Why Wont My Dog Sit? Easy Fix

“I cant get my dog to sit! Never mind lie down! Why?”

Some dogs just won’t sit, or so it would seem. This and other behaviors seem to be hard to teach, and it can be frustrating, especially of you are a new dog parent and have little experience with teaching dogs. But don’t give up, help is here!

If I am being honest, its probably mainly you. Yes, that’s right, I said it! But that is a good thing. Why? Because it’s easier for you to change your teaching methods than to change your dogs temperament. Usually if you are struggling to teach basic commands, there are some easy fixes which you may have missed. Keep reading to find out why you may be struggling teaching your dog to sit, stay, lie down and more.

Before I continue, be sure to read our guide on teaching your dog to sit and the full ultimate guide on dog training after you have finished reading this short article.

Why Wont My Dog Sit? Quick Overview

These are common reasons why you are struggling to teach your dog to sit (or another basic command like lie down)

  • The treat not good enough
  • He doesn’t understand what you want him to do
  • He does not have enough focus at the time you are trying to train, he could be too excited, or have too much energy
  • And finally, if he knows what the “Sit” command means, then you may be letting him get away with not sitting sometimes (be consistent)

One main point is to remember to always remain calm when training your dog. Training should be a fun game for them. Listening to you should be a fun game for them. If you get annoyed at your dog when trying to train them, then to them you are getting annoyed they are even looking at you and giving you attention, which will be off-putting for them. As soon as you start feeling frustrated, stop then training, and play with a toy with them instead.

Your dog WILL Sit!

Easy Fix 1

Get better training treats. Your dog, like most dogs, will usually do anything for food. If you have a good enough treat, it is very unlikely that your dog won’t be eager to do whatever he can to get you to give it him. So, this is an easy one. If you hold the treat in your hand, and move it close to him, how does he react? Does he give it a quick sniff, but then get bored or act mostly uninterested? Try giving him a treat for free, does he come back begging for another or wonder off? If your dog doesn’t seem too bothered about the treats, get some better ones. Try some freshly grilled chicken, or some other moist training treats.

When you have some great tasting treats, just before your start training, dog your dog one to get his attention, then start training right away.

Another reason they may not be interested is that they may not be hungry. When did you last feed them? If they have just had a meal, they won’t be quite as interested. They will usually be more hungry after a walk also.

Easy Fix 2

You aren’t teaching him properly. This could mean you aren’t helping your dog to understand what you want from him properly, or maybe you have previously been giving at treat at the wrong time, and he thinks that you want him to do something other than sit. (It’s helpful to buy a “clicker” to help train your dog. This is used to click and mark the exact moment your dog sits, then you give the treat right away. He then gets used to the click being a marker for good behavior, as you can click a lot faster than you can feed a treat).  I’ll split this up into two sections:

Use the correct “lure” motion. You cant explain to your dog what you want him to do. So the only real way is to lure him into doing the action with a treat, then by rewarding him. Click here for the full guide to teach your dog to sit. If you are holding a treat in your hand with your dog stood in front of you, and you move the treat back over your dogs head as our guide suggests, what does he do? He may be jumping, or reaching to get the treat. If so, your hand and treat is being held too high. You should have the treat in a closed fist, and be moving it backwards (from your dog’s point of view), right on top of his nose. It sometimes requires very slight adjustments to hand placements and movements. Try and make some changes, and watch how your dog moves and reacts. You may have to start with the treat hand in front of his face, a bit lower down, move it back towards him and moving up to, and over, his nose at the same time. If you dog starts to turn round as you move the hand over his head, stop and bring the treat forwards again. You may need to stop with the treat hand touching his nose. You may need to move the treat hand slower. Give these a try and see what works.

Treat at the right moment. The important thing is that as soon as he sits, the exact moment he sits, you praise and treat at the same time. You need to do this so he knows what exactly happened for him to be given such a yummy treat! If your dog sits for a moment, then stands back up before you have praised him, he will think its the standing up which deserved the treat. This will just be teaching your dog the wrong behavior.

You can also watch patiently as your dog walks round the house or garden, and wait until he sits on his own. Then use your clicker or excitedly say “good dog!” to mark the good behavior, and go give a treat.

Be sure to read our training guide for a full explanation.

Easy Fix 3

Train at the right time. We already talked about training when your dog is hungry, but what about energy levels. Does your dog having lots of energy help when training? No, usually not. In fact, if your dog has lots of energy, he will usually find it quite hard to concentrate, and definitely won’t want to be sitting down! He would rather be running around chasing a ball. You will always have more attention from your dog, and more control over him when he isn’t a big ball of explosive energy!

Take your dog for a walk, play tug, throw a ball in the garden, anything to burn off some energy. Get your dog down to a sensible energy level. Remember though, that a puppy will usually also sleep lots! So keep a training session short, after some play, but before he gets too sleepy.

If your dog it too excited, maybe he has just been playing and is all hyper, try some calming strokes/petting first.

If you have more than one dog, it may be hard training with another dog around. Try training with just one dog in the room at a time.

Easy Fix 4

Obey every time. If you have previously taught your dog to sit, but he just wont listen to you now, or only sometimes listens, you may have a stubborn dog, or you may not have been enforcing the command. Some dogs are more stubborn than others, and some are very eager to please. But no matter which your dog is, if he can get away with not listening to you when he wants to do something else, he will. The key here is 1) continual training, and 2) make sure that you don’t tell your dog to sit but then let him ignore you.

Imagine you have just told your dog to sit, but instead he walks off and picks up one of his toys (because its more fun than sitting lets be honest!), what do you do? Make sure he knows this isn’t allowed, and that its more beneficial to listen. How? Right away, go to your dog, remove the toy, tell him to sit again, and gently push his bum down if he still refuses. When he sits, make sure to really praise him, give a treat, throw his toy. If he knows he can get away with something he will. If he knows that he cant get away with it, but that if he listens he will get praised, or a toy, or something else, then he will listen.

What next?

Read our full training guide here. Also, get some great toys and treats for your dog here.

If you are still struggling, you may want to take your dog to a puppy class. No only will you get expert 1 on 1 help, you will also socialize your dog at the same time.