Training Your Puppy to Sit

A golden retriever puppy wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandanna sits with one paw on an orange dog toy

Leader Dog’s Puppy Development Supervisor, Deb Donnelly, offers advice on how to teach your dog to sit.

Sitting on command is a skill that all dogs should have because it is helpful in many situations, such as:

  • Mealtime – Encourages calmness around food
  • Playtime – Helps you keep control before throwing a toy and keeps your dog focused on you instead of only the toy
  • Meeting people – Teaches your dog not to lunge or pull to get to a person
  • Going outside – Prepares your dog to stop before going outside and starts your walk in a well-behaved fashion

Using Mealtime to Teach a Sit

Getting your puppy to sit when food is coming can be a challenge, but it’s also a good opportunity to use something your puppy wants to encourage good, controlled behavior.

  1. With your puppy’s food bowl in hand, take a piece of kibble and hold it in front of your puppy’s nose, then slowly raise it upward so that the puppy needs to look up to keep the food in sight. Soon it will be easier for your puppy to see the kibble from a sitting position, and the puppy’s rear will hit the floor.
  2. Once your puppy is in a sit, lower the food bowl to nose height and reward the sit by taking another piece of kibble and giving it to the puppy. Make sure to take the food to your puppy so that it stays in the sit and doesn’t lunge for the food bowl.
  3. Lower the bowl to chest height and reward.
  4. Lower the bowl to elbow height and reward.
  5. Lower the bowl to the floor and reward one more time.
  6. Release your puppy from the sit position by saying “OK.”

As with any behavior you teach your puppy, patience and consistency are key. Be prepared to help your puppy understand what you want it to do and that calm behavior will be rewarded, and you will be on your way to a well-behaved dog!

Additional Tips

  • Make sure your puppy is looking at you when you give a command.
  • Only say “sit” once. Do not repeat the command. Let your puppy figure out what it is supposed to do for the reward.
  • If your puppy gets overexcited at meal time, fill the bowl away from the puppy and set it aside somewhere until it’s time for a meal.
  • Train your puppy in a quiet area where it is less likely to get distracted.
  • DO NOT use physical pressure to push your puppy’s rear down. This can cause injury, especially to young dogs.

Deb Donnelly has been with Leader Dog since 1995, starting as a volunteer puppy raiser before coming on board as staff in 2012. In addition to her work at Leader Dog, she is currently raising Davey, her 23rd Future Leader Dog. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA-CTP) and is Level 1 certified in TAG teach. 

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