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 a 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, schedules and boundaries, and 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.

Having a dress rehearsal or training practice time instead of trying to deal with your dogs’ unacceptable behavior as it unfolds in front of your eyes, is a great approach to training and conditioning your dog to have good social skills. A dress rehearsal with your dog is a reenactment of the situations you want to correct.  Let’s take a look at how to rehearse greeting guests.

Ask a neighbor or friend to stop by and ring the doorbell and knock on the door. Tell your guest to “wait a minute.” With Harley on collar and leash, unlock the door, have Harley sit/stay at least fifteen 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 for at least ten to fifteen seconds and let him calm down. Bring him toward your guest again but not all the way. If Harley starts jumping or barking repeat this procedure. 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 to condition your dog to respond in the desired way. Only ten to fifteen minutes each time is best; for both of you.

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