Dog Manners and Dog Obedience are Not Synonymous
Dog Manners and Dog Obedience are Not Synonymous
So I often get questions along the same vein.
People can’t figure out why there dog is good at one thing, and yet not good at another.
He is a great dog in the house, but he pulls on leash.
He heels on leash beautifully but he keeps stealing food off of the counter.
The irony is that manners and obedience are not synonymous to dogs.
For people the words when used to describe dogs, they sound very much alike or almost the same but it is not like that for dogs.
Ironically I have friends whose dogs have amazing, AMAZING obedience skills.
These dogs have blue ribbons, trophies and numerous titles under their belt.
But many of them have NO MANNERS.
They will jump on you, they will steal the food out of your hand, they chase the cat and if you didn’t see them on the competition ring floor; you would never believe that they had such flawless obedience.
A number of people who compete have numerous dogs, and as odd as it sounds to those of us who’s pets are our lives… their dogs are not pets.
Many live life in crates or kennels except to come out to train, so they have never been taught manners.
And some people take their dogs to obedience class; sometimes multiple obedience classes yet have no idea how to teach their manner-less dogs’ manners!
They have invested sometimes hundreds if not thousands of dollars in obedience training (many of the times it is offered by one of those board and train facilities that dupe owners out of money) only to end up with a dog that still jumps on people, steals food, grabs underwear and does all kinds of things the owner wishes it wouldn’t.
Just because a dog has obedience, doesn’t mean it has manners. It seems silly, it seems synonymous, but it isn’t to our dogs.
They can heel perfectly next to you in the field but if you leave the steak out on the counter all bets are off. In his very small mind, it is totally different.
I mean you taught him HOW to Heel right?
He didn’t just bounce from the womb knowing that and leash manners?
Yet sometimes we think dogs understand simple human manners, when nothing is further from the truth.
I would personally rather have a dog with manners than a dog with perfect obedience skills, if I had to pick one or the other (thank god you don’t have to choose) how awful would that be!
Manners are the simple attributes that make our dogs easier to live with…
- Not soiling the house
- Not jumping on people
- Not stealing food
- Not chewing the furniture or walls
- Not chasing the cat
- Not stealing our underwear or other things
- Not running through the house like your tail is on fire
Those and many, many more are forms of manners!
It is not particularly fancy; not like a flip finish with eye contact and teaching your dog to walk backwards through cones.
But it is probably more important.
Ultimately good manners are what makes a good pet, and good manners usually keeps a dog out of the shelter.
You Must Teach Them
As humans we know we must teach our dog this flip finish and giving eye contact while walking backward through cones, but somehow we think this 12 week old puppy should know not to have accidents and know not to jump on people or steal food!
In some respects I think “obedience training” is easier because we delve into it with the mindset of “dog training” or "puppy training".
Instead of these random expectations of manners, we need to realize that manners also need to be taught.
And, unrealistic expectations often mean a lack of training.
If I expect you to come in to work and do my job on Monday I probably am not going to train you, or at least not train you well.
And, if I were to train you to do my job then I would probably ask you to come and cover for me; do you see some intricate details and differences?
We need to TRAIN our dogs for manners
The good news is that it is a lot easier to teach your dog not to jump on the counter or steal food, or chase the cat or other simple manners.
It is often more difficult to teach your dog to go turn on the light switch; yet both can be done with good training.
The tricky part of “bad manners” is that they can be somewhat self rewarding: stealing food from the counter, eating out of the cat box, running around with your stolen things can be fun to a dog.
After all, he is a DOG and a different species with different social norms and ideals.
So you must keep it from happening.
The Day My Dogs’ Come Home
The day my dogs come home be it from a breeder, a friend, a shelter, etc. I put a leash on them.
A leash gives me control and a means of communication.
I think we can all admit that chasing them and screaming does a lot of nothing to change the situation.
Chasing them and screaming can actually be fun for them and game like! They don’t necessarily know that you are playing the game until the horror of the correction finds the, but even up until that point they were having fun.
Simply by letting my new dog or puppy drag a leash I know that I am not going to be complacent when it comes to his bad behaviors.
I have a way to stop them almost immediately.
It takes that “funness” wind out of their sails.
So the next time they see your underpants and think about stealing them again (yes you should put your clothes away!!!!) they reconsider it because the night before you didn’t even play the game you just put your foot on the leash and stopped his rambunctious run immediately.
It wasn’t fun enough to even try again! (manners learned right?)! It may take a couple more times but that is the gist.
If he is on a leash and he goes to jump on the counter, you won’t tolerate it, you will pluck him off, if he starts to chew your furniture you will pull him away, if he squats to go potty, you will take that leash and get him outside.
Leashes and following your dog around the house monitoring his normal chosen behavior is how you teach a dog manners!
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I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.