Good manners involve saying please and thank you. And whilst I'm not expecting my dogs to offer me those words :D , I am looking for behaviour that indicates the meaning behind them.
A recurring theme in my private training classes is that most of the lovely dogs I get to teach lead very privileged lives. They are bought the best quality dog food, they have extremely comfortable bedding, they enjoy cuddles on the sofa and lovely long off-lead walks each day. You get the picture - life is good :)
Which is all wonderful, but it can lead to problems if all of these nice things and enjoyable activities are given to them for free. Because if they get to barge their way through life and don't get taught nice manners, then unfortunately they can become rather spoiled brats!
So here's 7 places to incorporate some good manners into your dog's daily life:
1. Crate Permissions
Crate Games by Susan Garrett - rather than just opening the door to your dog's crate and having them dive past you, expect them to Sit and wait until you give them permission to exit. Check out her DVD below for more information.
Use the principles of Crate Games around door ways out of your home. Ask your dog to Sit by the back door. If they get up as you open it, close the door again. Repeat until they show understanding that the open door & permission to go through is something that you grant and not something they can have for free. Practicing this by the front door could potentially save you dog's life if they're apt to bolt out of an open door!
3. Walking On Lead
Practice this at home to begin with. Having reinforced your dog heavily for walking by your side, ask a family member to act as a distraction with some food or a favourite toy. Make eye contact with them and ask them to Sit before releasing them forward to say hello and investigate the goodies. If they can't remain in a Sit then they don't earn the reward of getting to say hi! Good things in life are contingent on good behaviour :)
4. Exiting Your Car
Getting out of the car to go for a walk somewhere is usually an exciting event for most dogs. Does your dog leap out as soon as you open the door or could you ask them to Sit and wait for permission to come out? Using your crate game rules, simply close the car door until you get the polite behaviour you're looking for!
5. Off-Lead Exercise
Being dragged to the point on a walk where my dog wants to be let off and then having to wrestle with the clip to let them go free is not my idea of great manners! So instead, stop if your dog pulls forward and insist they walk with you (if you need more help with this please don't hesitate to get in touch) and then when you reach the point you can let them off, ask them to Sit and wait for permission to run and play. If they go to move before you've said they can then, re-clip the lead and repeat until they understand off-lead privileges are earned not stolen!
6. Sofa Cuddles
I'm a dog trainer who LOVES to have her dogs snuggled up on the sofa with her. But again, I like them to make eye contact with me and offer a Sit to say please nicely before coming on up. My puppies learn that unless they do this, they will gently and persistently, be guided back onto the floor. Puppies that have learned choice games whilst growing up are usually very smart about this one and get it very quickly!
NB: If you are trying to do this with an older dog who growls or snaps if you try to move them off the sofa, please get in touch for help in resolving this before following this advice.
I don't insist that my dogs earn every meal, but I will check their self-control every so often by asking them to Sit and then placing their bowls down in front of them. The bowl being placed down is not their permission to have it, they have to wait for an 'Okay' from me to do so. And for those dogs who already know this game, then mix it up with asking for different positions or one or two before letting them have their meal.
Today I'm grateful that the dogs I get to teach are loved and spoiled rather than ignored or neglected. Each have their own set of problems that need resolving, but I'd much rather work with the former :)