We want to help your dog develop charming manners so they can come with you everywhere you’d like to take them. Manners for dogs mean that they are under control around temptations, respecting social boundaries, not pulling on the leash, and ready to take direction from you, their loving human. To boot, good manners will breed confidence with practice as they facilitate positive outcomes and a healthy mindset.
Valuable consequences are the mechanism that reduces the intensity and frequency of misbehavior, which on the flip side makes room for good behavior. We also want to keep our own display of negative emotions in check during these moments. This helps keep the overall temperature down as well as demonstrates that we are worthy of being followed. Furthermore, it helps the dog choose to engage with you and what you want rather than shy away from your guidance.
The general approach to teaching manners is to supervise when temptations are present, correct when bad manners occur, then coach appropriate behavior. Look for the degree of corrective feedback that interrupts misbehavior immediately. This will look different depending on the method and tool, as well as the situation.
General Protocol: If the dog is beginning to place his focus on a known temptation, or activity breaching good manners, immediately provide feedback. The form of feedback that works best for your dog will have been discovered and discussed during your session (leash pop, finger snap, foot touch, air-tool, e-collar stim, etc.). The goal is for the feedback to be at a sufficient level to interrupt the misbehavior at the moment, allowing you to redirect your dog’s behavior appropriately. The more determined the dog is to commit the misbehavior, the stronger or louder the feedback will need to be to break through that determination. A go-to redirection for challenging situations is to get the dog to simply walk away, calling him to you if he’s off-leash, helping him to mentally let the desired misbehavior go (aka giving it up).
Tip: You’ll need to be aware of your environment to anticipate potential temptations and misbehavior. This way you’ll be ready to provide interruptive feedback and redirection guidance with the most meaningful timing.
Specific examples – skip to what you need:
- Jumping Up On People – When coming home or when guests are arriving, be prepared to issue feedback the moment your dog attempts to jump up on you or them (if using a tool, don’t issue verbal feedback as well, this helps the dog choose good behavior when you aren’t there, or when you aren’t saying “no”). If the degree of feedback is significant enough, we should see the dog stop, return all four paws to the ground, and perhaps back away a little. Should the dog look a little shy after the feedback, the person the dog was about to jump up on should invite him back over. Should he jump up again, correct again. Once he’s keeping all four paws on the floor, provide praise, positive attention, or even a treat.
- Excessive doorbell barking – When expecting a guest or a package, be prepared to issue feedback for excessive barking. If your dog is launching itself at the door, full speed, immediately provide corrective feedback with no verbal warning (full speed assaults on the door are never okay, so correcting without a warning is best). If your dog is just one to bark excessively, let them bark two or three times, enough to let the person at the door know you’ve got a dog, then tell the dog to “quiet.” Should the dog persist in barking, begin to correct for each bark after you’ve said quiet. After a few taps, they should stop. And with some practice, simply saying “quiet” should do the trick by itself. Do not open the door until your dog has quieted down. Once quiet, calmly say “good dog,” perhaps even tossing them a treat and opening the door.
- Digging – Most dogs only dig when they don’t think they are being watched, so you’ll have to find a way to supervise without them knowing. For these reasons, we tend to need some technology if we’re going to correct digging rather than prevent it (removing access to the dig site). E-Collar is the obvious choice for feedback here, and you might need a security camera with the dig site in frame if you can’t supervise from a window. Since you likely won’t get many chances to catch the dog in the act, it’s best to use a level that’s in the higher end of the appropriate range we discussed in our session. For example, if your dog normally works at 22%, this is probably a moment to go to 40%. When your dog walks away from the dig site after getting feedback, be sure to praise and reward them.
Establishing clear rules that are consistently enforced goes a long way to making room for good manners. Be sure to let your dog know when they are engaging well during moments of temptation once they start to offer you better behavior. This is how they know they’re doing something good that works. Good luck, and let us know if you need more specific advice for your situation.