Sitting Pretty

I explained in Total Recall that certain requests are open to various interpretations. Sometimes a request can evolve with time. This has happened with “sit”.

It was the first request that I learnt as a puppy. My bipeds used it a lot when I was young to stop me doing other things, as I explained in A sit in time saves nine. In those days, sit always meant to park my bottom immediately, but that has changed slightly now that I’m not always getting into mischief.

Now when they say “sit” my reaction depends on where we are and the tone of voice they use. If we’re walking and I’m on a short lead then I know I’m expected to sit beside the leg of the person holding the lead and be ready to move again as soon as they begin walking. This typically happens at the side of the road before we cross it. They usually remember to say “come on” as they begin walking again, but not always!

Then there’s the request to “sit” when we’ve met someone and stopped to talk. If my lead is kept very short then I’m expected to sit against the biped’s leg as I would when waiting to cross the road, but if the lead is a little looser I know I can sit in front of my biped so that I can follow the conversation better.

When I’m on a long lead in the countryside and “sit” is said in a relaxed manner, I will check to see if the bipeds are sitting down for a break. I can then choose a spot anywhere near them and settle down – they won’t mind whether I sit or flop right down for a rest. If the “sit” is said in a slightly sharper tone of voice, I sit immediately as I know they want to check something out. It could be that one of them has spotted some glass on the track, or something else that they think could hurt me.

Clowie, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees strolling in the mountains

Strolling, on a long lead

At home, my response also varies. If one of the bipeds is answering the door, I like to go with them. I have to sit to the side of the door before it is opened. They hardly ever need to say “sit” for me to do that now. I have to stay in a sit all the while the door is open, unless told otherwise. It’s worth it because I like to know who is there and keep an eye on my biped – you can never be too careful!

Generally at home, if “sit” is said in a relaxed tone of voice I look at the biped to see if they’re indicating a particular spot – if they’re not I take my time and choose where to sit. If they say it in a sharper tone of voice I know there’s more urgency and I sit straightaway where I am, but that hardly ever happens these days.

When I’m being brushed the biped usually kneels on the floor and I move as requested. Part of the time I will be on my side on the floor, part of the time standing and when a “sit” is requested it means to sit really close facing my biped so that my chest can be brushed. That’s my favourite part of being groomed.

You’re probably wondering how we came to an understanding on all these variations! When I was an adolescent I didn’t comply with any requests unless the bipeds were prepared to follow up and enforce the request, so I became very good at reading their tone of voice and body language. This means that their tone of voice and body language has gradually become a part of every request that they make of me. And, yes, I do mean request – Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are not into meaningless “commands”, but we will comply with most reasonable requests! (Sooner or later.)

See you next Wednesday!


  1. Me and Nellie have many interpretations of the meaning of the word “sit”. We are very prompt to sit, if We think there is a tasty treat in the offering. However, other than that, We are not so good at sitting or coming for that matter. Mummy finds that because of our need to be with her at ALL times, calling “bye” seems to work so much better than “come here”.

    • That makes sense to me. Bipeds don’t generally take into consideration that we may be busy with far more important things!

  2. I don’t remember what Satin use to do. Mica was a show dog and minds very well, however show dogs are NOT allowed to sit so she judges what we are doing. On a street walk she will sit because it maybe dangerous. In the woods I use wait since she is usually off leash and she will stop where she is till I say OK. If she sees us sit or see us talking it’s going to be awhile so she lays. Aspen is just learning so sit means sit, he has not learned the various places or meaning:)
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    • It sounds as though Mica has it all figured out. I’m sure Aspen will have his own variations when he understands more of what is going on, but it’s always good to be consistent in the beginning.

  3. Since our dogs learn to sit for treats first, it’s a command they love to follow. lol, though as they get older there, of course, are not always treats 🙂
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  4. You described the Pyr and Kuvasz way of thinking to a tee! Bailie is told to sit quite a bit when she misbehaves and it means on your little fanny immediately. She does pretty well with it. Once she matures some more and mellows down it will change as well. We all know the tone of voice with the command tells the whole meaning of what is being requested.
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    • Thank you, Emma! It’s hard to get into too much mischief when you’re sitting, especially if you’re not allowed to shuffle across the floor! I remember those days well.
      The tone of voice used really does tell us a lot.

  5. sit was the first thing I’ve learnt with a clicker :o) and I always park my butt immediately when I hear that click… and then I wait for my treat no matter how long it takes till they find one :o) It’s the second-important command after “oh maaaaan Easy!” butt I don’t now what that command means :o)
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    • You shouldn’t have to wait for a treat – we have to be soooo patient sometimes!
      I’ve no idea what that other command means, Easy, but if they can’t make themselves clear it’s hardly your fault!

  6. I unfortunately have no problems with the sit issue!
    Hugs to you Clowie!
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  7. Wow! I really need to work on Koda with this! He gets very excited when someone knocks on the door, and he always forgets to listen when I ask him to sit during that time. Clowie, do you have any tips that may help him with this?
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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    • You could start with a family member on the other side of the door if that gets him excited and then it doesn’t matter how long it takes to answer the door. I had a fairly solid “sit” with distractions before starting. I was kept on a short lead to begin with and the biped wouldn’t open the door until I was in a “sit”. She kept a tight hold of me and kept pushing me back into a sit. If you can keep it brief because it’s a family member coming in to begin with you have more chance of early success to build on. I hope that helps.

  8. A sit in time saves nine. Love it! U R so clever. We’re still on a learning curse. We’ll sit and stay when it’s food time, but we start to get antsy when our bipeds go for the leash. And then there’s the “everything-we’ve-ever-learned” goes out the window when we see a squirrel. Maybe we should fly over to have you train us, BOL. p.s. that photo of you is wonderful. Beautiful countryside.
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    • Thank you! I wait by the door when the bipeds are getting ready for a walk. Sometimes they take so long that it makes me sigh!
      It’s very hard to think straight when there’s a squirrel about!

  9. Wow I am impressed by your abilities dear Clowie. You are clever indeed!… Have a joyful day … Stand up and … Sit! … 😀
    Love and best wishes, Aquileana!
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  10. You are so clever to understand all the different meanings of sit. After all, humans aren’t smart enough to be consistent.

    If anyone says “sit” near her, Honey plops down immediately. But people get distressed when she pops right back up. I have to keep remind them they only told her to sit, they didn’t tell her to stay.

    Dogs are smart like that.
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    • Thank you. Humans always expect us to understand them, but they don’t always understand us very well.
      Honey is very good to sit for them in the first place, especially if they haven’t offered treats!

  11. Mine are quite good with their commands, sit included.

    But I do know, a lot of the time for a lot of dogs, sit simply means ‘when the dog feels like it’…
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  12. Mom tells me to sit a lot. Sometimes she wants to take my picture. When that happens, I wait to see a treat come out of her pocket and then decide what kind of a photo shoot I feel like having….

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake recently posted…Five Word FridayMy Profile

    • That’s very sensible, Cupcake. It’s only right that the value of the treat should decide how well the photo session goes! It’s hard work training bipeds, but you’re doing well.

  13. How very smart of you to know all the nuances that comes with basic commands as you get older. Well done.
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  14. of course tone of voice is important, my two used to know when it was ‘really important’ and when it was less so!

    Sorry to have been away for so long, hopefully I am back now!
    Lauranne recently posted…So I may be getting a tad carried away…My Profile

    • Yes, we’re very good at noticing the tone of voice and expressions.
      It’s lovely to see you again, have a great week!

  15. when asking me to “sit” politely…all my parents have to say is “what does a gentleman do?” and then I sit. Mom even made a video about it a long time ago. That is the most tried and true method of getting me to sit. Oh yes, I will sit when asked in a “normal” fashion, but I prefer to sit like a “gentleman” Barks and licks and love, Dakota
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  16. We humans may not have your sharp sense of smell, but our voices and body language can be used to convey many meanings to a word. I think you and your fellow canines (and many other animals!) understand those different meanings better than we do at times. 🙂
    jmmcdowell recently posted…Ends And OddsMy Profile

    • Yes, I think we’re better at noticing these things – it’s all at a subconscious level in humans.
      When I’m waiting, very patiently, for one of my bipeds to get up from a chair and do something for me, I always know when they’re about to get up and I get up from my sitting position. They say it’s at the moment the thought crosses their mind to do it now, but they haven’t been able to work out what the “tell” is! And I’m not saying or they might disguise it.

  17. Who knew “sit” could mean so many different things? Luke still gets “sit” and “lie down” confused. But he will lie down immediately if he thinks the “sit” was not enough for us! We let it slide because we think the important thing is that he is staying still and trying to please us.
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    • Yes, quite often the real intention with “sit” is to be quiet and still. I think that’s how our variations came about. We gradually grow to understand each other better.

  18. My sit is usually pretty good, especially if there are a treats to be had:-)
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  19. Totally agree Clowie! You should never, ever listen to meaningless commands!! Body language is very important in the Pack too…SIT is something the pups have to learn very quickly when it comes to NOT diving in to pinch the Alpha’s share of the the hunt prize from under the Alpha nose!! 😉
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    • Yes, I don’t mind reasonable requests, but meaningless commands will be ignored and treated with contempt! I’m sure the pups soon catch on that taking the Alpha’s share isn’t a good idea!

  20. Aurora Jean Alexander

    I have to say I’m very much impressed about the understanding between you and your bipeds, Clowie. This is amazing and I admire it!

    • Thank you, I have watched the bipeds very carefully since I was a puppy to try to understand as much as possible. Sometimes I think they read my mind!

  21. Love your understanding of nuanced tone – how very complicated it all is but you’re a jolly clever girl Clowie!
    Animalcouriers recently posted…Hia flies in from Korea; and Dexter and Lucy head to France for the summerMy Profile

  22. Wow. You seem most agreeable with your bipeds on where you sit and when. I would consider you a very well behaved man’s best friend.
    Travel Animal Doctor recently posted…“We’ve Got Personality”: 4th of July CelebrationMy Profile

    • I think we understand each other quite well. I like to think I’m well behaved and I get lots of praise from my bipeds, so it seems they agree!

  23. She is such a beautiful, soulful dog~

  24. You’re so darn clever Clowie. I pictured you ‘flopping’ down with a great thud 😀 If I met up with you and your bi-peds for a chat, I’d like if you sat with-in reach so I could pet you and chat at the same time. 😀
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  25. Chloe: You are a testament to your species brilliance. And this post got me thinking. How incredible it would be to write a book through the eyes of a “pet.” A pets perspective on all the training aspects we bipeds enforce and use on them. What an unusual way to teach both bipeds and furries how to interact with each other during the training process and the signs to look for when you know you’re doing right. Think about it. Chloe book signing events, Chloe readings, Chloe eventually making it to the big screen where she could share the red carpet with Brad Pitt or Jack Nicholson. And perhaps one day, her paw prints alongside, Lassie’s. lol 😉 I like the sound of that!!!! Hmm….something to think about! Cuz I think with your knowledge of bipeds and you being all adorable and all; yup, you could pull it off!!! 😉 xoxo Sharing this now. <3
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    • The thought of my paw prints alongside Lassie’s has me really excited – my tail is out of control!

      Thank you for your kind words. The thought of a book is something that has been nagging away in the back of my mind. I’m now thinking I should make the time and get started!

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