0 Comments | Aug 31, 2011

The Power of the Simple “Sit”

Sit is one of those commands we expect every dog to know.  It’s usually the first thing we teach puppies, and it’s something we’ll ask even of dogs we don’t know.  After we’ve taught the basics of the command, however, we’re usually pretty quick to move on to more exciting things; down, stay, come, shake, all of these come quickly on the heels of “sit,” often leaving “sit” underpracticed and underused.

You’ve seen it at the park, in your neighborhood, even in your training class.  Handlers ask their dog to sit.  Then they ask again.  Then they demand “SIT.”  They shrug apologetically and change the subject.  They push down on the dog’s hips or try unsuccessfully to catch the dog’s eye before asking again.  And then they expect this same dog who didn’t respond to “sit,” to walk nicely with them on leash, to listen while around other dogs and to return from across the dog park.

Practicing  “sit” is easy.  And devastatingly effective in building an understanding with your dog.  If your dog will sit for you anytime, anywhere, you can take your dog with you everywhere you go.  If your dog will sit for you anytime, anywhere, you can retrieve them at the dog park.  You can take them on a walk.  You can stop them from lunging across a busy road to greet another dog.  You can keep control of your dog, and keep connected with your dog, even in busy, confusing or dangerous situations.

Picture this:  You are walking your dog.  He begins to pull at the leash.  You say “sit.”  He does.  You move forward until your dog is in a nice loose leash position, while he continues sitting.  Then you walk on together.  He pulls again?  You have him sit again.  No yanking, no yelling.  Just a simple “sit.”

Or this: You are at the Farmer’s Market.  It’s busy, with other people and other dogs, lots of sights and smells.  Your dog is distracted, ears swiveling this way and that, unexpected noises making him whip his head around.  You are just the weight at the end of the leash.  You say “sit.”  He does.  You can see him begin to relax.  You have reestablished the connection between the two of you.  He starts to look to you for direction again.  No coaxing, no pulling.  Just a simple “sit.”

So, how do we achieve this magic anytime, anywhere “sit?” We start in the family room.  Or the kitchen.  Start easy, in the places your dog normally works.  Get a really good “sit” there, then move to a new place.  The dining room.  The hallway.  As you get good in your new environment, continue finding new places to practice. Practice your sit everywhere.   Practice indoors and out, at home and away. Practice while you sit, while you stand, while you’re lying down.   A few minutes of practice a day makes a huge difference.  Soon “sit” becomes your default command, something you ask your dog and he actually does, the first time you ask.

Dogs crave order.  Knowing what to do and when to do it helps them feel calm and secure.  A simple “sit” can take the tension out of a situation, keep your dog connected with you, and maintain order in the midst of chaos.  With all that going for it, perhaps that simple “sit” is worth a second look.