Bella at her agility class, eagerly running into the 12 foot long tunnel!
Remember Your Manners
I was recently sitting on a park bench when a young lady came walking past being pulled along by a large dog. As we exchanged greetings, the dog suddenly leaped on me and in the process gave me a solid ‘thunk’ on the chin with his skull. The young lady apologized profusely and hurried on her way. Actually, she had no choice but to hurry since her dog was straining at the end of the leash, pulling her quickly out of sight.
A few days later, I was sitting on the same bench when a woman with a giant dog approached. I said ‘hello’ then noticed there was a low rumble coming from the dog. It was staring at me and since I was sitting, the dog and I were at eye-level. As the dog’s owner was giving assurances that the dog would not bite, I was averting my eyes and slowly turning my body sideways so as to appear less threatening to the stressed out dog. From my viewpoint, a growling 150 pound dog posed a definite threat and I was wondering how any responsible dog owner could ever deem such behavior as acceptable. The woman tugged her dog away to continue their walk with the dog audibly growling at everyone he met.
These two incidents reminded me that September is the AKC’s (American Kennel Club) Responsible Dog Owners Month. Of course there are many aspects to responsible dog ownership but this month I will be focusing on your dog and good manners. What are good manners? Just like children, dogs must be shown what behavior is expected of them and it is up to you to do it!
Teaching your dog good manners might be easier than you expect. The first step would be to enroll your dog in a class. These are typically 4-6 weeks long with class being held one time a week. You will probably have a choice of several types of classes, Good Manners or Obedience would be two good choices. Your dog will learn to follow your clear, concise commands such as sit, stay, down…..all building blocks for a well-mannered canine companion.
In my many years of volunteering in animal shelters, the two most important commands the dogs learned to make them more adoptable were ‘Four on the Floor’ which taught the dog that jumping on people without invitation was not allowed and ‘Wait’ which prevented the dog from darting out an open door. These were closely followed by ‘watch me’, ‘leave it’, ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. These commands teach the dog self-control, giving him the ability to figure out what behavior is expected of him. Most important is to keep training sessions positive, filled with tons of praise. How many of us ignore the dog when it’s lying quietly and only interact with it when it begins to show behavior we don’t approve of. I know I have been guilty of that from time to time. My philosophy is that for every ‘no’ your dog hears (and that should be few and far between), she should be hearing you say one hundred times, ‘yes! Good girl!’ Praise, praise, praise! That’s the secret to successful training….for any species!
When teaching your dog good manners, it is essential to get the entire family involved as puppy needs to learn that it is to obey all commands, whether it comes from adult or child. So be sure to enroll in a canine class that welcomes the whole family. Once you have successfully completed your class, you might be interested in participating in the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test. Your dog (with your guidance) will face tasks such as greeting a friendly stranger, sitting calmly for petting and walking on a loose lead. In all, there are 10 parts to the test. If you are interested in having your dog certified as a Canine Good Citizen, follow this link for more information, http://www.akc.org/dog-owners/training/canine-good-citizen/training-testing/ .
What a joy to share your life with a well-mannered dog! Long leisurely walks with your friendly pup, having confidence that your dog will not snatch away your child’s ice cream cone, a canine that is a welcome family member. All it takes is a little training and attention to help your dog fully realize it’s potential.
See photos at left for our Bella’s journey through her training experience. Bella was a rescue and began her training at the age of one year old. The top photo is of Bella socializing at her first basic good manners class. She learned how to play nicely with other dogs, basic obedience commands and good manners. Since she was an active little thing, we next enrolled in an agility class where Bella excelled! She loved learning how to leap over jumps and her very favorite….running through tunnels! This class instilled in her an increased confidence by allowing her to succeed at learning new tasks. As you can see in the second photo, she has gone from a shy little dog to one who has the confidence to eagerly enter a 12 foot long tunnel on her own!
It is so rewarding to watch your dog grow in confidence and skill, knowing that you helped make it happen. That’s the basis for responsible dog ownership, ensuring that your pup becomes the best that it can be.
Have a wonderful September and see you next month!
- Jeanna Billings
Jeanna Billings is an Animal Communicator serving an international clientele, a Reiki Master and a Certified Crystal Healer. She volunteered for many years with humane societies and animal rescues, serving as a Board Director, Adoption Counselor and Humane Educator. She currently teaches animal communication classes and provides private consultations. She lives in Indiana with her husband, three dachshunds, two cats and a very chatty parakeet. You can find her online at www.ShamansSpirit.net .