How to sit your dog using Victoria Stilwell Positively approach?

Lukas sitting outdoors

Lukas sitting outdoors

From the several basic training commands a dog needs to learn, sit was the first one we introduced. According to Victoria Stilwell Positively approach (VSP), the idea is to hold a piece of treat in your hand in front of the dog and raise it to the point that the dog’s head is up and hold it there, until the dog sits. When the dog sits, because it supposedly got tired of that position and naturally it would sit, you then give the dog the treat and praise it with “god boy”. This method does not use any type of physical dominance or violence. It is all based on positive reinforcement given through either food, toy or praise on a good action. What we less want is to intimidate our dog and use any force, specially since it is a rescued dog with its own fears and possible issues from the past. Also, because dogs learn quite well if you find what motivates them and through this method it creates a stronger bond between you and the dog! Therefore, we found VSP approach the best solution!

My first impression when I saw VSP in her “It’s me or the dog” Tv series and from sit training video from the eHowPets – Teacher’s Pet With Victoria Stilwell on youtube, was that it should be easy once the dog sits. Below an example of VSP training a puppy to sit.

However, though I had seen this video and others from VSP sit cue many times, I realized as I started training my dog that it would not be easy. First, my dog – Lukas, would not sit at all. It took 7 training sessions until Lukas sat for the first time. As I watched my own videos, I realized some of the mistakes I did, such as:

  • since my dog is not puppy size, I should had been standing from the beginning and not sitting on the floor.
  • I should not move to much my hand once the dog is focused on the treat looking up and licking my hand.
  • when the dog sits, give the reward/treat straight from your hand, do not place it on the floor since this might delay the reward.
  • do short training sessions of no more than 5 to 6 minutes as the dog looses focus and concentration/motivation – I had sometimes 12 minutes training sessions!! Lukas got tired!
  • do one to two training commands a week, then introduce another(s) – in one week I tried to introduce 4 commands, it is too much and might lead to confusion of the different associations.
  • do 2 training sessions of the same command a day – I once did four trainings in a day…too much!
  • train in different rooms of the house so the dog gets used to the sit command in any room.
  • once the indoor sit command is more consolidated, start doing it outdoors.

Next I will share with you sit training sessions I did with Lukas. They demonstrate different stages of evolution. Beware, that I had trained Lukas 6 times to sit with VSP without success, i.e. it would not even sit a single time in order to get an reward. I was starting to feel hopeless… So lots of patience and hope. Do not give up!! 🙂

1. Second training of the sit cue while sitting on the floor with no success!

2. Fifth training of the sit cue while standing with no success!

3. Seventh training of the sit cue while standing with first success!

4. Eight training of the sit cue with success but there was still some regression – needs consolidation!

5. Eleventh training of the sit cue for consolidation!!

My husband trained Lukas on the 9th and 10th time. It is always good that everyone in the house trains your dog so it gets familiarised. We now continue training Lukas to sit in the outdoors, specially before crossing a road. Indoors we are currently using the sit cue for Lukas to get its food among others. Good luck with your training. Please share with us your experience!


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