencies on the part of the guide. Very likely the guide loosened his hold on the leash with his right hand and did not hold the dog up on his front feet as he pressed him into the sitting position, or possibly he changed the position of his feet and therefore found himself facing the dog. Also, he may have confused the dog with too many commands.

The command ought not to be used more than three times:

first, at the instant of stopping;

second, while the dog is being pushed into a sitting position; and

third, when the dog has assumed the desired sitting position. Of importance is it for the guide to watch the action of his hands so as to be sure he holds them exactly as described.

The dog is now in a sitting position at the left side of the guide, and so long as the guide remains quiet, the dog will not move. Give him now a few words of praise and a pat with the left hand, while you still hold the same position with ease.

Should the dog try to sit sidewise and removed from you, place your left hand against his left side when pressing him into the sitting position and in that way nudge him closer to you.

Repeat this exercise several times while in standing position. Then walk again and suddenly stop with the command SIT. By now, the dog will probably assume the correct sitting position without further influence and aided only by the single command.

When the dog executes this lesson correctly — and of course it must be repeated over and over again — don’t forget those words of praise. If for a few times he responds readily and then fails, be patient and help him again by pulling him up with the right hand, and pushing him down with the left.

It requires several days and repetitious practise before a dog becomes a competent “sitter.” But always remain patient and loving, and sooner than you think, your dog will sit on command and desire to move on to new commands.

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