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Manners Matter!

Manners Matter!

Everyone appreciates good manners. As parents, we are always reminding our children to use them. “Say please” and “say thank you” came out of my mouth all the time when my children were toddlers. People notice manners, and manners are all around us: holding a door open for a stranger, dinner table manners, not interrupting, friendly handshakes – just to name a few.

Manners are important in the workplace. If your doctor or dentist had bad manners would you continue to go their office? Probably not. We spend a lot of time practicing and teaching manners throughout our entire day. But what about our dogs? Should they have good manners too? Can they learn to have manners? The answer is YES! Much like teaching manners to our children, it is also our job to teach manners to our dogs.

Does your dog jump on you (or your guests) when you walk into your house? Small dogs tend to get away with jumping, but if you have a 60-120 pound dog, then jumping on your grandmother when she comes to visit you is not going to go over very well. In fact, your grandmother might stop coming by to visit you.

Why do dogs jump? There are several reasons our dogs may decide to engage in this activity. First of all, it is fun. Some dogs like to jump just for the mere fact that they have fun doing it. Most of the time, however, it is because they want something. They want to greet you, to get pet, or to tell you how much they missed you while you were gone and how happy they are that you are home. Jumping is just one example of a bad manner that dogs can have. This behavior can continue to go on for a long time, and you may accidentally be reinforcing your dog and encouraging him or her to continue offering this behavior. In other words, your reaction to the jumping may actually be telling your dog “yes, I like that” and your dog will continue to jump every time he or she sees you.

Okay, so you’re probably thinking, my dog has bad manners and jumps on me and other people! Now what? First, study yourself. What do YOU do when your dog jumps on you? Do you knee him or her in the chest? Do you yell and scream at your dog? Do you get silly too and play a game? Do you just give them a bone to chew so he or she will leave you alone so you can put the groceries away? If you are responding to this problem with any kind of touch (even if you’re using your knee), or talking to your dog (even if it is raising your voice “Stop it!” or “Knock it off!) or give your dog a treat (or a toy or bone) then you are REWARDING YOUR DOG FOR JUMPING! You are actually telling your dog that you like it when he or she jumps on you and to keep doing it because you think it’s awesome! Instead, your dog needs to learn that they are better off when they keep all four paws on the floor, and when he or she keeps all paws on the floor they get rewarded!

Now that you are doing some self analyses, you can begin to make changes and adjust your reactions in a way that your dog can understand them. Remember, dogs don’t speak English, or any other language. They can learn words and make associations with those words, but they do not have a dictionary that they can read and understand our language. Dogs communicate with their body language, which is what they are doing when they jump on you. Your dog is telling you something. In order to effectively communicate to your dog that you don’t like it when he or she jumps on you, you need to change your initial reaction whenever your dog jumps. We already established that your dog is jumping on you because he or she wants something.

What you need to communicate to your dog is that when he or she jumps on you, they are actually getting themselves further away from what they want. Start to turn your attention away from your dog when they jump. Turn your back, walk out of room, or even have them drag a leash around the house so that you can step on it and prevent the jumping. If you turn your back, your dog will likely come around to the front of your body and try to jump again. If that happens, turn around again. If they come around to the front of your body and stand next to you, ask them to sit. When your dog sits then you give lots of verbal praise, lots of petting and attention, and even treats if you have some handy. After repeating this simple exercise several times your dog will surely start thinking differently about his or her behavior. Their thought process will be like this “hmm, when I jump I don’t get what I want, but when I don’t jump I get what I want and even more.” You will begin to see that your dog will change his or her behavior and start offering those good manners that we all love and appreciate. Your grandmother will continue to come visit you, and so will your friends.

Jumping is not the only bad manner that dogs can have. Nipping, pulling on a leash, barking, and begging are just a few more examples of bad manners that our dog can have. If you are experiencing any of these issues, and think you need a little more help, it is a good idea to find a positive reinforcement trainer to help you get through some of these issues. Having good manners is so important in every area of our lives. And just like we teach our children, we can teach our dogs how to have good manners too.

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