Training a German Shepherd to sit is one of the first and most important commands you’ll teach your dog. A well-trained Shepherd who can sit reliably on command is a pleasure to own.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of teaching your German Shepherd to sit using positive reinforcement methods.
Why Teaching Your German Shepherd to Sit is Important
Teaching your German Shepherd to sit has many benefits:
- Control – A dog who sits on command is easier to control on walks, during play, and in any situation where you need them to settle down. It stops pulling on the leash, jumping up, or getting over-excited.
- Safety – A dog who sits immediately when you ask will be less likely to dart into traffic or run off. The “sit” command can even save your dog’s life in an emergency.
- Manners – A German Shepherd who sits patiently for petting, for their food bowl, or when guests arrive displays good manners. It makes them pleasant to be around.
- Foundations for other training – The sit command forms the basis for teaching more complex skills like wait, stay, heel, and come. An obedient sit sets up future training success.
Starting sit training early and reinforcing it consistently will give you a well-behaved German Shepherd who respects you and is a joy to own for years to come.
Step 1: Gather Your Training Supplies
Before you start training, gather the items you’ll need to set your Shepherd and yourself up for success:
- Treats – Small, soft treats your dog loves. Ideal options are tiny pieces of chicken, cheese, hot dogs, or commercial treats. Avoid hard, crunchy treats.
- Clicker (optional) – A handheld device that makes a clicking sound to precisely mark desired behavior. Helpful but not essential.
- Leash and collar – For maintaining control of your puppy during training sessions. A 6 foot leash and flat collar work well.
- Dog crate (optional) – A comfortable space to briefly confine your dog if needed during training. Should only be used positively, not punitively.
Having your supplies ready ahead of time will make training sessions smoother.
Step 2: Set Up the Training Environment
Choose a location with minimal distractions to start teaching your German Shepherd to sit. Inside your home or a fenced yard are ideal training spots. Avoid areas with lots of people, dogs, children playing, etc.
Tips for setting up a good training environment:
- Train in short 5-10 minute sessions to keep your dog’s focus. Take breaks between sessions.
- Try to train before feeding, when your dog is hungry and motivated by food rewards.
- Get your dog’s energy out first with a quick play session or walk.
- Have your dog on a leash attached to your waist so you can prevent jumping up.
Your dog will learn fastest when the environment is controlled with minimal disruptions. Once they reliably sit on command, you can practice in more challenging environments.
Step 3: Capture a Natural Sit
When first teaching the sit command, take advantage of times your German Shepherd sits naturally, without any direction from you. Every time they sit on their own:
- Say “sit” in an upbeat, encouraging tone of voice.
- Give an excited “Good sit!” along with a treat reward.
- Give affectionate praise and petting.
Repeating this process over multiple natural sits will teach your dog that “sit” is what that action is called, and that good things happen when they hear that word.
Pay close attention to capture natural sits throughout the day during play, training, on walks, etc. The more you can “catch and reward” sit behavior, the faster your Shepherd will make the association.
Step 4: Lure Your Dog Into a Sit
Once your German Shepherd connects the word “sit” with the physical behavior, you can start guiding them into a sit using a lure:
- Soft treats your dog loves (have plenty on hand)
- 6 foot leash attached to your dog’s flat collar
- Hold a treat in your hand down by your dog’s nose so they can smell it.
- Slowly bring your lure hand up above the dog’s head and back over their ears. They will likely look up to follow the treat.
- As your hand passes over their head, their hind legs should lower into a sit position naturally.
- Say “sit” then give treat and praise immediately when their butt hits the floor.
- Release your dog from the sit position and let them stand normally again before repeating the lure process.
- Keep sessions short and rewarding by doing 5-10 repetitions then letting your dog play/rest.
- If your dog stands up or jumps for the treat, guide them calmly back into position. Be patient.
- Pair the “sit” command with a hand signal like an upright palm once your dog understands.
Using a food lure to guide your Shepherd into a sit position teaches them to associate the verbal cue with the physical behavior.
Step 5: Fade the Lure and Add Distance
Once your German Shepherd begins sitting reliably in response to the food lure, you can begin to fade the lure:
- Hold your empty hand in the same position as if you had food, but don’t show them a treat up front. Say “sit.” When they do, mark the behavior with a “yes!” or click, then reward from your other hand.
- Over multiple training sessions, randomly swap between an empty lure hand and a hand with food. Continue rewarding every time they sit properly.
- As your dog succeeds without seeing the food up front, you can begin asking for a sit from increasing distances – first 1 step away, then across the room, then from other rooms, etc.
- Always return and reward after commanding “sit” from a distance at first. Eventually work up to rewarding periodically with the release “okay!” allowing your dog get up.
Fading the lure and adding distance are important steps, so don’t progress too quickly. You want your German Shepherd to remain motivated and responding correctly.
Step 6: Practice Sit in Real Life Situations
Once your German Shepherd understands and reliably performs the sit command:
- Practice sit in different locations – at the park, on walks around the neighborhood, at friends’ houses, at outdoor cafes that allow dogs, etc. Start in minimally distracting environments first before working up to more challenging ones.
- Ask for a sit before activities like petting, giving food/treats, playing fetch, going for walks, etc. This will reinforce sit being a default behavior they offer when excited.
- Use sit when guests arrive at your home before allowing them to pet your dog. Teach visitors to ask for a sit first. This prevents jumping up.
- Use sit repeatedly on walks any time your dog starts getting ahead or straining on the leash. This refocuses their attention back on you.
The more real life practice sessions you can incorporate, the better trained your adult Shepherd will be. Don’t expect perfection at first in highly distracting environments – stay positive and keep working on it. Consistency is key.
Tips for Maximizing Success When Training Your German Shepherd to Sit
Follow these tips to get the best results as you work on training your German Shepherd to reliably sit on command:
- Stay positive – Always use a happy, upbeat tone of voice and praise when your dog sits correctly. Never yell or punish them for mistakes.
- Keep training sessions short – Multiple 5 minute sessions spaced throughout the day are more effective than one long session.
- Be patient – Some dogs learn faster than others. Allow your German Shepherd to learn at their own pace without getting frustrated.
- End on a high note – Finish each session by asking for an easy sit and rewarding it, so you end positively.
- Use high value rewards – Real meat treats are more motivating than dry biscuits. Wean off food rewards slowly over time.
- Be consistent – Make sure everyone who interacts with your dog uses the same sit command and hand signal.
- Practice daily – Frequent short sessions will produce the best results. The more you practice, the better your dog will become.
Training your German Shepherd to sit takes time and consistency, but it’s a very worthwhile investment. Keep sessions upbeat and rewarding, and you’ll have an obedient companion in no time.
Common Sit Training Mistakes to Avoid
It’s easy to inadvertently slow your dog’s sit training progress if you employ some common mistakes. Be aware of these pitfalls:
- Punishing your dog for not sitting quickly enough. This will cause anxiety and damage your relationship.
- Repeating the “sit” command over and over in frustration without rewards. This will teach your dog to ignore it.
- Taking a break when your dog doesn’t comply. You want to always end sessions on a correct sit that’s praised.
- Saying “sit” without showing your hand signal as well early on. The combined cue has stronger meaning for dogs.
- Moving too quickly between criteria like fading the lure, adding distance, changing locations, etc. Go slowly.
- Expecting sustained sits for long periods of time too early in training. Start by rewarding brief sits of just 3-5 seconds.
- Forgetting “sit” practice during day-to-day life. Utilize mealtimes, playtime, walks, etc. to reinforce it.
- Ending a training session if your dog loses focus. Instead, gently re-focus them on something easy they know well.
Being aware of common training mistakes will help you avoid backsliding and keep your sit training on track. Be consistent and patient.
FAQs About Training Your German Shepherd to Sit
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions people have about teaching a German Shepherd to sit:
How long will it take my German Shepherd to learn to sit on command?
Most German Shepherds can learn the sit command relatively quickly within 1-2 weeks with short, frequent daily training sessions using positive reinforcement. However, fully proofing and generalizing the behavior takes months of practice in all sorts of environments.
At what age can I start training a German Shepherd puppy to sit?
You can start training basic commands like sit as soon as you bring your German Shepherd puppy home at 8 weeks old. Early training and socialization helps build a well-behaved dog. Keep initial sessions very short and rewarding for puppies.
Should I use a clicker or other marker when training sit?
Clickers and verbal markers like “yes!” are optional but can help quickly mark the precise moment your dog’s butt hits the floor in a sit, so you know exactly when to reward. They also let you easily mark sits from a distance when you can’t immediately reward.
How can I motivate my German Shepherd if they lose interest in treats/toys?
If your German Shepherd stops being motivated by a specific reward, try switching to a higher value treat, introducing a new toy, rewarding intermittently to rebuild interest, training before mealtimes when they are extra hungry, or ending the session on a positive note.
Why does my German Shepherd sit but then immediately stand back up?
If your dog quickly pops back up instead of staying in a sit, you likely need more “repetitions” of sit followed by rewards before you add duration. Keep sessions short and fun without worrying about prolonged sits. Reinforce more in daily life.
How do I train my German Shepherd to sit if they keep jumping up on me?
An over-excited dog that jumps during sit training should be put on a leash attached to your waist for control. You can also train in a confined space like a hallway to limit jumping. Stay calm and keep sessions low key. Reward calm sits heavily.
Consistency and patience are key when teaching your German Shepherd to sit. Use positive methods, troubleshoot issues early, keep training frequent but short, and you’ll see steady progress.
Teaching your German Shepherd to reliably sit on command takes some time and effort, but it’s an extremely worthwhile investment. Sit is the gateway behavior to teaching more advanced skills, and an obedient dog who sits when told will be a pleasure to own for many years.
Follow the step-by-step training guide outlined here, stick with positive reinforcement methods, and practice sit regularly during every day activities. With consistency and patience, you’ll have a well-trained German Shepherd you enjoy spending time with.
The “sit” command allows control and manners in any situation. It’s a foundational building block of good behavior. While it requires commitment on your part, the effort pays off handsomely in the long run. So grab some tasty treats and start working with your Shepherd today! That good dog is waiting to shine.