It Takes Two to Have a Well-Behaved Family Dog

Dogs learn how to behave by how people respond to their behaviors.

Pet parents don’t do enough to reinforce good manners and may even — inadvertently –reinforce the wrong ones.

If the dog’s manners are a problem, it’s probably because his family has reinforced problem behaviors, often without even knowing it.

“Our dogs learn how to act by the way we respond to their behaviors,” says dog obedience training expert Traci Simo. “They keep doing the things that get our attention.” As head of services at Canine Company, including Manners dog obedience training, Simo has worked with hundreds of pets and pet parents to solve problems like jumping up, surfing counters and running away when called.

“In most cases, pet parents don’t do enough to reinforce good manners, and may even — inadvertently — reinforce the wrong ones by giving attention in an effort to get the problem to stop.” The good news, Simo says, is that “small changes in your behavior can led to big improvements in your pet’s manners.”    

1.Practice basic skills every day. Dogs learn through repetition, so practice is essential to establish and to maintain behaviors. Simo recommends working training commands into every day situations: for example, practice “wait” when putting out his meals, or practice “drop it” while playing catch.

2. Don’t reward bad behaviors. If a dog gets treats when she begs at the dinner table, she learns that begging at the table results in food. Similarly, a puppy who is picked up each time he barks, learns that barking is a good way to get attention. Instead, says Simo, ignore problem behaviors or provide a distraction.

3. Be consistent. It’s important that all members of the family use the…

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