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How To Teach Your Pit Bull To Sit

| Published on November 15, 2016

Pit Bulls are smart and willing to please, making them fairly easy to train. However, their zest for life and high energy can sometimes make simple cues – like “sit” – a bit hard for them to master. They can’t imagine sitting still and missing out on life! Most Pittie owners agree that while their excitement brightens their days, it is nice to be able to tell them to sit and have them respond…the first time. But don’t worry, here is an easy and effective way to teach your Pittie how to sit on the first cue, every time.

Image Source: Audrey Via Flickr
Image Source: Audrey Via Flickr

Capturing The Behavior

You are going to use a form of training called “capturing.” This is when you wait for your Pit Bull to offer what you want and then you mark it (with a click or a verbal word such as “yes” or “good”) and then reward. Capturing is a great way to train because it makes your Pittie think to figure out what you want. Behaviors taught through capturing are much stronger than those taught using other methods.

To capture your Pittie performing a sit” have your reward (toys, treats, etc.) ready and your clicker, if you use one. You can keep your Pit Bull on leash at first to keep him from wandering. Now, just stand still and wait. Most dogs will eventually sit when you ignore them long enough. As soon as his bottom hits the floor, mark and reward. Toss the reward away so your dog has to get up to get it – thus resetting him for the next sit.
Do short training sessions, just 5-10 minutes, a couple times a day.

Bouncy Pittie

As mentioned earlier, if your Pit Bull is so full of life he can’t even keep his feet on the floor, you may find that shaping a sit will be better. To do this, start by marking and rewarding your Pittie any time he keeps those feet on the floor. Once he is standing still, you can go back to waiting and see if he will offer a sit by delaying the click. Eventually, he will start trying other behaviors, including a sit. Mark and reward with lots of treats, then try again.

Also, be careful you are not using too high of a reward. If you are using your Pittie’s favorite toy, for example, it may be making him too amped to work. Instead, trying using a less exciting toy or kibble so he can focus.

Adding the Cue

Once your Pit Bull is sitting without any “extra behaviors,” he’s figured out what you want. At that point, you can add the cue. Adding the cue—”sit”—is easy. Just say the word as your Pittie is getting into the sit position, then mark and reward.

Do a few repetitions of this and then test the cue by saying it while your Pittie is standing. If he promptly sits, he’s got it – reward heavily! If he doesn’t, that’s okay. Do nothing and just wait for him to sit and say the cue during the sit a few more times and test again.

Fading the Treats

Once your Pittie is sitting beautifully in multiple places every time you say “sit” just once, it’s time to fade those treats. You can use other rewards – verbal praise, toys, petting, etc. – anything your dog likes.

Image Source: Christine Cowen Via Flickr
Image Source: Christine Cowen Via Flickr


If your dog doesn’t sit when you say the cue once, too bad, no reward. But this won’t happen very often with this form of training. If it does, your Pit Bull may be distracted by his environment or even nervous or stressed. Use it as information and assess the situation before you ask your dog again – you may need to put some distance between him and an object or leave the environment altogether if he is really nervous.

Now you’re ready to move on to “stay”!

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