Why are we always asking for the sit? It has always seemed like the good “obedient” choice on our part for our dog to provide. I’ve been in that place myself. I wanted my Great Dane to sit patiently. Then I had an epiphany.
Last year we brought our adolescent dane RuhRoh to a group class. Hubby kept asking her to sit. She was being a very good dog, she was calmly greeting people and dogs. She was walking with a loose leash. She was being such a freaking good dog! However she would not sit on cue in that environment.
So why were we upset? Aside from being embarrassed, it was the way WE had been trained, the dog should sit. It is the first behavior we are taught in training school and in training classes. It's time to rethink sit, and here are some of the reasons why as well as how SIT may not be the best option for our dogs.
1. Sit before entering a doorway. Why should our dog have to sit before entering a doorway? In the old days it was thought that if a dog entered first they were trying to be dominant over us. In actuality they are usually just excited about what is on the other side. As an alternative polite behavior a "check in" and pause will help you and your dog be on the same page, is usually faster and adds another step in a relationship built on respect.
Things to think about: Some surfaces may be hot, hard, rocky or in some other way uncomfortable to our dog. Finally, and most important, as a dog ages those sits can become painful and hard on the hips.
"Standing waits" will give you and your dog calm go-to skills that are much more convenient to both you and your dog. To teach this behavior while the dog is standing next to you say their name and reward when they look at you. Practice it a lot, then take it to the doorway, both going out and in. Do this when your hands aren’t full or you aren’t wrangling children, so that they make the connection that waiting calmly is worthwhile. Then add in distractions such as carrying a bag or box, engage a friend to help with greetings on walks. One step at a time.
When someone disagrees with science based positive reinforcement training they use a word that scares me, but also inspires me. The word respect. “My dog does it because he respects me” “I don’t want to bribe my dog, they need to do it out of respect”. The word comes up a lot in their argument. The thing is, it also comes up when I explain my training methods. I respect the dog, our training is respectful. We earn the dog’s respect. We reward their good work with something they want. Something they will work for. Yes, we use a lot of treats. We also use love, praise, attention, play. We build a relationship based on respect.
a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
"the director had a lot of respect for Douglas as an actor"
due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.
"young people's lack of respect for their parents"
admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
"she was respected by everyone she worked with"
Respect is elicited by or admiration of another’s qualities or achievements, which must be earned. But the “respect” they reference is actually compulsory obedience that is based on the fear of consequence, the consequence of a punishment. My dog will do it because he respects me. Unspoken is the “or else”. Based on fear, not respect.
an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain,
or a threat.
"he is prey to irrational fears"
be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.
"farmers fear that they will lose business"
required by law or a rule; obligatory.
"compulsory military service"
involving or exercising compulsion; coercive.
"the abuse of compulsory powers"
When building a relationship it should be built on respect. Our dogs respect us because I treat them with respect. We make sure their needs are met, without fear of consequence.
the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
the way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave toward each other.
This is what we mean by relationship based training, a relationship built on respect.
Ronda Warywoda, CPDT-Ka, UW-AAB
1 Definitions from Oxford Languages
Stub-born: /ˈstəbərn/ adjetive
having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
Have you ever referred to your dog as stubborn or had another trainer say this about your dog? Is the dog actually stubborn or is the human? If we keep doing something that is not working and we know it isn't working then aren't we being the stubborn ones? Especially if we know there are other methods that may work better?
First we need to find proper motivation. Just like we may be motivated by different things, so are dogs. Using my own dogs as an example I have one that is ball or toy motivated. She will do anything, absolutely anything, for a ball or squeaky toy. I have one that is very food motivated. Especially when it comes to cheese. Then I have one that will do anything to get a drink of water from a water bottle. Last, our newest arrival, changes what motivates him. Sometimes it's food and sometimes it's attention. Motivation can change, depending upon their mood (and if they are hungry). Learning what motivates them gives us a better relationship, mutual respect and a less frustration.
What doesn't motivate? Punishment. Punishment suppresses, it does not build a relationship based on respect or trust. It also causes confusion and can lead to fall out behaviors of anxiety, fearfulness, and even aggression.
The angst of adolescence. That cute puppy is now an adolescent (think teenager) and has her own opinions and wants what she wants when she wants it. That marble in the brain is rattling around without a place to land How do we deal with adolescence without resorting to aversives which may cause dangerous fallout behaviors later? I'd like to say easy but it isn't. It takes patience, lots of micro training, enrichment and management.
Patience: Remember, this too shall pass. Be patient, you will see the change happening as your dog matures, usually by the age of two. Why 2? Because this is typically when the frontal cortex of the brain is fully developed and the frontal cortex is where self control originates.
Micro training: What is micro training? It's small sessions that you can scatter through out the day so that it turns into real life training. Asking for and reinforcing those sits, waits, leave its and settles so that they become habit. Remember, reinforcement drives behavior. You work for cash, your dog works for treats, toys and/or attention. Teaching Fido the calm dog with good behaviors gets the rewards.
Enrichment: This is a biggie. Dogs need to use their brains. Mental exercise can tire out a dog just as well as a long walk does. We include it in our day by scatter feeding breakfast, a kong (we have several different versions to keep it mixed up), tricks, putting a few treats in a box, paper towel tube, or a paper lunch bag or even a game of find it.
Management: As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The better you prevent an unwanted behavior from happening the easier it is to teach your dog what you want them to do. Prevent door darting by teaching wait at doorways. Prevent jumping on people by giving them a spot to hang out when your guests arrive. Gate off the kitchen to prevent your dog from counter surfing or getting into the trash. Once these types of behaviors start it is so much harder to stop because they are self rewarding.
We shall be grateful that adolescence in dogs is so much less than in humans. Be patient, do lots of small training sessions, engage his brain with enrichment and prevent his opportunity to get into trouble. Show them love and keep them safe.
Does your dog have a reliable recall? Many don't and most dogs only respond when they want to. When a puppy or rescue comes home they often will follow us around and recall doesn't seem necessary until they begin to get a little more interested in the environment. They will appear to develop selective hearing, at least part of the time anyway. There are some easy steps to developing a reliable recall. It also is a matter of safety that your dog will respond.
How do you build a solid and reliable recall in your dog? Easier and a lot more fun than you think. Here are some tips:
Puppy Insanity. This is RuhRoh, our newest baby. Today she turns 13 weeks old. What have we been working on at home? She came from a great breeder who uses Puppy Culture to raise her puppies. Thanks to that RuhRoh arrived with an excellent sit already in her repertoire. We built on that sit to get some nice waits. Wait before eating, wait before coming out of her crate and after, before going outside, basically a wait anywhere that her puppy craziness might take over.