Teach Your Dog To Mind His Manners

Well behaved dogs are infinitely more welcome in homes, and public places than their unruly counterparts. They are less likely to be rehomed, but easier to do so, should the need arise. A step beyond loose leash walking and not jumping up on visitors, there are three important manners that have many applications in our everyday lives.

Many have witnessed the dogs that move through the kitchen as they please, steal food right off an unsuspecting child’s plate, and take over the couch regardless if they are allowed to do so or not. While I recognize this is common dog behavior, these animals are living in a human world, and typically thrive on consistent rules and boundaries. How a pet acts in their own home should be within the complete control of their owners.

All of the following commands will ask your dog to give you space and respect boundaries.  It’s the same kind of thing we ask of our human roommates. “Have a seat and make yourself at home, but stay out of my way, and don’t eat my food.”

“Out”

“Out” is a command that tells the dog he doesn’t belong in a space. This teaches him where the invisible line is that he cannot cross.  I also use “out” when I need him to get out of my way. If I’m carrying a big load of groceries or a sleeping child, I don’t want to trip over a dog.

How To Teach “Out”

  • Have a clear idea in your mind where you don’t want your dog to be.  This may be a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, dining room, etc.
  • As soon as he steps into that space, say “out” and walk towards him. He will likely back up or turn and move away.
  • If the non-physical pressure doesn’t work, continue to walk toward him, gently bumping into him if necessary.
  • If your pup really doesn’t get it, grab his collar and gently, but firmly, lead him out of the space.
  • Wait for him to “fail” again, then repeat the steps.

Eventually your dog will equate the “out” command with backing out of whatever space he’s in. Even if you’re visiting someone else’s home, it won’t take him long to learn the new boundaries.

“Place”

The “place” command is asking the dog to go to their bed or other designated place. Having reserved seating for your dog has many benefits. It provides him with a safe place to go if he gets overstimulated, or if he is over-stimulating you.

Other common names for the command are “bed,” “rug,” or “spot.”  Use whatever is easiest for you to remember, or be creative and come up with your own term.  If you have multiple dogs, you may even name each of their beds differently so that they know where to go.

How To Teach “Place”

  • Determine what your pet’s place will be (dog bed, blanket, etc).  Have a set location for the bed.
  • When you’re ready, tell the dog “place”, and lead him gently to the bed.
  • Have your dog lie down on the bed.
  • Affirm with “yes.”
  • Walk away.
  • EXPECT your dog to get up and follow you!  Don’t back away and beg him to stay, he should fail.
  • Turn and say “bed” and point to the dog’s bed. If he doesn’t go, lead him back and have him lie down again.
  • Repeat the above steps until your dog gets it.

Know that any time you make eye contact or speak to your dog, he will be likely to get up and come to you. He needs to learn to stay in his bed until he is called.

“Leave It”

It could be not eating the tasty slice of pizza off your plate, or not rolling in the yummy smelling roadkill while on a walk.  Dogs are led by their noses. When something smells delightful to them, they will stop and fixate on it. Have you ever been walking your dog when their nose locks so hard onto the ground they (and you) practically trip over it?  That’s a hard bond to break. Often no amount of pulling will get them to leave it behind.

How To Teach “Leave It”  

  • Start with a high value treat, something your dog is crazy about: hot dogs, cheese or other training treats that are broken into very small pieces.  Show it to your dog to get his interest.
  • With your dog on a short leash, toss the treat a few feet away but don’t let him go after it.
  • Say “leave it.”
  • Try to keep him on a loose leash, but do not let him get to the treat.
  • As soon as he relaxes, and either sits or lies down, release him and tell him to “get it.” That is the reward for leaving it.
  • You can change it up by having a flavorful dog-friendly knuckle bone, or other large chew toy that your dog values, or be brave and set your dinner on the floor. Tell him to leave it the same way as before.
  • When he succeeds, give him a high value treat from your hand.  This prevents him from always assuming that he will eventually get something he’s been told to leave.

All of these commands take repetition and consistency.  If you let them do it incompletely even a single time, you will have to push harder to make them do it correctly for multiple tries. The more consistent and specific you are, the faster they will learn.

Bonus Tip

Take your four legged buddy for some exercise before training.  This drains the excess energy and puts them in a much better frame of mind for learning.

By Ellie Chambers

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