Sit. This seems to be the first behavior people think of when they start training their dogs. Have you ever wondered why we teach sit? Some say that its goes back to the competition obedience ring. But what if you don’t compete in that sport? Why should we teach sit?
The reason became clear to me when we brought a new puppy into our home. Cailie is a delight, but impulse control was not her strongest suit. It seemed logical that if she was sitting, she wasn’t jumping.
Over time, we will also teach her a nice stand, keeping all four feet on the floor, and teach her to wait, but first we start easy, with Sit and teach other behaviors later.
Of course, we could teach her to stand calmly. After all, when dogs are greeting each other or checking out something new they are standing. But if our puppy was standing it was much easier for her to jump up or move forward.
This article in the IAABC Journal is about why we should or should not teach sit. I agree that we should not require our dogs to sit in every situation. Many dogs have difficulty sitting due to their build or physical ailments, and we don’t want to ask a dog to do anything that is uncomfortable physically or emotionally.
Some people adapt the “Nothing in Life is Free” protocol (NILIF) which requires the dog to perform some trained behavior before receiving anything. In my opinion, this is taking things a bit far. Kathy Sdao’s book, Plenty in Life is Free, offers a great perspective on how in some cases, NILIF can be employed properly, though taken too far, it can become a slippery slope and be detrimental to your relationship with your dog.
So, why start with sit? As I mentioned, a sit is an incompatible behavior to jumping. If our puppy Cailie is sitting, she can’t be jumping up. It’s a good first behavior to teach before you begin to work on a nice stand and wait behavior. Sit is easy for most dogs to do, so they can easily earn reinforcement (reinforcement is what causes a behavior to happen again). And when the human end of the leash has success teaching and reinforcing sit, they tend to want to reinforce more behaviors. So, sit can become a “gateway behavior” that jumpstarts training.
So, train your dog to sit, but use it wisely.
Brad Waggoner is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, a KPA Certified Training Partner (CTP), a Dogbiz Certified Dog Walker, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior and Partner of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. He enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities for dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. www.coldnosecollege.com