Last week, I asked the question “why do we teach sit?” The question was really meant to re-evaluate why we teach a dog any behavior. So many things we teach seem to be just the standard – a set of things every dog should know. But why?
Here’s what I think. I believe the reason we teach our dogs to sit isn’t always the reason we should have for teaching them to sit. If you take a basic obedience class, chances are you will learn to teach your dog how to sit, down, come, stay, walk on a leash (maybe), and leave it. But then what? I betcha that most people go home and don’t use most of these behaviors ever again, because they aren’t really taught how to use them.
So, why should you teach your dog to sit? Because it is a great tool! You can ask for a sit before your dog has a chance to jump up – do that every time and soon she will learn the pattern “approach person, sit, get petting”.
Some other uses for the sit behavior:
- To get your dog to stop moving forward on leash (and therefore stop pulling)
- To keep “4 on the floor” when there is food on the counter, a person walking in the door, or someone carrying a casserole to the table.
- To prevent door dashing
- To keep your dog from rushing up to another animal/child/person
- To have your dog in a stationary spot before asking her to release a toy (can’t tug on a toy or run away with it if she’s sitting!)
I hope that by now you are thinking “hmm, every one of those items is to prevent unwanted behavior”. Yes! Exactly. The behaviors we teach our dog are all tools to ask them what we do want them to do in a specific situation. By teaching sit, down, come, stay, walk on leash, leave it, etc – and teaching them well – you have tools to direct your dog to good behavior when they might otherwise do something undesirable (to us). These are all communication tools to help our dogs understand how to live in our homes and communities without causing trouble.
I think that we need to shift our thinking about training our dogs. The purpose of taking a training class should be to learn how to live with your dog, how to ask your dog for good behavior (and therefore reduce the bad behavior) and to build a relationship with your dog.
So, the next time you teach your dog something new – think about all of the ways you could use your new tool to ask for something good from your dog!