Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

In 2017, 89.7 million dogs lived in homes across the United States. Dogs are a big part of our culture, as well as our family, but let’s face it: they’re a lot of responsibility. Keeping your dog clean is hard enough, but getting them to be well-mannered and behaved is a whole different beast (no pun intended). Manners aren’t tricks or commands, but rather a consistent behavior. Why are good manners important for your dog? Not only does it make for better social interactions, but a friendly, polite dog is happier and better adjusted.

Walking Tall

Taking your dog on a walk is fun and good exercise for the both of you, but it feels more like a chore if your dog is having difficulty with leash training. Walking a rowdy dog is frustrating and disruptive, so it really tries your patience. Dogs can read your body language and this can affect their behavior, so even when you’re nearing your wit’s end, keep your cool. Use a calm voice to instruct or correct your dog to communicate a sense of security and well-being. If you have a dog that pulls the leash, it’s not necessary to reprimand; they may not even know what they’ve done “wrong”. Don’t pull back on the leash either, as this can hurt your dog and reinforces the idea of pulling. When your dog increases tension on the leash, begin to slow your pace accordingly. If they begin to outright pull, stop walking entirely until your dog stops pulling. When they stop, give them a pet and a treat to reward them for doing the right thing.

Making Friends

Just like people, dogs are social animals and enjoy interacting with the world around them. Also just like people, they don’t immediately make best friends with the new “kid (aka dog) on the block”. A dog that stays calm and collected when they come into contact with another canine influences the whole situation in a positive way, especially if the other dog isn’t as well-behaved. This not only reduces the odds of confrontation, but they may even make a new buddy.

When introducing two dogs, do so on neutral ground, and keep both dogs on leashes. Take both dogs on a walk, keeping around ten feet of distance between them, so they adjust to each other’s presence. Finally, move them closer to each other towards the end of your walk, and give lots of positive verbal cues to let your dog know everything is okay. Let the dogs sniff each other for however long they want to, so they don’t feel rushed, and continue to give them praise and “pets” to keep them calm until they show signs that they’re feeling more confident about the situation.

Manners are a learned behavior, so forming goods ones doesn’t happen overnight. You wouldn’t expect a child to learn to say “excuse me” in the course of just one day, and the same goes for furry family members. Whether teaching manners or training to do tricks, there’s one last thing you should always keep in mind: patience is a virtue.