Polite dogs exhibiting basic canine etiquette really go hand in hand with their responsible owners. I came across the American Kennel Club pledge of being one in a dog magazine, cut it out, checked all the boxes, and placed it on our fridge, in plain sight.
The pledge breaks dog ownership down in 4 categories: Health needs, safety concerns, respect towards others, and quality of life.
AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Pledge
In order to present the benefits of a polite doggie companion, I came up with two similar scenarios, however using different parameters (the first one features untrained Fido, while the second ones stars trained Fluffy).
Imagine the following: You’re home with your dog, and the door bell rings. A split second before it does, your dog starts going bonkers, barking non-stop in anticipation of the excitement which is about to enter the house.
Fido is so excited that he even jumps up on the front door. You manage to push him aside in order to check the spy hole, and notice that it’s your mail person delivering a certified piece of mail, requiring your signature. Sigh.
There’s no way you’ll be able to invite him inside with a crazy dog running the house, so you shout a few angry words at him, then take extra care of not letting Fido escape through the front door while you somehow manage to squeeze yourself through. Phew!
You sign the piece of paper while mumbling an apology to your mail delivery person. Then back to squeezing your way inside, where Fido jumps up on you excitedly as you were gone for at least 2 minutes, almost knocking you over!
Now let’s take another look at the same scenario, the only difference being a well behaved dog:
A few moments before the door bell rings, Fluffy let’s you know that someone’s outside by barking a few times. He stops immediately when you ask him to “be quiet” [<- here’s how to teach it].
You check the spy hole, see that it’s your mail delivery person, and consequently ask Fluffy to go to his place in the living room, where he lies down and stays put, as requested by you.
You then proceed to open the front door, greet your delivery person, sign the paper, and happily smile at his commendatory words regarding your well trained pup!
You close the front door, proceed towards Fluffy whom you praise for keeping his down-stay, release him, and then go back to your routine.
I’ve identified 10 components culminating in a pleasant canine companion such as Fluffy. Let’s take a closer look at them!
10 Basic Rules:
1. Obeying commands. Every dog should have a solid knowledge of the basic commands “sit, down, stay, come, leave it”. Not only do they translate into a polite pooch, but they can also be lifesavers in a critical situation ~ a dog getting ready to cross a busy street can be told to “sit-stay” or “down-stay”, for example.
Our Dog Buzz Standing On His Hind Legs For A Treat
2. No jumping up on people. Dogs exhibiting this behavior can cause serious damage by knocking the person over (imagine the impact of a German Shepherd on a fragile, old person or a little kid!), and are simply being disrespectful. Unless invited to jump up on someone (we taught our pups the “up” command for this purpose), a dog should never have any business jumping on anybody. You’d never see this type of behavior in a pack of dogs!
Dog Jumping On A Person
3. No storming out the front door, or any door for that matter. Teaching our dogs self control is not only being safe, but also engages them mentally.
I remember watching an episode of The Dog Whisperer, where Cesar Millan said: “An open door simply means an open door; it does not mean that your dog gets to storm through it only because it happens to be open, and not shut”.
I love this phrase, and it has stuck with me for 3 years now!
Our Dogs Missy & Buzz Sitting At Patio Door, Waiting To Go Outside
4. Polite leash walking. I’ve walked dogs who pulled on the leash, and G O L L Y, it is uncomfortable on so many levels! It hurts your hand, arm, entire body, and you can end up on the ground! I did just that once, and was very lucky I didn’t break any bones!
Goldendoodle Polo Walking Politely On Leash
5. No lunging at other dogs. Always check your OWN energy before letting your dog meet fellow canines. Dogs pick up on our energy, and will be much less inclined to lunge forward if we remain calm.
Don’t allow your dog to lunge at dogs you happen to encounter while outside. A perfect place to practice this is the controlled training environment of a dog school.
Our 2 Boxer Mixes & An Akita In A Down-Stay
6. No biting. Let’s face it ~ no one wants to be bitten, yet 4.5 million people do every year in the US! Prevention is the key element, and can be achieved by promoting responsible dog ownership.
Kids & people should be taught about understanding dog body language and how to safely approach a strange dog, as well as how to safely interact with a familiar dog.
Puppies are mouthy by nature (and have sharp puppy teeth!!): that’s how they interact with their litter mates and with their mother, and therefore need to be taught bite inhibition early on in their development.
Do this by making a high-pitched sound when your pup happens to bite you in mid-play, and stop dead in your tracks. Only continue the game-time when he has stopped biting you.
You can redirect his biting by removing your hand from his mouth, and offering him a safe chew toy instead. This will teach him that any human body part does not belong in his mouth.
Great Dane Haley Smiling!
7. No demand barking. It’s simply annoying and rude! I learned a great trick from my friend Kristina when raising my pups. Buzz is able to produce the most ear-piercing, high pitched demand bark I have ever heard.
He began exhibiting this habit when he was about 8 months old, and wanted to demand a game of fetch. Kristina had experienced a similar behavior with her Australian Shepherd Shade, and had nipped it in the bud with a spray bottle containing a mixture of water & white vinegar.
I borrowed her bottle, and carried it on me every single time I went outside with the pups. The moment Buzz demand-barked, I gave him a good spray right inside his mouth. The problem was solved within about one week! Thank you, Kristina!!!
8. No begging. It’s another form of canine rudeness, and only happens because it’s reinforced by us humans. Never EVER give your dog a single bite of your food, especially not when you’re sitting at the dining table, or he will remember it and hope for it to happen again.
It’s best to put your dogs in their beds/blankets/crates (whatever your designated spot for him might be) in a down-stay while you eat to discourage the begging behavior. Side-note: Giving in to begging also contributes to the problem of canine obesity.
9. No counter surfing. Another form of begging, if you will, except that Fido doesn’t rely on your hands to feed him ~ he’s taking that matter into his own paws when inspecting your kitchen counters!
This can be extremely dangerous depending on what type of food he might be able to sneak. Many human foods do not agree with the canine digestive system, and can even cause death.
10. No challenging of the pack hierarchy. Dogs have a clearly outlined structure within their pack: The pack leader, and the followers.
The pack leader status will never be questioned by the followers, UNLESS he no longer has pack leading qualities: he has to be calm-assertive, providing rules and enforcing them (see Cesar Millan’s book “Be the Pack Leader”).
Enforcing rules has nothing to do with using physical force on your dog, mind you. It simply means that you set rules, such as no jumping on the counters allowed, and that you stick with them!
What’s the best way to teach these behaviors?
Now here’s when we, the human owners, have to step up our game. It is obviously our responsibility to ensure that our dogs behave in a polite, respectful way. We achieve this by training our canine companions using positive reinforcement techniques (verbal praise, treat rewards, clicker-training).
It’s great to pick up different books and to thus inform ourselves about the subject matter of training dogs; however, enrolling your pooch in an obedience class instructed by an experienced trainer is an invaluable experience.
I explored the self-taught training approach at first, and while I was fairly successful at it, there just wasn’t anyone watching me in an objective way, telling me what needed to be improved & worked on!
I remember our very first basic obedience session with our trainer Rhonda from Dog Day Afternoon in Leesburg, VA, who asked us all to have our pups sit, and then lie down.
“Oh, that’s easy, we got this!” was my initial thought, and I put Buzz into a “down” position. Rhonda immediately commented on his “BS down”.
I was baffled, and had no idea that there was such as thing as a “BS” down-position!! Turns out, there is! Our homework for the next week was clearly lined out: Practice a perfect “down”! Don’t accept a mediocre “down”.
Our Dog Buzz In A BS Down Position
Our Dog Buzz In A Great Down Stay!
Bottom Line: The money you invest in dog training, whether group sessions or private one-on-one classes, will pay off very quickly.
Just imagine a peaceful coexistence with the canine members of your pack: No wreaking havoc when the pups are left home alone, no complaining neighbors or delivery personnel, no barking frenzies…just well behaved dogs!