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To Sit or Not to Sit - That is the question?

More often than not ‘Sit’ is one of the first commands we teach to our dogs, but why? What purpose does it serve?  In our world it is paramount that certain dogs are taught to respond to particular instructions. For example; support dogs, drug detection dogs and guide dogs all need to react to certain ​sights, smells, noises etc. However, getting a dog to ‘Sit’ just because, can have no real benefit and in some situations can cause the dog and owner considerable stress. 

A lot of owners will make a dog sit when putting on its lead, when waiting to cross the road, or as a means of control when the dog is behaving in an undesirable way. However, if we look at this through the eyes of a dog, we are actually going against its natural instinct of fight or flight in the presence of perceived danger. Dogs do not understand that cars, lorries etc, pose no risk and are just taking us humans from A to B. For a dog these ‘unknowns’ are potentially dangerous situations and the dog will feel much happier to remain on his feet, thus retaining his most basic instinct survival of flight or fight. By pushing it’s bottom down into the sit position will only increase its anxiety. Think of when you feel agitated or anxious, the last thing you want to do is sit down!!

For a dog to sit or lay down on its own accord, it must feel happy and relaxed. To do this it must first establish that there is no present danger and the people around them are also calm and relaxed. If there are agitated or stressed people around, the dog will not want to be off it’s feet and neither will you!

Here at Hounds ‘n’ Harmony we prefer to teach the dog how to control its own behaviour via consequence of action.  So for example, if your dog gets very excited at the presence of the lead, simply put the lead down and do not continue until the dog has calmed down. It will not take long for the dog to realise that he has to remain calm in order to get out of the house. This same method can be applied to other behaviour, such as jumping up. By ignoring the behaviour, the dog will soon realise that it has nothing to gain and it actually gets what it wants (acknowledgement) far quicker if he patiently waits. Think of how we apply similar rules to children, ignoring the bad behaviour and praising the good.

Next time you are in a situation where you know that your dog will feel uneasy (for a lot of owners, this can be the Vet), just remain calm and give your dog some time to adjust to the situation. If he feels safer standing, do not force him to sit, this will only increase his and your anxiety, especially when he keeps getting up.

So to conclude: if you do want to teach your dog to sit, then do so when your dog is feeling happy and relaxed, which is normally in their home environment. Do not force the matter when outside, remember if he wants to stand, it’s because he does not feel comfortable in the situation and wants to be ready to carry out his basic instincts if necessary.

To find our more about the method we teach, please click on the Canine Behaviour link below.

Collette Jacobs


Canine Behaviour

We offer an holistic, stress free approach to eradicating unwanted behaviour.

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Should you wish to talk to us please call 07519 950 959 or email [email protected]


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