Sophie Jackson is a dog lover and trainer living in the UK. She competes in
agility and obedience with her four dogs.
Three dogs sitting; the two outer dogs sit correctly, but the middle dog
(Labrador) has his knees flopped in and his feet splayed. This dog has
arthritis in his hips.
The Puppy Dog Sitting Posture
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.
Photo 1 of a spaniel. She has adopted a ‘puppy’ sit with her back left leg
tucked under her. She has luxating patella (slipping kneecaps) which cause her
to sit this way.
Photo 2 of a spaniel. The same dog as above, but now she is sitting correctly.
Her knees are flat to her sides and her hind feet are tucked neatly beneath
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
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
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 its hips and knees tight to the body and its 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 sloppily. If your dog is older than two and prefers a lazy sit to an
upright sit, then you need to pay attention.
The lazy sit in a puppy is perfectly normal and not necessarily a sign of
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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
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
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.
Adult dogs who adopt the puppy sit should be looked at by a vet, who will
often refer them to an outside specialist, such as a physiotherapist.
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 find recipes to
make it from scratch at home. Make sure these are from credible sources with
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 what to do when we
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
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.