Dog behaviour: How to teach your dog good manners

By: Valerie Howes

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©


Dog behaviour: How to teach your dog good manners

By: Valerie Howes
Barking when the doorbell rings, jumping up to say hello, begging at the table for scraps -- does any of this sound embarrassingly familiar? Some dogs just don't know how to behave when you have guests over.

Karen Pryor Academy trainer Andre Yeu, owner of When Hounds Fly Dog Training in Toronto, shares his tips for making your pup the politest in the pack.

Dog behaviour problems and how to fix them

Here are four common types of dog behaviour you may want to break your dog of, plus Yeu's advice for fixing these problems.

1. Barking when the doorbell rings

The most common complaint Yeu hears is about dogs getting wound up and barking furiously when there's somebody at the door.

"They quickly learn that the doorbell or knocking means someone is coming in; and they find that exciting," he says. The fix: Teach Rover to go to his crate or bed and lie down calmly instead of noisily rushing to the door.

Practice with a household member or friend and have them ring the bell or knock. As soon as you hear them, send your dog to his designated spot, then offer rewards such as kibble, praise or affection for compliance. Keep a chew toy or bone near the dog's area to offer, so your pet is distracted longer there.

2. Jumping on people

Another issue: Dogs that jump on people to greet them. This often happens because owners found their little puppy cute when he jumped up, and they petted him, reinforcing the bad behaviour. But it can be intimidating to have a full-size dog say hello with all its force.

"A dog without four paws on the floor should never be rewarded," says Yeu. "Standing is OK, sitting is better, lying down is amazing." If your dog has developed this bad habit, you can manage the situation by leashing it when people arrive at the house. That way you regain control.

Tell your houseguests to ignore the dog if he jumps, even turning their shoulders away and looking to the side. Then as soon as the dog sits, they can reward him with affection or treats.

You could even keep treats outside the house for people coming in to bring with them while you're working on this. If your houseguests are in any way nervous or your dog is very big, use a baby gate to keep him from getting into people's space on their arrival.

3. Begging for food

Do you have a beggar on your hands? Staring, getting too close and even barking or pawing for scraps while people are at the table is bad news. It just takes one person to slip your dog a tasty morsel one time for him to think begging is a worthwhile endeavour.

"If you ignore your dog, he will learn that the rewarding will never happen again, but that takes a long time -- months even from one single feeding," says Yeu.

The trainer suggests feeding your dog far from the dining table in his own spot at family mealtimes, perhaps even using a tether or cage to keep him there.

4. Destroying shoes

Some dogs have a thing for shoes and will snatch them from the hallway to hide or even destroy while their owner is relaxing, oblivious, in the living room.

To prevent this, always supervise your dog when he is young, offering nothing more than chew toys and bones when he's teething.

If he gets his chops around something off-limits, don't chase him; the pup will think this is a game and believe the object even more valuable. Don't force them out of your dog's mouth either, as he might protect them even more, even to the point of biting. Instead, teach the command "drop" and let your dog trade up his stolen object for something better on compliance, such as a rubber treat-dispensing chew toy.

As with any training challenge, getting these basic rules of good dog behaviour across is about consistency and repetition. Make sure every family member is on board, so your dog drops his anti-social habits and your friends are happy to drop by.
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Dog behaviour: How to teach your dog good manners