Sit Without Saying It!

Photo credit: Irene Mei

Photo credit: Irene Mei

Did you know that there is a simple, easyway to get your dog to be more calm and well-behaved? Teaching a default sit is the “magic wand” of dog training and is easy to work into your daily routine. Put some kibble in your pocket and reward periodically throughout the day. No lengthy training sessions or tools needed! Its so easy that everyone in the house can participate - even toddlers!

Teaching a Default Sit - The secret to having a happy, calm, well-behaved dog.

Does your dog jump? Bark or paw at you for attention? Bolt through doorways? Act crazy when you are preparing his food? Pull to great people when out for a walk? Default sits are solution to all of these problems and more! By teaching a default sit, you are giving your dog a highly-rewarding alternative behavior to the inappropriate things he had been doing before. 

Dogs can only do what dogs know how to do. That’s pretty obvious, right? But let’s think about it. If your dog only knows how to jump on guests to greet them when they come to the house, no amount of yelling, ignoring, or pleading will get him to do something different if he doesn’t know anything different to do! 

Teaching a default sit gives your dog an alternative behavior to offer instead of all those unwanted behaviors he’s been doing. He will learn that sitting is the most valuable and rewarding thing to do and that those other things - jumping, bolting, etc. - are no fun at all anymore. 

What is a default sit?

A default sit is a sit that your dog offers to you, without you asking for it, whenever your dog wants something. The key is to teach your dog to offer the behavior to you without you cuing the behavior.  You want your dog to think about offering good behavior. Sitting should to be the first thing your dog thinks about doing when in doubt of what he should do. 

How do I teach it?

Teaching a default sit is easy! Place your dog’s meal in your pocket or treat tote. Throughout the day, place a kibble in your dog’s mouth every time you see your dog’s rear hit the floor. He sits, he gets a reward. Soon, your dog will be following you around sitting everywhere! Your dog will be looking for opportunities to sit!

Get everyone in the family involved. Even small children can be taught to reward a dog for sitting. This is an excellent way to teach dogs to be calm around children! They will learn that sitting for the child is much more fun and rewarding than mouthing or jumping on them. 

When you have house guests over, hand them some tasty treats to offer your dog when he sits for them. You can improve his chances of success by putting him on a leash so that he is not able to get close enough to jump on them. Instruct the guest to stand quietly, not talking to your dog, and wait for him to sit. Once he is sitting, the guest should offer treats continuously until he stands or tries to jump. If the sitting goes away, the treats go away. 

Once your dog is calmly sitting for your guest, you can try taking the leash off, continuing to reward for sitting. 

Real life sits.

Now that your dog is a sitting pro, its time to start having him offer sits for anything he may want. Does your dog want to go outside? Have him sit calmly at the door. The reward for sitting is to go outside. Does he love your attention? Ignore all of the annoying behaviors such as barking, pawing and jumping. Teach him the only way he will receive your attention is if he is sitting calmly. Wait for him to sit, then reach to pet him. If he stands, retract your hand. Its like the Red Light, Green Light game. Sitting gets attention, anything else gives him a red light. 

Sitting is a great way for your dog to ask politely for his leash to be put on, for you to place his food bowl on the floor, for him to be let out of his crate, or for you to throw his ball.

Take the show on the road.

Once your dog learns sitting is fabulous at home, take the show on the road. Since there will be far greater distractions outside the home, it’s important to use higher-value rewards when out in public. Diced hot dogs and string cheese never fails to get my dog’sattention! 

Default sits can be used everywhere! Are you out for a walk? Teach your dog that when you stop walking, it’s rewarding for him to sit calmly by your side. This will look so impressive when other people’s dogs are straining at the leash to get to things and your dog is calmly sitting beside you. 

Is it time for a vet visit? Take your tasty treats and reward your dog for sitting calmly in the waiting and exam rooms. Give him a reason to want to pay attention to you instead of everything else that is going on!

Endless rewards.

Default sits give a dog a constructive behavior to offer instead of all of those annoying behaviors you don’t like. Your dog will want to be good! 

In addition, default sits can build confidence in shy, scared dogs by offering them a sense of predictability. Dogs are more comfortable when they know how to respond in certain situations and how you will respond to them. 

Default sits are so easy to work into your daily routine! A few kibbles in your pocket or some tasty treats in your treat tote can be the magic wand to a well-behaved dog.


Rebecca Lynch is a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy of Training and Behavior. With 15yrs experience as a positive reinforcement dog trainer and veterinary technician, she provides loving care for dogs boarding and training in her home.