When your dog is in the SIT position, his head is in the air and his posterior is on the ground. Alert, he waits in the SIT for the next command. Read and understand all the steps prior to teaching your dog SIT.
Teach the SIT Command
Begin with your dog in front of you, head pointing towards your right side and rump towards your left side. Stand up straight and give the verbal command SIT. Move your right hand to the leash buckle and left hand above the tail. Using light pressure, place your dog in a sitting position by making a motion like you are turning a ship’s wheel counterclockwise (please practice this motion before trying it with your dog).
Some dogs do not appreciate having your hand near their hindquarters. To avoid getting bitten, desensitize your dog to being touched and handled as described in Socializing: Learning from Human Leaders.
Do not push your dog’s hindquarters I down. The somewhat circular motion with your left hand should lightly scoop the hindquarters. Also avoid pushing and releasing (we call bumping). Maintain consistent light pressure for as long as it takes to finish the command.
Your right hand should be directly on top of the leash buckle or on the stitching just above the buckle. Any higher on the leash and your dog may spin around. The less excess movement your dog makes, the faster he will learn the movement associated with the SIT command.
As soon as your dog’s rump hits the ground, praise with “good SIT.” This will associate the word SIT with this action. If you wish to add a food reward, offer it with your right hand while switching control of the leash to your left hand. Have your dog maintain the SIT command for three to five seconds (you may guide him with light leash pressure backwards towards the rump) repeating the praise “good SIT” every two seconds. Then release your dog with BREAK.
Reinforce the SIT Command
At some point during the teaching phase, your dog will begin to SIT before you are required to place him in the SIT position. Praise heartily with “good SIT.” If you find your dog sitting with little physical assistance or you have been placing your dog in a SIT for two weeks (as prescribed in the Ten-Week Training Recipe later in the chapter), begin the reinforcement phase of training.
You can begin to reinforce the SIT command by removing the physical assistance and introducing a corrective NO. Stand up straight and give the verbal command SIT. If your dog completes the SIT command, praise heartily with “good SIT.” If your dog does not complete the SIT command, give a corrective NO and repeat the SIT command. If your dog fails to SIT, repeat the corrective NO pattern a maximum of twice and then place your dog in the SIT position.
The leash correction required for the corrective NO is a vertical (up and slightly backward) snap and release.
Test the SIT Command
Combine the SIT command with position-holding skills by teaching your dog SIT in motion. Maintain a close HEEL position and give your dog the SIT command. You may need to march in place for a few moments until your dog completes the SIT. When your dog sits, praise and continue walking forward until you reach the end of your leash and your dog remains in his position.
As your dog gets better at the SIT in motion, increase your speed until you can HEEL at a normal pace and your dog SITS immediately when commanded. Your goal is to have your dog stop his forward motion and SIT within a two-second count.
Your dog should understand that SIT is more than the action of moving his rump to the floor. To proof this idea we will teach your dog to SIT from DOWN at the side. While your dog is holding the DOWN position give the command SIT. You may need to motivate your dog by happily patting your leg. Be cautious not to lean over your dog because your body language will be telling him to stay down. Also divert your eye stare to the ground or better yet the horizon.