Have you ever thought about whether your dog is actually understanding your words or commands and attaching a meaning or reason to them? Just as if I asked you to “jump on one leg” – wouldn’t you ask “WHY?” When you are training, or implementing word commands into your dog’s life, consider giving them meaning. Let’s use sit as an example.
Simply saying ‘sit sit sit’ over and over when you’re together doesn’t really impress your dog, and doesn’t mean it causes you to be worthy of respect. Asking your dog to sit before he comes inside might be a great idea, but why? What are you actually trying to achieve by causing your dog’s bottom to touch the ground?
A teacher doesn’t focus on her class ‘sitting’ before coming into the classroom - her goal to get them to calm down and enter politely.
She may use ask them to sit down to help them achieve this but her goal is for them to change their energy, state of mind and attitude. If she achieves this on it’s own, there is actually no need for them to sit.
There is a big difference in how you will come across to your dog if you have a purpose and a clear understand of why you are requesting something. It shouldn’t be to “dominate” or because someone said to get your dog to sit.
Your dog also should perceive that your energy and/or emotion state is consistent with the request - are you yelling, frustrated, nagging or sometimes giving up? Take a moment and imagine someone talking to you in the same way and feel how motivated you are to listen.
The sit position is used by dogs to communicate to each other, in certain situations, an offering of calm submission or friendship (I am not a threat to you), a display of self control or acceptance of the other dog’s more powerful energy in that moment. It’s the opposite of becoming larger! It will not make sense to your dog if you ask him to sit in a situation of high energy or when he is resisting your energy as being more powerful (your leadership or authority) in a situation.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with asking for a sit position, it can and is quite useful at times. But I do recommend being aware of why and when you ask for it and make sure it makes sense to your dog.
It is so common for us to hear “sometimes he will sit and sometimes he won’t.” Rather than focus on the symptoms, focus on how to impress your dog and achieve a healthy, passive mindset and you will be surprised at just how often your dog will OFFER you a sit.
I see this ‘offering’ or happy compliance as feedback from the dog that I am on the right track with MY behaviour and there is no resistance from them in allowing me to make the decisions. After all, you can fake it til the cow’s come home, but genuine trust and respect has to be earned.
Thought I’d share this poem while we’re on the subject – it made us laugh a lot.
“Sit” – A Poem
from the book “I Could Chew On This (and other poems by dogs)”
by Francesco Marciuliano
You want me to sit?
You’d like me to sit?
You need me to sit?
You’re asking me to sit?
You’re saying louder for me to sit?
You’re yelling for me to sit?
You’re begging for me to sit?
You’re pleading for me to sit?
You say the word ‘sit’
Like I have any clue what it means
But I love your enthusiasm
And so I jump up and down with joy
for the both of us
Author: Emma Tucker
Emma has a deep understanding and passion for dog and human psychology and the way these relationships reflect each other. Her knowledge of dog behaviour is 2nd to none.