Recently, I have been working on teaching JoJo to SIT. She is six months old and has not been taught to sit because of her former life as a potential show dog.
Dogs who are being shown and will spend a lot of time doing so are often not taught this cue for ease of handling in the show ring. Who wants to keep telling their dog to stand up right?
There are a few tricks that handlers use to get a dog who insists on sitting, to stack properly. The technique of stepping on the dog’s back toes was used on my Eli when we wanted to finish his championship in one weekend. I had taught him to stand but only from a sit.
My mistake was not teaching him a clear hand/body signal when I wanted him to stand in front of me. And of course the professional handler that took him into the ring was not his handler (me) so he was not responding to her signals correctly.
What I have learned since then is this:
You don’t need to step on the dog’s back feet (which is positive punishment by the way) to keep him from sitting in the ring. You just actually need to properly train the dog.
A similar issue came up when I was working with a rancher who had a working stock dog. One family member wanted the dog to play frisbee – which the dog loved. Another family member did not feel this was appropriate for a stock dog and refused to allow it. The discs even disappeared at one point and were not to be found again.
The thought was that it would ruin a dog’s ability to work stock if he had another interest or activity.
This type of thinking is simply old style, traditional, and dog myth thinking.
The fact is, doing multiple activities and training would be more likely to HELP a working dog with the job at hand AND improve the training skills of the handler. The more a dog learns and the more YOU learn to do, the better for both your brains.
I also find that dogs that do more are more fit and agile and stay mentally vital longer. Stimulation of the brain (learning) has been proven to increase the number of brain cells and size in humans and dogs.
Here is an article that might help to clarify this if you are interested.
Now, if you want to do really well at a particular dog sport and trial, and win at trials, you focus for a while on one activity. But that does not mean that doing other activities make it more difficult for the dog to do her/his job. It only really makes it more difficult for YOU to do the training.
You have to be committed. You have to learn new skills. You have to put in the time.
But the best thing is to avoid putting restrictions on your dog’s learning ability (and yours) and give up responsibility for correct training to the myth that doing something else will ruin a dog’s working ability.
Like teaching a show dog to sit. It is almost taboo to do but completely inaccurate. Doing so is simply to make life easier for the handler not more difficult for the dog.