Teaching your dog good manners around the house

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We spend a lot of time teaching our dogs to sit, stay, and come when called to keep them safe outside, but teaching good manners around the house can be just as important, says Toni Shelbourne.

I’M OFF!

If your dog tries to push through the door to escape outside whenever it’s opened, teach him to wait there:

1. Pop a lead on him so you can contain him and easily teach the exercise. Have some yummy treats ready in a treat bag. 

2. Begin with a closed internal door, as it’s less exciting than the front door. Ask him to sit on the side that
opens away from him. Ask him to wait, also using a hand signal; an open palm facing towards him usually works well. 

3. Position yourself in front of your dog and open the door slightly. If necessary, keep the lead short, and use your body position to encourage him to remain in position. If he does, reward him with a treat. 

4. Now try opening the door a little wider while reinforcing the sit and wait with voice, hand gesture, and body position. Reward lavishly for maintaining position. If he moves, close the door and start again. 

5. Work over several sessions until you can open the door fully while your dog waits politely. Then see if you can move through the door a little while your dog remains still. Once he can do this, give him a release cue that means he can move through the door after you.

6. Once perfected at an internal door, repeat the same steps at the main exits.

● Practise this with all doors around the house.

● Make sure you train up the rest of the family too!

● For young puppies or dogs in training, create a safety zone around exit points. This can be done with temporary dog gates placed around the front door to create a barrier between your dog and the outside world.

Start with internal doors, then progress to the main exits.

HURRY UP!

It may just be understandable enthusiasm about going for a walk, but being dragged through the front door by your dog can result in accidents, so it’s worth spending some time teaching him to be in a little less of
a hurry. Teach him to wait at the door first; you may find this in itself solves the issue. If he still wants to charge through when you give the release cue, reward him just outside the door instead: walk through, ask for a sit, and give a jackpot of five treats before moving off. 

● Practise this on occasions when you aren’t going for a walk too.

HELLO! 

You might consider your dog jumping up as a friendly, if exuberant, greeting behaviour, but some visitors may find it frightening. It can also result in damaged clothing, or someone getting knocked over. Teaching your dog acceptable meet and greet behaviour with humans is as important as it is with other dogs, and will stand you both in good stead in other social situations as well as at the door.

1. Your aim is to teach your dog that it’s more rewarding to have all four feet on the ground at all times. If he jumps up, give no feedback, either good or negative; ignore him completely if safe to do so. The moment his front feet touch the floor again, reward him big time with treats and praise. 

Any time he comes to you and doesn’t jump up, praise him, say ‘Feet on the floor’ and offer a yummy treat. 

Reward any behaviour that keeps him from jumping up such as a sit.

2. Next, ask a friend round to help you train. If necessary, put your dog on a lead. Go through the same process, using the lead for a little containment. Don’t punish your dog if he goes to jump up; use the lead to help gently reinforce all four feet on the floor. It’s best if you offer the treats, so it doesn’t add to the excitement of a visitor arriving.

3. If you need a little extra incentive for feet on the floor, try scattering treats on the ground as guests come in to encourage an alternative behaviour.

● Remember to train humans too, telling visitors in advance how you want them to interact with your dog.

To read more on this feature and March 2021 issue of Your Dog you can purchase a copy here​.