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.
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!