At first glance, “sit” seems like a pretty easy position to teach a dog. In fact, sit is often the very first thing puppies learn. Did you know, though, that there are several different kinds of sit positions? The type that’s commonly taught, the rock back sit, isn’t always the most efficient or best version for working dogs. Learn how to teach a “tuck sit” by following a few simple steps!
Dogs sit via one of two basic ways — by shifting backward on their haunches with or without moving their front feet towards their rear or by scooting their rear end up towards their shoulders. The first way, called a “rock back” sit, uses gravity to sink the dog’s rump to the ground. The second, called a “tuck sit,” requires enough shoulder strength and stability to support the dog’s body weight as they transition into the sit. For most dogs, the basic rock back sit is just fine — they just need to be able to put their rear on the ground when asked.
For working dogs or performance dogs, especially those competing in obedience trials, the tuck sit reigns supreme. It allows the dog to remain properly aligned without moving away from their handler. If you put the dog’s front feet on a line and ask for a tuck sit, the feet stay in a place. In contrast, a dog using a rock back sit might end up feet away from the place they started! For Service Dog trainers and handlers, tuck sits prove invaluable because they ensure the handler can easily reach the dog or anything the dog is carrying in their mouth or in a pack. Furthermore, the tuck sit also prevents the Service Dog from occupying more space than necessary while working in public.
There are many ways to teach a tuck sit
Multiple methods exist for teaching tuck sits. Depending on how your dog learns, one way may work better for you guys than another. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to teaching a tuck sit that relies on simple foundation skills. The method outlined tends to work for a wide variety of dogs, including puppies.
Before beginning tuck sit training
Ideally, before beginning to teach the tuck sit, your dog will already have some paw targeting and nose targeting skills. The targeting isn’t completely required but it will shortcut the process. You’ll need high value treats, some kind of platform with a clearly defined edge, and, if you use one, a clicker. Feel free to get creative with the platform — the edge of a porch, paving stones, or other stable surfaces work great for this! Your dog needs enough room to stand in a natural position with all four feet on the surface.
Your dog’s front paws should be right at the edge of the platform. Before starting formally working on the sit, you’ll want to do a few rounds of getting on the platform and staying there. Build reinforcement for going to and standing on the platform. This is a great chance to practice your shaping skills! Keep in mind that you don’t need to build distance into this behavior just yet. You only need your dog comfortable hopping onto the platform with all four feet and aligning towards the front edge.
Build strength for the movement
Before your dog is capable of doing a tuck sit, their shoulders and core need to be strong enough to support the full movement. While any exercise, movement, or trick that works core strength will help in this endeavor, we’re going to use a purpose-built exercise to help your dog gain the strength and familiarity necessary. Ask your dog to hop up onto the platform, or failing that, lure them up with a treat. Reward them for all four feet on the platform and front feet towards the edge. You want the front paws to be as close as possible to the edge without hanging off at all.
If your dog knows how to target your hand with their nose, cue the hand target. You want your hand to be just barely out of reach so your dog has to lean and stretch just a tiny bit to reach your hand. If your dog doesn’t target, just use a treat as a lure. However, don’t hold the lure so far away they step off the platform to get to it! if you’ve ever seen a very curious dog who really wants to sniff something but doesn’t want to get close, you’ve seen the position we’re after — front feet stacked under shoulders, lots of forward lean, extended head and neck.
You’re working on the weight shift part of the tuck sit. In order to bring their rear underneath them, your dog has to shift weight forward to take the weight off their back paws. Practice this movement several times a week for a while to help build strength and stability in the shoulder. If your dog doesn’t have a tuck sit already, it’s likely the muscles required aren’t as strong as they need to be. Spend time making sure your dog is strong and comfortable with the weight shift before moving on.
Getting the sit
Most dogs will start to shuffle their rear feet forward as they lean. Jackpot any attempt to move back paws towards their front. Once you start seeing movement in the back feet, raise your target or lure and bring it just a bit further away from the dog to help raise their head. In an attempt to reach, most dogs will lean as far forward as they can without coming off the platform and subsequently tuck their rear end under in an attempt to get their head high enough to reach.
Congratulations! You just got a tuck sit! Keep working on it to build familiarity and strength. Once your dog reliably offers the tuck sit, attach a cue to it and start to fade the platform. You’ll have to help your dog generalize the behavior. Incorporate the tuck sit into your other training routines. You’ll quickly find your dog stays closer to you and remains more accessible as a result of this nifty behavior.