Start by getting their attention with your treats, then hold the treat just above your pups nose. If you’ve got the right treat and the right environment, hopefully your dog’s attention will be fixed on the treat in your hand.
Slowly move your hand backwards towards their ears – don’t lift it up too high else they might jump up and you’ll have to restart. As the treat moves backwards, most dogs will automatically sit down as they follow the treat – great!
The second your dog’s bottom hits the floor, give positive reinforcement with a verbal congratulations such as ‘good dog!’ and by giving them the treat. Don’t let them get away with hovering; no food until they are properly sat down! If they don’t sit, don’t worry! Just try again, with your hand or them in a slightly different position.
Repetition is key to learning. Soon, your dog should sit down whenever you hold a treat near their nose. Make sure reinforcement is given whilst your dog is in position, otherwise they will break position to get the treat – a sure fire way to end up with a dog who pops their bottom down for half a second then jumps straight back up for their reward!
Now it’s time to add in the cue! Most people use ‘Sit’, but you can use whatever you like, so long as everyone in the family knows what the cue word or signal is. Say your dog’s name followed by the cue word as you hold the treat near them and they perform the movement. It’s important to only say “Sit” as they are sitting at first, so they associate the word with the correct action. Gradually, phase out the hand movement and just leave the cue word.