Recently, I encountered some goofy dog training “wisdom” that said, basically, if your dog won’t hold a position you ask of him, he’s being stubborn or obstinate. Hm. What if – and, I know, it’s a crazy idea – your dog won’t hold a position because it’s uncomfortable?
Cooper does not sit. Well, he does. If you cue him to sit, he sits. But only for a second. Then he immediately pops back up or, if he knows we’re in “training” mode, he chooses a down instead. But look at this weirdo splay of his back legs:
When he takes a “down” stance, he nearly always rolls his hips to the side rather than stay on his belly – the exact opposite of Emmett.
And if he is down on his belly? His legs can’t tuck under:
So, what’s my point?
This is the question that came up in the research: Why won’t my dog sit?
Here’s another: How can I get my dog to sit?
First: Make sure your dog really, truly, honestly knows the cue. You might think you taught it well, but your dog might not fully understand what’s expected of him. Or, you taught it super well in the quiet living room, but now you’re at the park and he seems to have no clue what you’re saying. Start by going back to basics. See if you can do a low-key training session with the behavior in a few areas–your living room, the backyard, then the park–with a ton of treats. If he really does seem to know it, great!
Second: Perhaps if you’re struggling to get your dog to perform a certain behavior, it might be worthwhile to step back and check out his physiology. I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with Cooper’s back legs, but they certainly don’t look like they’re comfortable when he’s sitting! Sit has always been our default training behavior, and it still is for the Big Boys, but for Cooper we’re using down as his default to compensate for this wonkiness.
Your dog is neither stubborn nor obstinate if he won’t sit. Most likely it’s a training issue or a physical issue. With Coop, we’ve just given up sit almost entirely. Now, he uses “down” comfortably as his holding behavior, and he’s even more comfortable when he’s able to roll over onto his side.
Have you ever observed anything like this – a physiological challenge that may prevent your pup from performing a certain behavior? How have you trained to compensate for that?