Speedy Sitting: How To Train Your Dog to Quickly Sit

When you ask your dog to sit, do they do it right away or does it take some time or additional bribes? Here are 5 tips to help you dog respond quickly when you ask them to sit.

Dog quickly sitting for a treat

There are two places we look at speed in dog training. One is how quickly a dog responds, from when we give the cue to when a dog begins the task. The other is how quickly the dog does the action, from the start of his response to completing the task. I’ve met dogs who begin to sit immediately but take forever to finish the job. And I’ve met dogs who have a delayed response but then quickly do the task.

Below are a few tips that look at both areas.

If your dog doesn’t know how to sit or lie down yet - check out this series. Once your dog is familiar with the skill, come back here to work on speed. 

Make it Easy

Start with skills that are easier for your dog. For most dogs, this is something like “Sit”. For other dogs, it might be hand touch or spin in a circle. By starting with easy skills, we are making it more likely your dog will be successful.

Increase Your Dog’s Heart Rate

You will not respond at your fastest first thing in the morning or while relaxing on the couch. Dogs are the same - get your dog warmed up, physically and mentally, before asking them to respond quickly. It could be a short fetch or tug game, running with them a short distance, or letting them chase treats back and forth a few times.

Use High-Powered Rewards

More motivated dogs will typically respond faster or with more intensity. When we’re focused on calm and relaxed behaviors, we are more likely to use lower-value rewards, such as dry dog food or dry cereal. We should use your dog’s favorite rewards when we want more intense responses. You may want to upgrade to their favorite toy or tiny chicken pieces rather than pet store treats. 

Rewards should match the effort involved. A dog might learn to push a button for a dry biscuit, but if we want them to do a more physically or mentally challenging task, the reward needs to match. Check out more on reward development.

Make it a Habit.

If you teach a dog to respond quickly for just a few behaviors, they will likely generalize and become faster with everything they know. This is a dog trainer’s secret and will save you lots of training time. Create an expectation of speed in your training. Help your dog succeed by ensuring they aren’t too tired, are ready to work quickly, and that your rewards match their effort. Once a dog is more experienced, they will respond quickly even if they’re tired or distracted, but early on, you should be strategic about what you are asking for.

Don’t Accept a Delay

If your dog takes too long to respond or is too slow, don’t let them finish the task. Encourage them away from the spot and tease them in a friendly way. You could have them chase a treat in your hand or quickly lure them through a spin. Then try again. If they are slow twice in a row, then we need to let them rest or change our plan so that we can get success next time.

We want to be encouraging, not hard on them. If we scold a dog for slow responses, we are less likely to inspire them to try harder next time. We want them to be more motivated on their next attempt and to keep working.