One of the first exercises we teach a dog is the Sit.
There are many way that you can teach the dog to Sit, here are the two most common methods used:
Applying Downward pressure on the hip and stabilizing pressure on the chest
Placing a food lure close to the nose and moving it slowly vertical so that the dog follows it and the dog will sit to maintain focus on the lure
That's all good and well, but what is the Sit for?
We use it to teach the dog to stay in one place and coupled with the Stay we will have the dog wait in a particular position.
But why the Sit? The dog can lay down or stand still right, why waste time teaching a Sit?
There are some that believe that the Sit is an unnatural position for a dog. Yes I have heard this from experienced people - believe it or not.
There are qualities to the Sitting position that we cannot fully appreciate until we see the reasons for the behaviour.
For example a dog will sit:
under a bird nest and stay longer than you have trained for
when you prepare their meal in front of them
when the wind changes direction
OK so the first one is a bit of a give away. But the other two examples get gradually more obscure. The common denominator in all of the examples are attention. Much like the first week of The Casey for example.
In the Sit position the dog is able to reduce the capacity for movement and prove that it is paying attention to the source of its focus.
When you have your dog stay for longer periods of time, the dog is not waiting for you to release it. No, it is concentrating on Sitting still and preempting their next cue.
You could also argue that the Sit ensures that other dogs know that there is no intention to antagonise the other. You see dogs perceive body language very well and when the shoulders are lower than the hips, on dogs, this could be construed as being an antagonistic - whether playful or not - and result in cross purposes.
A practical example of that can be when they are startled. For example two pups are playing with each other with far too much noise and activity than the parent dog is willing to put up with. A loud bark from the parent and both pups suddenly become very quiet and sit immediately. They show their attention in on the parent dog and they are concentrating on the parent dog relaxing, this would be their cue to start moving about again.
Why do we teach the Sit?
The Sit is a fundamental cue for the dog to remain motionless and focused on the next cue, this is done with greater efficiency from the Sit compared to the Down or Stand. When Standing the dog has to concentrate a great deal on not moving its feet for example. Remember the old Freeze game back in school? You would run around and jump about until the teacher said "Freeze!" you would then do what you can do to stay absolutely still. It wasn't easy...unless you put yourself in an easy position to hold. Because you would reduce the amount of body control required and allow you to focus on the next move with less distraction.
The Sit is fundamental to many behaviours, from trick behaviours such as begging (also known as Sit Pretty) on their hind legs through to Sitting and barking when they have found a lost person in Search and Rescue work for example.
In our urbanised and population dense communities the Sit also allows us to provide a good silhouette for our dog when they are to wait outside a shop for example. If a small-medium dog where to lay down, an unwary person could oversee the dog and step on them.
So what is Sit?
Sit does not just mean Sit. It means Sit tall, pay attention and be seen.