What Makes a Polite Dog?

March 12, 2014

Langley's polite dogs

Langley’s polite dogs

By Langley Cornwell

With all the talk about breed specific legislation and blanket statements about which dog breeds have a propensity for being dangerous, it’s especially important for people to train their dogs to be polite. My personal opinion is that a dog’s ability to get along with other dogs and other people rests largely in the hands of the human. Sure, certain dog breeds were bred for specific traits so it’s still in their DNA, but I believe with a solid training plan and loads of patience, discipline and high-quality treats like CANIDAE Pure Heaven biscuits, a dog can be taught to get along well in society. As such, it’s important for the responsible pet owner to teach their dogs to make good decisions and behave in a socially acceptable manner. Here are a few of the basics, to get you started.

Be Firm and Consistent

Start out with plenty of rules, because it’s easier to ease up than it is to tighten up. In other words, it takes much more effort to teach a dog to “un-learn” a behavior that’s already ingrained. As an example, if you’re not sure whether you’re going to let your pet onto the sofa, then start out teaching him that the sofa is off-limits. If you eventually decide that you want to snuggle while you’re watching television, then you may choose to allow your pooch onto the furniture – but only when he’s invited. See, if you would have started out by letting him sit on the sofa, then you would be stuck because it would be difficult to train him to stay off once he’s gotten used to getting on the furniture anytime he wants to.

Incorporate the Nothing in Life is Free Technique

Once you and your dog have some of the basic commands mastered, consider practicing the “nothing in life is free” method of interaction, which basically means your dog has to work for every privilege. So before you give your dog anything like food, a treat or a walk, he must first perform one of the commands he has learned. In our house, our dogs have to sit down and wait patiently for a treat. Then they have to gently take the treat from my hand. Now, whenever they hear the treat bag opening, they both plop into a perfect sit before I even issue the command.

Same goes for food prep; as I’m getting their food ready they have to be in a down-stay, and can only approach the food bowls once I say that it’s okay. The “nothing in life is free” method works because it efficiently and gently teaches your dog patience and self-discipline, while being a safe, non-confrontational way to demonstrate that you are the pack leader.

Say It Only Once

When you issue a command, say it in a clear and unemotional voice and then wait. It is so tempting to repeat the same command over and over until they respond but that’s not teaching your dog well. (This is a hard one in our house. I can’t count the times I’ve heard my husband say “Al, come. Come over here. Al, I mean it. Come here now. Al, come…”). The problem with repeating the command is that you’re teaching your dog that it’s okay to ignore you the first time, and that they can come (or sit or stay) when they decide they’re ready. That’s not polite. So even if it seems like a long time, give your dog a chance to process the request, make the correct decision, and do what you’re asking of him.

If you and your dog have these basics well established, you should be able to go anywhere and trust that your dog either knows how to act in most circumstances or is willing to wait until you tell him what to do. Then people will say, “Now that’s a polite dog!”

Is your dog polite? Are you able to take him to dog-friendly establishments without concern?

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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