The Magic of Sit

Adopt-a-Shelter Program Quick Tip sheet  

Most dogs know or can be easily taught how to sit. Teaching an auto sit is a great way for a dog to impress adopters. Teaching dogs that a simple sit can get me what a need or want can relieve a dog’s stress as the dog now has a rewarding job.  

Many of the dogs that come into the shelter have learned bad habits that have worked to get them what they want. When using sit one must be consistent and patient. One must be willing to wait out or walk away from a dog that knows sit and refuses to sit. One must be generous and giving when the dog does sit. Do not ask the dog if you do not have time for patience or rewards.  

How to Teach Auto Sit and Look Adorable  

Goal: The dog will offer a sit-with-attention behavior to whoever is holding the leash. Also teaches the dog how to learn. There is no verbal cue the visual cue to the dog will be a person holding the leash.  

  1. Fill your hand with little pieces of soft yummy treats. 
  2. Have the dog on a leash. 
  3. Bring this hand to the dog’s nose. 
  4. While the dog is sniffing and licking, raise your hand slowly (not losing contact with the dog’s nose) over his head, sort of between his ears and a little higher. 
  5. This should bring his butt to the floor. When he is sitting, let him eat a piece of food. 
  6. Without breaking his connection with your hand, lure him straight forward enough so that he is standing once again. Don’t feed him for standing. 
  7. Repeat—luring him back up into a sit, and feed. Lure forward into another stand, and don’t feed, etc. Repeat for 7 or 8 times or more until it becomes smooth and easy. 


To Test the dog, follow these steps: 

  1. Stand upright, with a hand still filled with treats, but keep your hands at your belt buckle. Wait. 
  2. If and when the dog sits on his own, reward him with the entire handful (a jackpot portion). 
  3. Take a break! Either take the dog for a walk outside, or stand around and do nothing for a few minutes, or put dog back in his kennel 

From here—do not LURE (food in the hand and hand at the dog’s nose) to get him to sit. Simply resume the next session by putting the dog on a leash and showing the dog, the wonderful treats awaiting him in your hand, and stand and wait. Let the dog figure it out. It exercises his mind.  

After a few sessions start handing the leash to another person pretending they are the potential adopter.  When the dog transfers attention to this person and sits have them give the dog treats. Try passing the leash back and forth every few minutes, when the dog sits reward.  

How to use Sit as a Job: Ask at first for a sit prior to the things listed below. After a few days see if the dog will sit without asking. Consistence and patience will pay off. Exiting the kennel (never entering this is not rewarding for most), going out doors to a good place, for the food bowl, ball, enrichment toy, to put on a leash, anything the dog finds rewarding.