Dog / Puppy Manners

Dog / Puppy Manners

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
OR, if you are out of this area, inquire about a telephone or e-Lesson
Email: [email protected]

I have been interviewed many times by the media on a variety of dog related topics. This was Channel 5 in Phoenix, AZ on dog safety during Halloween. I know the kinds of things dog owners face with their dogs, and I have solutions that can and will keep your dog and family safe.

All dogs need Manners. Manners are different from Basic Obedience, and are rarely covered in detail in any class on dogs.

Regardless of the amount of training your dog has had, a dog without Manners isn’t any fun to live with.

Good manners is a combination of 1.) Training Appropriate Behaviors; and 2.) Proper Environment. Some things require that you and your dog learn some things. You need to learn what to do in certain circumstances. Your dog needs to know some things, too. Every Manners Lesson involves teaching you and your dog good social skills. There are a number of fundamental things that every dog and owner must know in order to live happily together. We will cover those things in your Manners Lesson… however…

On the other hand, some things can’t be fixed through more training. Some problems are a direct result of your home environment! This is where most dog owners make most of their mistakes. They create a psychologically unhealthy environment for their dogs, and that environment triggers most of the problem behaviors their dogs are exhibiting.

All animals require a certain amount of stimulation in order to be mentally and medically healthy. Numerous studies have demonstrated that stimulus deprivation can harm or even kill an animal. Our dogs have a number of basic needs, such as foraging for food, play, comfort, rest, escape from danger, interaction with people and other dogs, establishing and maintaining a territory. Dogs need to engage in natural behaviors in all these areas. It is important for dogs to be able to exercise their innate behaviors on a regular basis in order to remain well adjusted. That means giving consideration to where they live, their social interactions, and environmental stimulation. Dogs without sufficient stimulation will engage in stereotypical behaviors, which are repeating patterns of behavior that have no apparent function: excessive licking, destructive chewing, barking, rubbing on things, digging, pacing, banging against things, mouthing, jumping, acting crazy and unruly, marking, and so forth. These can then lead later to even more difficult problems, such as dog fighting in the home, hyper aggressiveness towards strangers and strange dogs, excessive fearfulness, separation anxiety, phobias, fence jumping, aggression towards family members, etc. So, every Manners Lesson involves special attention to preventing or treating these stereotypical behaviors.

So, what are Manners? Manners are polite, socially appropriate behaviors. There are two levels of Manners lessons, Puppy Manners and Adult Manners.

PUPPY MANNERS: This is a lesson for young, mostly untrained dogs. Most puppies are pretty mouthy, for example. They will grab at you, your clothes and your things. Those sharp needle teeth can also hurt and draw blood, especially if they are making contact with the skin of young children or older adults. Puppies are also going to pick up things and possibly swallow them. Just swallowing a penny can be life threatening to a puppy, so it is important to teach them what they can pick up, and also how to drop things out of their mouths on command. Puppies also need to learn how to play with their stuff instead of wrestling with you, tearing up your stuff, or beating up another pet. Puppies jump up on people. Puppies get into rooms and get in trouble. Puppies need to be introduced to being on a leash. Puppies can do a thing called “puppy racetrack”, where they impulsively start running as fast they can all over the place, banging into walls and people. Puppies need to learn how to sleep peacefully when we are away, and to readily accept being put in a kennel / crate without panicking. Puppies can have a wide range of annoying behaviors that need to be addressed. It is almost impossible to list all the goofy things a puppy can do to make your life miserable… and they all need addressed early on so they don’t become ingrained bad habits. Puppy Manners lay the foundation for good Adult Manners. Puppy Manners is a single lesson with free follow up. So, I want you to stay in contact with me as you work out these issues, and if you need additional help, I’ll be there to work these issues out with you.

ADULT MANNERS: These are the more refined behaviors we need a dog to do in order to be considered good to live with. Adult Manners is a combination of lessons, depending upon what issues you are having with your dog. There are a number of important lessons your adult dog needs in order to be considered well mannered. Adult Manners lessons also come with free follow up. I want to make sure you get your objectives with your dog, and some dogs need more sorting out than others. For example, rescue dogs often have a lot of behavioral issues, so they can require a lot of hand holding. Some breeds are more difficult than others. And some dogs are really easy.

For example, we teach Manners to children. We teach them to not eat with their mouths open; how to answer a telephone call and take a message; we teach little boys to put down the toilet lid (!) and little girls to not stick their tongues out at little boys (!). We teach all of these things, in addition to teaching them how to read, write and do arithmetic. In a similar way, we teach dogs a degree of self-sufficiency so that they can manage themselves in social situations or when left alone. Manners should be taught in addition to the command-oriented behaviors like Coming when called, Sitting, laying Down, and Heeling. I’m not very impressed with a dog and handler that can obtain a high-level obedience title. I AM IMPRESSED with a highly trained companion dog, that can do all tha and is welcome everywhere because it also has good Manners. In other words, just because a dog has completed an obedience course, or has a few titles, doesn’t mean it’s any fun to live with! That’s also why I’m not impressed with some trainers who boast that they worked with dolphins, such as at Sea World. Training a fish to do tricks in a bowl is not very impressive. All you have to do if the animal doesn’t obey is just pick up your bucket of fish and walk away. The animal has no choice; it is a slave since you can control all the good and bad in its life. These folks will go on and on about how they don’t need a leash to train a dolphin or killer whale, and expound on the marvels of their training techniques. If they were to really impress me, they’d be able to lure a wild dolphin from a pod in the ocean and get that animal to reliably do the same tricks in the ocean! Now that WOULD be impressive! It would also be impressive if they could train all marine mammals with equal ease¦ but, they can’t. They only select the most sociable and malleable pets for their facilities. Likewise, with a dog, it’s much more challenging to have an obedient and well-mannered companion, than to get the dog to perform in the controlled environment of the obedience ring. In the real world, there are many things that challenge your dog that won’t be there in the obedience competition. The goal in teaching a dog Manners is for you to have a dog that is going to be welcome, not a nuisance, and trustworthy wherever you go, even if the dog is left with someone else.

Adult Manners are not command-oriented behaviors. They are things that you expect the dog to learn and practice without you having to supervise them when they are adults. Manners are a way of life for a dog. We need to teach Manners to adult dogs so that they are welcome and accepted into social situations. At a bare minimum, the following Manners should be taught to all dogs by the time they are adults:

Acceptance Of Guests: All dogs need to be taught a proper greeting routine at the front door. The dog doesn’t get to jump up on the guest, sniff them in inappropriate places, continue to bark or growl, or mouth their hands. Once the guest is invited in the home, the dog should not be allowed to bother the guests, but instead be taught to go and lay down at a designated Place. It is your job to supervise your dog and make sure your dog isn’t a bother to your guests. It’s not only the polite thing to do, but you aren’t putting your guest in the position to have to correct your dog for you. If you don’t correct your dog, then they will (and don’t be surprised if they resort to methods that you wouldn’t approve of).

Respect For Boundaries: I believe that a dog should be taught that it can’t run out the front door, go into the garage, open or get into cabinets and closets, or get on some or all of the furniture; and it can’t leave the car w/o permission. This is an issue of safety as well as Manners. It’s no fun chasing after a dog that’s run away, and it’s no fun having to hold or block a dog at the front door every time it is opened. Some dogs also become too big for their britches when allowed on furniture, and then feel that they have the right to use aggression to discipline the family and guests.

Respect For Family including pets: Adult dogs shouldn’t be allowed to jump on, mouth, mount, discipline, or body block family members. In addition, dogs shouldn’t be allowed to beat up the cat or another household dog (but they should be allowed to create and maintain a reasonable pack order). Adult dogs shouldn’t also be allowed to do any other bratty behaviors. Leaving a dog in the back yard all day doesn’t teach these lessons. Instead, they are learned by living with the people, and getting the 100,000 little corrections that dogs need to get as they grow up to become adults. Dogs need a family to become part of the family. These are things that YOU have to do with your dog ” you can’t just send your dog off somewhere to be fixed, like a broken VCR. I can show you, but it will still be up to you to teach them because living with a dog is about establishing a RELATIONSHIP. If I train your dog, but you then spoil your dog and not follow through with the necessary leadership and management of your dog, then your dog will become a pain to live with. No trainer can make your dog into a robot; you have a part to play in all of this.

Respect For My Things: No destructive chewing, no stealing of objects, no urine marking in the house. Sometimes a dog is being destructive because the dog is suffering from Separation Anxiety. That’s not an issue of respect, and shouldn’t be treated that way. On the other hand, normal puppies should be expected to tear up your place until you teach them what is and isn’t acceptable to chew on. I don’t believe that you can trust a dog to be alone in your car or home until the dog is at least 2 years old, AND you’ve actively worked on teaching the dog acceptable chewing habits. If you aren’t sure whether your dog is chewing because of a lack of Manners, or because your dog is suffering from Separation Anxiety, you SHOULD NOT apply a remedy until you’ve talked to me about it and gotten a diagnosis.

Able To Play On Their Own. I love kids. However, I don’t like going over to people’s houses when their kids can’t play on their own. I feel that children should be taught to live a balanced life: able to both interact with people AND be able to entertain themselves: a coloring book, Disney video, eating a snack, playing with a toy, etc. When a child cannot allow other people to visit, then the adults need to teach the child, and encourage them, to learn to play by themselves. We want them to learn to be self-sufficient adults. Likewise, I believe a dog should be taught to chew on a chew toy or play with a play toy, if it has nothing else to do, instead of constantly pestering the owners and guests for attention.

No Inappropriate Aggression. No stink eye (staring and posturing against friendly people or animals), no growling, and no biting. There are several reasons why a dog should be allowed to be aggressive: legitimate self protection, establishment and maintenance of a pack order with the other dogs in the house, protection of territory, protection of the family from attack, legitimate police or sport or protection work, and legal hunting purposes. All other forms of aggression are unacceptable Manners and need to be suppressed.

Manners In Public: Your dog should be welcome everywhere that dogs are allowed. All dogs should be expected to be able to Heel, Sit, Down and Come in public, plus have proper public Manners.

Respect For the Pack Order: Dogs need to become a member of your human pack. That means they view the world as them being accountability to the family, not on a hunt, and not the leader. You can’t properly manage a dog, especially one of the more dominant breeds, without being your dog’s leader. For example, dogs shouldn’t take YOU for a walk, which is tantamount to them ignoring your leadership, but you should be taking THEM for a walk. It makes all the difference in the world when you need them to obey in a distracting environment. You need to be a loving parent of, and leader to, your dog. Dogs should be allowed to set up a pack order with the other animals in the household. When we interfere with the formation of a pack order among the animals in the household, we can cause our dogs to fight with one another. Lastly, you can spoil a dog and trigger aggression within your pack. There are ways to interact with your dog, and ways that will make your dog dangerous.

Dogs don’t come pre-programmed with good Manners from the factory. Manners have to be taught. Teaching a dog Manners isn’t any fun. It requires a lot of hard work and constant supervision. I tell customers that when you are reading dog books, trying to find the perfect breed for your family, they are always describing an ADULT dog that was well bred, socialized, trained and one with good Manners. They never describe how ill behaved the puppy will be, or how much work it will be to make that puppy into an easygoing adult dog!

You will also have to be careful to allow your puppy/ dog to just be a dog and have some free fun time without you getting irritated. Some breeds, and some individual dogs, are especially difficult to teach good Manners. It takes daily work to get the dog to be what you want the dog to be. I find that especially true with Golden Retrievers. People fall in love with these dogs, not realizing that the great dogs they see were both bred and made that way. Golden pups are extremely sociable and active, can be really difficult to live with, and they need lots of supervision, appropriate leadership, and training in order to turn out to be manageable adults. Other breeds can be this way, too, and you just have to pay the price in terms of effort and diligence to get the dog to turn out right as an adult. My Doberman, Dillon, was that way. He was a total pain for the first couple of years. He took a lot of work.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with their dogs is to avoid dealing with Manners at all; they instead just put the dog in a crate, laundry room, garage, kennel or back yard. A dog isn’t going to learn good Manners on its own. All you are doing, by putting the dog away, is just postponing the inevitable work that needs to be put in to make the dog a good citizen and family member. Using confinement as a way of punishing a dog WON’T WORK, so stop being lazy, bring your dog inside, let the dog make mistakes, and work with your dog. If you don’t know how, then it is time to get some expert help.

I had one customer that, instead of working with the dog and making it a family member, just shipped the dog off to their 4000 acre ranch in Idaho. I told them that wasn’t going to solve the problem. The dog would just continue to have the problem, just in another location. I bet the dog is now dead, probably eaten by coyotes. It was really sad. It was an adult dog that STILL wasn’t housetrained, STILL didn’t have any house Manners, and would run away because it didn’t have a family that would spend time with the dog on a daily basis. Money can’t buy a family, not for kids and not for dogs!

Another big mistake is to let the pup grow into an adult before you attempt to deal with bratty behaviors. The adult dog is bigger, tougher, more resilient, and in some cases more likely to fight back. I’m working with a big dog right now that has to be muzzled while we deal with the dog’s bratty behaviors. It sure would have been a lot better if this stuff was handled when the dog was a little pup and not so capable to fighting back!

My dogs weren’t born perfect. I had to teach my Doberman puppy, Dillon, just like everyone else. It was a daily struggle, because he wanted what he wanted. For example, at 6 months of age, my biggest challenges were: nuisance barking, stealing place mats from the kitchen table, beating up my pillow, jumping up on people, continued mouthing and nipping, and jumping up on furniture. We worked on it until we got past these things, not using rough treatment, but good dog training techniques. I didn’t expect him to have perfect Manners at 6 months of age, since he was still a puppy. The idea was to have a well mannered adult dog, and not knock the spirit out him in the processs.. My goal, with all my dogs, is that when they are an adult (3 years old) that they are welcome, not a nuisance, and trustworthy wherever I go. We all have to teach Manners to our dogs!


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Tension In The Home (A Stressful Home Environment And How It Affects Your Dog)
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Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.

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