Why Do Dogs Back Up Instead of Sitting?
Some dogs back up instead of sitting and dog owners may wonder what they can do to ameliorate the situation. Fortunately, there are several strategies that can be used in such cases. Often, it's just a matter of helping the dog a little bit and strategically setting up the environment to improve the situation. Particularly difficult cases may instead benefit of a totally different training approach. Let's therefore do some troubleshooting and find some strategies to fix this issue.
Into the Dog's Space
Some dogs may not be too comfortable having our bodies too close to them and small dogs may feel intimidated by our legs. This can be because in the past we may stepped over them or tripped or because they just aren't too comfortable with us looming over them in their space. In such case, the dog's instinct is to back away. It may therefore help to sit down on the couch and practice sits. Not only is this less intimating to the dog, but it also is more comfortable for the owner.
A Matter of Size
Sometimes, very large dogs may struggle to sit as we expect them to due to their conformation. For example, great danes may back up when asked to sit almost as if they need to make extra room for their legs and must start prepping their hips to accomodate them. It's almost as if it's easier for these dogs to back up into a sit rather than just tuck their butts under. With these dogs who sit awkward, please be patient and once your dog understands sit, then you can try to increase criteria and start reinforcing only the fastest sits and those without many back steps.
Consider Health Problems
Sometimes, we must give dogs the benefit of doubt before labeling them as stubborn. Perhaps, your dog may have hip issues or some other type of pain and he is struggling. Make sure your dog is not in pain or is suffering from any back, abdominal or orthopedic problems before starting obedience training.
A Matter of Surface
Sometimes, it's all a matter of the puppy or dog not liking to sit on a cold or hard surface. In these cases, simply try training your dog to sit on a rug or carpet area and see how it goes. If the backing up reduces, then you know it's a matter of surface. This may particularly apply to male intact dogs. Make sure to make the activity of sitting extra rewarding using high-value treats so that the reward becomes more salient than the cold floor.