There are normal sits and then there are sloppy sits in the world of dogs. While many dogs tend to sit sloppily, it's important to consider that at times, sloppy sitting in dogs can be an early sign of a medical problem. Not all dogs show outward signs of discomfort or pain when they are hurt, and many dogs are pretty stoic when it comes to hiding their chronic pain, often causing small manifestations to be missed by dog owners. Sitting sloppy may be one of them, therefore it's important to carefully evaluate whether there's a physical problem at the bottom of this behavior, preferably with the aid of a veterinarian to play it safe.
A Dog's Sloppy Sit
What does it mean for a dog to sit sloppy? Normally, when a dog sits, the rear legs are tucked nicely under the hips and kept close to the body. In a sloppy sit, the legs are kept loosely and off to one side or perhaps one or both legs are stretched outwards in front as seen in the dog in the picture on the left.
The sloppy sit in dogs is often compared to the position of a lady riding a horse with the legs placed sideways. Also known as lazy sit, slouch or frog sit, a sloppy sit is a sit often seen from a dog who may be tired, lazy or just plain and simply relaxed.
Sloppy sits are often seen in puppies. On several occasions, a puppy may be seen sitting with his hind legs to the side, but is that something to worry about?
According to veterinarian Dr. Gwen, sitting with the legs to the side is a common puppy posture that is commonly seen when pups are going through those awkward growing stages.
At times, this type of sit can be seen when puppies are getting a bit tired during training.
Because sloppy sits in dogs and puppies can be also due to medical problems, it's a good idea to mention this habit to the vet. See you vet as well if your dog has always sat promptly on cue, but is now struggling in obtaining the sitting position.
Possible Medical Problems
There are several possible medical conditions behind dogs who sit with their legs to the side, especially when it's a new behavior that pops out almost out of the blue. So it's best to see the vet rather than chalking it up to laziness.
Hip dysplasia, for example, often causes pain in dogs and dog may sit sideways as a way to adjust their bodies to prevent discomfort. Dogs affected by hip problems often become sore after running and may have a hard time getting up from a sitting or lying down position.
The yellow Lab in the picture below, sits this way because he was in a car accident and had to have surgery on his hip, but the surgery didn't go too well so he was left a bit crippled.
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Getting a Straighter Sit
Other orthopedic problems causing a dog to sit with the legs splayed out are arthritis, a temporary inflammatory response, knee pain caused by luxating patellas (quite common in smaller dogs), and if a dog is sitting to the side and also limping on a rear leg, a torn cruciate ligament may also be a possibility.
Sometimes sitting sloppy is not related to an orthopedic problem, but something else. Back pain caused by a herniated disk, anal gland problems, a painful tail or problems to the part of the spine where the tail attaches to the body are other possibilities among several others.
After ruling out medical problems, dog owners mat wonder how to fix a sloppy sit. While this may not be a big deal with owners training their dogs to simply be companions, those who have special ambitions such as putting titles on their dogs, may need to be a bit more picky about getting nice, square sits.
Many dog trainers frown upon sloppy sits considering that a side-saddle sit can result in loss of precious points in the obedience ring.
A good way to fix sloppy sits, if you're using a clicker is to click and reward only straight sits, so that sloppy sits eventually start reducing while square sits tend to increase.
For obstinate cases, it may help to ask a dog to sit when he is between two piles of books or when "in drive" such as ready to pounce to get a ball or when doing fast fronts in a sequence so that the dog is ready to sprint in action.
Of course, the earlier a straight sit is taught, the better, as sitting sloppy can become a bad habit once muscle memory kicks in, if allowed to happen all the time. With young puppies instead it's simply a matter of timing as things start to get better in the sitting department once they develop their muscular-skeletal system, explains dog trainer Pamela Reid in her book ''Ex-celerated Learning''.
Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog has trouble sitting or lying down, see your vet to rule out medical problems.
Pamela Reid, Excel-Erated Learning: Explaining in Plain English How Dogs Learn and How Best to Teach Them, James and Kenneth Publishers; 1st edition (February 1996)