SOCIAL GRACE

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Just as the relationship between parent and child has changed over the years, from disciplinarian to a more relaxed friendship, so has the relationship between human and canine. With this change has come a born-again kind of love for dogs and the quality of their lives has become as important as any other family member. This is good thing; a very good thing. However, the dog, just like the child, must be taught to have social grace and to fit into our household routine and society as a whole because of the outside activities and excursions that our furry family members are included in. There have to be rules and regulations, schedule and boundaries and basically things that are OK and not OK for your dog to do.

Here are some tips straight from the trainer’s mouth! One commonality I see in every household is “avoidance.” In other words, if you avoid the situation you won’t have to deal with it. So, instead of teaching your dog not to beg at the table during meals, you put him in his crate or another room where he is out of sight, out of mind. Another example would be guests coming into your home, your dog barks and jumps on them and is generally disruptive. What do you do? Again, he goes in his crate or another room to avoid the hassle and embarrassment.

What would I do? Glad you asked. I would have a “dress rehearsal.” Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to teach Harley not to beg at the table. Don’t teach him how to greet people when your boss is at the door. These may be exaggerations but I know you get the point. Even during Wednesday night dinner everyone is tired from school and work and they’re hungry and not in the mood to deal with Harley’s antics. Never work with your dog when you’re agitated. He will pick up on it immediately and become agitated as well. The lesson will be worthless.

Try to reenact the situations you want to correct. Put a collar and leash on Harley and bring him to a mat or dog bed somewhere in the kitchen, have him sit, lie down, and stay, and give him one of his chew toys. Then sit down at the table with a cookie…yours, not his. If he gets up to come to you, firmly tell him “NO,” and nicely tell him to “go to place,” take him there and redo the down/stay. Start with a few minutes and increase the length of time he stays, as you practice. Within a few weeks, he should understand going to his mat on command and staying there. “Go to place” is a great alternative to “go to your kennel.” Use this exercise during other household activities like cooking or washing the floor.

OK, now for the front door scenario. Again, set up a dress rehearsal. Ask a neighbor or friend to stop by and ring the door bell and knock on the door. Tell your guest to “wait a minute.” With Harley on collar and leash, door unlocked, have Harley sit/stay at least 15 feet away from the front door. Tell your guest to come in and stand just inside the door. When Harley proceeds to bark or jump, tell him “NO” and take him away from the door and into another room. Have him sit/stay there and let him calm down. Bring him toward your guest again but not all the way. The goal is to have Harley sit/stay calmly a few feet away from the guest. Then if desired, the guest can pet your dog UNDER his chin; not over his head, and continue into the house

Always remember to praise your dog for a good job. Affection goes further than biscuits and is always available.

It just takes patience and practice in order to condition your dog to respond in a desired way. Only 10 to 15 minutes each time is best; for both of you. What you are doing is teaching him to sit on the sideline. Not all family members participate in all family activities. The family dog should abide by the same rule.

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