Sophie Jackson is a dog lover and trainer living in the UK. She competes in agility and obedience with her four dogs.
The Puppy Sit
Have you ever seen a tired pup flop into a sit? He sinks onto one hip, and his other leg is kicked out to the side as he chills. Or maybe he appears to go almost cross-legged, with both knees splaying to the side and his toes touching. This is called a puppy sit, or sometimes a lazy, sloppy or frog sit.
Growing puppies are very flexible because their joints are loose, their bones pliable and their ligaments are like rubber bands. This is why puppies can look a little uncoordinated and crazy as they run about.
As the puppy grows, the joints, bones and ligaments strengthen, becoming tougher as everything fits together much more tightly. That early flexibility is replaced by sturdy weight-bearing joints that support the entire body and ensure your dog can run around and jump without an issue.
A dog with a sound conformation should grow out of that puppy sit as they mature, but what happens when a dog doesn't? What does it mean when an adult dog adopts a puppy sit? It could mean that your dog has a problem; they may even be in pain. The puppy sit in an adult dog is a warning sign, a symptom of something else going on with your dog, and you should not ignore it.
But before we go any further, let's be clear on the difference between a normal and a puppy sit. Below are two pictures of the same dog. The first shows the dog in a lazy sit (this dog has luxating patella which causes her to sit this way), the second shows the same dog sitting correctly. There are other versions of the lazy sit, but only one way a dog should sit normally.
Myth-Busting the Lazy Sit
There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the puppy or lazy sit, so before we discuss what causes it, let's bust a few myths that you may have heard.
1. The 'puppy sit' in a puppy indicates that they have bad hips.
This is something that worries a lot of dog owners when they first spy their pup sitting with splayed hips, especially in bigger breeds. Lazy sitting in puppies is perfectly normal, it is just because they are so flexible as babies. It is not, in itself, a sign of bad hips or other joint problems. A dog that reaches maturity (depending on breed between 1-2 years) and still adopts a puppy sit is something to worry about. Then you might have a hip problem. But if your 16-week-old puppy flops into a lazy sit, it is just because he can at that age.
2. Lazy sitting will give my dog arthritis or hip dysplasia.
I have heard this myth on a number of occasions, often stated when looking at a puppy for whom it is perfectly normal to sit this way. Lazy sitting will not cause joint problems, it will not cause arthritis. In an adult dog, it is usually a symptom of discomfort, which could be caused by the deterioration of a joint or back pain. That is when people get confused. They think the sit caused the problem, but it is the other way around, the problem causes the sit!
3. My dog just can't be bothered to sit properly.
Nope, definitely not true. A dog that has good conformation and sound joints will automatically sit with their hips and knees tight to the body and their feet stacked beneath them. This is the most efficient form of sitting and enables a dog to leap up and power off if they need to. A dog that adopts a lazy sit is trying to alleviate discomfort, they have an issue with sitting properly, but it is not because they are naughty. In fact, the lazy sit is a very poor term for this posture. Your dog is not being lazy at all when they sit like this, it actually requires more work on their shoulders and front legs to raise themselves from that position.
4. You can train a dog out of a lazy sit.
It is certainly not a bad idea to encourage a dog that tends to sit sloppy to have better posture, but just constantly correcting their sit will not eradicate the underlying problem. Even with regular sit training, a dog that adopts a lazy sit will likely get worse over time if the condition causing them discomfort is not resolved.
5. Some breeds are meant to sit like that.
Again, this is a big no. All dogs of all breeds should naturally sit in an upright position with tucked in feet. Unfortunately, some breeds are notorious for joint issues and this can lead to the misguided idea that they are meant to sit sloppy. If your dog is older than two and prefers a lazy sit to an upright sit, then you need to pay attention.
Why Does My Dog Adopt a Puppy Sit?
When an adult dog slips into a puppy sit, it is a telltale sign that something is causing him discomfort. He is sitting that way to alleviate pressure on his joints or back, or to avoid aggravating a part of him that is sore. If your dog only does this very occasionally, it may be a passing problem, such as a muscle sprain that will resolve itself with rest.
However, if your dog is routinely sitting like this, then you should get them checked over. There are lots of potential causes for this problem and most are very treatable. Here are just a few possibilities:
- Impacted or infected anal glands
- Knee issues (luxating patella)
- Hip problems (hip dysplasia)
- Spinal problems
- Major injury that has caused changes to the skeleton (such as being hit by a car)
The lazy sit is something that most owners will overlook and never even think about, but it is a big indicator for vets or injury specialists that something is wrong. It will not be the only symptom of the problem, but it may be the most obvious.
The bottom line is the sooner you get to the root of the problem, the easier it will be to treat. For instance, if a dog has a slipping kneecap, catching the issue at a young age enables the owner to work with a physio. or a hydrotherapist to build up the dog's leg muscles and avoid having to have an operation to fix the knee. None of the problems that cause lazy sitting will get better on their own, and most of them are degenerative in nature. Ignoring the issue will mean they get worse, possibly resulting in the need for expensive surgery.
Getting to the cause of that puppy sit sooner rather than later will save your dog a lot of pain and will be a lot easier on your purse.
What Should I Do If My Dog Sits Like This?
The first step is to go to your vet and have them examine your dog. The vet may be able to pick up the problem in a standard examination, or they may suggest x-rays to see if there are issues with the skeleton. Once you know the cause of the problem, you can address it.
Physio. and hydrotherapy are two of the commonest ways to treat problems, both build up muscle to help support weak or sore joints. Certain conditions may only require muscle management, mild hip dysplasia or luxating patella can both be successfully managed in this way.
More serious problems may require pain medication or, in the worst case scenario, surgery. The majority of problems that cause the lazy sit are bone related (excluding anal gland issues) and giving your dog a good joint supplement that includes Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM will help enormously. You could also try feeding Golden Paste, a mixture made from Turmeric which is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. A number of companies now supply Golden Paste for dogs, but you can also make it from scratch at home.
The puppy/lazy/sloppy sit is an early warning that something is not right with your dog. Find out what that issue is and you can get on top of it before it becomes more serious. It may be a subtle thing, but if more dog owners were aware of what the lazy sit indicated, they might realise sooner that there was something causing their dog discomfort or pain. We all love our dogs and want the best for them, so let's talk about that lazy sit and know what to do when we see it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Sophie Jackson (author) from England on August 10, 2020:
Hi Mira, I am sorry to hear you have had a bad experience. As outlined in the article the lazy sit can be caused by a number of problems, not just hips. It is disappointing your vet was so off-hand about the problem. I have worked with various animal therapists and vets over the years, and all have agreed that lazy sitting in an adult dog is a sign of pain somewhere, finding the location of that pain can be the tricky part. I hope your dog gets on ok.
Mira on August 05, 2020:
My dog started sitting like this recently and because she has also been leaning on furniture when she sits to support her spine, I was worried it might be a problem. I looked it up and found this article and was immediately very concerned she was having hip problems. I scheduled a vet appointment and have worried about this for days because I thought she was in pain and something was wrong due to this article. I wasted 100 dollars for the vet to look at me like an idiot and say she's fine. I checked with another vet and they said it's fine as long as they dont seem to be having trouble getting up. I find this article very misleading.