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4 Reasons Why I Don't Teach Sit as Much as Other Dog Trainers

4 Reasons Why I Don't Teach Sit as Much as Other Dog Trainers

While teaching the 'Sit' cue is seen as a staple in dog training, I like to take a different approach. And thus you'd probably have a tough time finding multiple videos of me where I am teaching the cue/command Sit to a dog. Especially if they're distracted or having a tough time focusing. I also don't really teach this during my private sessions or classes. Here are the reasons for that:

Cockapoo sitting on a swing at kid's outdoor playground.

1. There are other, more rewarding options: Don't get me wrong, I love seeing a dog offer a good Sit, but generally speaking, it's not something I'll encourage or prompt them to do. That's because there are many other things a dog would rather do, and this is one of the many reasons why you'll often see pet parents repeating the cue to a dog that's basically ignoring them. Instead, I prefer providing my dog with something more engaging for them to do. You can try something like Find it! or Touch!, especially to easily help your dog refocus and pay attention to you in a way they can look forward to, each time. If you're looking for some ideas for other things you can do with your dog, consider my daily/weekly enrichment routine.

2. It doesn't help most dogs calm down and refocus: In my experience, when I see pet parents ask for a sit, the majority of the time, I notice that their goal is not to encourage their dog to do one of many fun tricks, but rather an attempt at helping their dog refocus on them and calm down, especially while out on walks, close to their trigger(s). During puppy class, you will learn to use the cue Sit to help your dog engage with you, but if you pay close attention to how it's done, you will see that it's practiced in a very engaging way, which also causes your pup to then anticipate the something more to happen. This is great, particularly in the context where you want to engage with your dog and do fun things with them, like during class or in a training session. This, however, won't work too well, if your goal is to calm down or help refocus your dog in a relaxed manner, as the cue Sit has been built in a more exciting and activity-related manner early on. This means that you might actually be encouraging your dog to feel more excited (excitement doesn't always mean happy or engaged) and that can work against you in situations where you're trying to help your dog calm down, even if your dog successfully performs the sit. So, for example, if your dog is jumping at guests coming over, it might be a tall order to get your dog to feel calm simply through sitting, instead, what you could do is use their leash to help them walk away from the door, to help them regulate and wind down from the excitement they feel inside, slowly reintroducing them to your guests in a more mellow mindset that will naturally make them feel like they don't need to jump.

3. Taking space feels better: Building on the previous point, if a dog is finding themselves in the face of their triggers, I will never ask them to sit, mainly because this can result in my dog feeling even more cornered than they did before. Even while you're out on a walk, your dog can feel cornered and like they have nowhere to go, to remove themselves from their trigger. That's because 1. they are on a leash and 2. they have been asked to sit and basically deal with something they likely just can't. Instead, what I recommend doing is helping your dog take space and walk away. Think about how we teach children to walk away and not engage when faced with potential conflict. Teaching this to dogs is also key. And once your dog learns to walk away, you are then more likely to see them offer a Sit or two, because they already feel calmer thanks to having been able to walk away with you.

4. I prefer listening over talking: When it comes to dogs, body language is the name of the game! By this, I mean that I prefer paying attention to what my dog is doing, vs what I tell them to do. You will rarely see a dog that's feeling in tune and connected to their handler be asked to repeatedly sit. That's because their relationship has been built in a way where they are both continuously listening to one another, and at the most, one or two different cues from the handler will suffice to help the dog feel like they want to listen to them as well. And if you're focusing a bit more on listening to what your dog is doing, AND you wait for them to sit without you asking them, they are then telling you that they're with you, that they're listening, that they're present and are perhaps ready for you to prompt or engage them to do something else with you. If you're walking or doing something with a dog and they have a hard time sitting without being told to, that's also something to listen to, and likely an indicator that your dog does not feel 100% at ease, but rather excited, distracted or even alert. Do you use the Sit cue often? If so, how do you like to use it? If not, do you share the same thinking as I do? Let me know! :)

When/How often do you use sit?

  • I use it whenever my dog is distracted/not listening.

  • I use it whenever I want my dog to Sit, just for fun.

  • I use it among many other fun tricks we do together.

  • All the above!



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