Hang around with enough dog owners, and inevitably you will hear someone say to their distracted or recalcitrant dog, “Sit! Sit! Sit! SIT!” I’m pretty sure that, in the minds of most dogs, the cue for sit isn’t “Sit!” but actually, “Sit! Sit! Sit! SIT!”
Then there is my other favorite: “Sit! Sit! Sit! I said, SIT DOWN!”
In my head, I always imagine a smart aleck of a dog saying back to his owner, “Well, which is it? Sit or down?”
Clearing up the Confusion
The word “down” is rife with problems as a cue. Some of us use it to tell our dogs to lie down. Some of us use it to tell our dogs not to jump on people. Some of us use it to tell our dogs to get off the couch! And some people use it in all three situations! What’s a dog to do? Heck if I know; I always have to look it up to know if I should be saying “lay down” or “lie down”! You’d think after 30 years of editing, I could get this one right!
Then there is the whole issue of confusing hand signals: When asking for the “down” behavior, Dad snaps his fingers and points at the ground with an index finger but Mom bends all the way over and touches the floor.
If you are part of a multiple-member dog-loving family, hold a meeting and ask every single person, one at a time, to cue the family dogs for “sit” and “down.” Take video of each person cueing the dogs and of the dogs’ reaction, because I assure you that hilarity will ensue as it becomes apparent that each person in the household does it a little differently, and the dog’s reaction will vary.
For best results, make sure you are presenting consistent cues – whether they are verbal, hand signals, body language, or a combination – for each discrete behavior to your dog every time. Unless you really don’t mind repeating yourself. J