Sit is one of the very first things most people teach their new puppy or dog and it definitely has its uses but it’s more often misused when there might be more productive and compassionate approaches.
BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET:
The ground can be cold, wet, icy or dirty. Here in Canada it’s often covered in toxic salt during the winter months. If your goal is safety, teach your dog an emergency stop with a release instead. What position they are in is irrelevant as long as they stop on cue and look to you for further instruction.
GREETING OTHER DOGS
Dogs rely on subtle body language to communicate effectively with each other. Forcing them to sit can inhibit clear communication and possibly make them feel more vulnerable, leading to problems with greetings and possibly even reactivity down the road.
WHEN GREETING PEOPLE:
Asking dogs to sit when greeting humans is a popular approach. In theory it’s not a bad idea but in reality, it’s a tall order and as such as likely to be a failing strategy leading to frustration for all concerned. Instead, we can just reinforce four-on-the-floor greetings while ALWAYS allowing them the freedom to move away if they choose. Forcing your dog to hold still during an unwanted interaction is essentially backing them into a corner and, well we know how that story goes. And NO your dog should not WANT to say hello to everyone – never mind be touched and grabbed – any more than you do.
IF YOUR DOG IS A SENIOR
Or any dog who may have arthritis or hip dysplasia tendencies, regardless of age. The motion is hard on hip joints and can cause your dog unnecessary pain.
TO ADDRESS REACTVITY
It might seem like we are gaining control of the situation by asking our dogs to sit instead of lunging and barking but whether a dog needs more space or is a frustrated greeter on leash, having them sit addresses neither of these needs and may even exacerbate them. Keep them moving and teach them to focus on you instead for tasty rewards and a positive association with the sight of other dogs.
Taking a dog’s needs and abilities into consideration will always be a winning training strategy. 🏆🐕🦺