How to Really Teach Your Puppy to Sit

Teaching a dog to sit.

When it comes to teaching someone how to do something, it certainly seems difficult. Doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered why that is? Humans have a very academic way of learning things. Whereas dogs tend to be motivated by pleasing their human and by food. Not necessarily in that order. Think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, you can… And even your young puppy! I know what you are thinking… Really? I can teach my puppy to sit? Yup, it’s actually quite easy with our tips and tricks.

Traditional Learning Versus Motivated Learning

With the traditional and older methods of teaching animals tricks, people would use praise and punishment. While the outcome may arguably be the same, what the dog learned through the process is even more important. A dog traditionally trained tends to learn fear along with pleasure. This can make for a neurotic puppy - or a confused one - and most likely a very hesitant puppy.

Motivated Learning

With a newer process, like that in our app (download here) that relies on understanding what motivates your pooch, you’ll end up with a much calmer, happier puppy. Particularly when coupled with positive reinforcement. To simplify this, what’s really important is to use the things your dog, or puppy, loves most in this world during training sessions. And, just like humans, dogs love more than one thing. These most often include:

  • Loving touch and/or words
  • Stinky, smelly food (e.g. liver treats)
  • Squeaky toys

Get The Most From Motivated Learning Using Positive Reinforcement

When you teach a puppy something you have to remember that fully matured, adult dog’s attention spans are, at the most, 15 minutes long. However, with puppies, you can rest assured it’s much, much less than that. Therefore it’s best to:

  • Time. Keep your training sessions brief - 10 minutes at most. Leave them wanting more.
  • Motivation Items. Include the things your puppy loves the most in the world (mentioned above) for motivation.
  • Location. Initially train indoors to help control distractions. When indoors is not feasible, place your puppy in a harness/collar and leashes (with a variety of lengths) for outdoor sessions.
  • Indicator. Implement keywords and/or a clicker. Use this at the exact right time to indicate to your dog when s/he has gotten it right.
  • Mood. Read your puppy’s mood. If s/he isn’t in the right frame of mind (chewing at things, running around, etc.,) don’t force the training session. When this happens, take your dog for a long walk and then regroup for a training session.
  • Don’t Combine. Only when your dog has ‘mastered’ a training element can you add-in additional items. For instance, just because your puppy got ‘sit’ right after 5 tries does not mean s/he has mastered sit - so, don’t add another training element right away. You want your dog to feel successful and motivated. Keep repeating sit training until your dog performs it without hesitation, successfully, 100% of the time.
  • Remain Calm. Understand that you are in training too. No, you’re not learning how to do tricks… You’re learning how to get your puppy motivated. And, most important, keep your puppy motivated. You always wanting training to be positive. It should never imprint fear, frustration, or anger in your puppy.

Really? How To Teach Your Puppy To Sit!

You bet your sweet bippy you can! Now that you have the basics for using motivated learning it’s time to begin. Here is exactly how you can teach your puppy to sit with quick and repeated 5 to 10-minute sessions. Follow the exact order because this motivated training method relies on a dog’s natural instinct.

Teach Your Dog To Sit

Sit is a part of the basic training items every puppy should learn. This helps keep a dog off of precious heirloom furniture, unsuspecting guests, and from begging at holiday meals. Sit is also a part of the ‘safe’ training items - things a puppy should learn in order to protect them from harm, like running into a street.


  1. Attention. Always make sure that you have your puppy’s attention before you start to train. Stand, or kneel, in-front of your dog with a tasty treat in your closed hand. Open your hand to show your dog the small piece of treat. Do not let your dog take the treat. Close your hand back up once s/he knows it’s there. Repeat this if needed. Now you have your puppy’s attention.
  2. Motivated Sniffing to Sit Position. Move your raised closed hand with the treat from your puppy’s nose to slightly behind his/her head. Keep the closed treat hand as close to your puppy’s nose and head as possible. This will naturally make your dog tilt his/her head upwards while squatting his behind.
  3. Butt to the Ground. As soon as your puppy’s rump hits the ground say “sit” (and click the clicker, if you use one, with your free hand). Wow, did you just teach your puppy to sit?
  4. Treat. When you say sit, give your puppy the treat. At the same time. Yup, you did, you did just teach your puppy to sit!
  5. Praise. While your pup is munching on his or her treat, express how good they are. Don’t overdo it, gentle praise is good. Too much and you risk overstimulating your dog. But inside your mind, you can be having a party because you just taught your puppy how to sit!


  • Keep your closed hand with the treat as close to your puppy’s nose and forehead as you move it to the back of his/her head. It is this close movement that you want that will naturally get your dog to sit.
  • If your dog twirls around towards the treat versus naturally sitting, simply train this trick in a corner of a room. Your puppy won’t be able to twirl around in a corner.
  • If your puppy doesn’t understand, don’t say the words “no” or “not” with the word sit (e.g. “No, sit Fido”). This will confuse your dog. Simply start all over again. Don’t get frustrated, you’re not a failure - just try, try again!

You Did It!

Learning how to teach your puppy to sit, or anything really is about us learning how to work with our dogs. Dogs have a language all their own and natural instincts that, when we understand them, we can draw upon to teach them just about anything! Anything? Yup, just about anything. Okay, well, maybe not things where they need an opposable thumb. Like, say driving!

Rebecca Sanchez

Rebecca Sanchez lives in Seattle with her husband and three dogs and is a published author, and nationally recognized leader in the pet industry. Known as The Pet Lifestyle Guru™ Rebecca firmly believes “we need animals as much as they need us!” Rebecca specializes in researching and writing about holistic dog health and nutrition, and develops DIY recipes designed to enhance a pup's well-being.


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