BY: BRYONY VAN NIEKERK
You know that moment when there is a knock on your door, you calmly go and open it, your guest comes inside freely, you greet each other and have a conversation all while your dog sits patiently, wagging their tail? Or how about when you sit down to eat your dinner and you don’t have this creepy feeling of being watched? Oh, you don’t? Well neither do I. In fact, I have the exact opposite.
There is earth-shattering barking, followed by jumping, licking and a wet nose in places you probably want to keep private. And that’s just the first 30 seconds. It takes Oliver a good 30 minutes to get to a stage where visitors can actually relax on the couch without getting their ears nibbled off and aggressively kissed to death. And don’t get me started on the begging!
This is not to say that Oliver doesn’t have any manners. He just gets so excited that he completely loses his hearing and the ability to control himself. You may think I’m being dramatic, but Beagles (of which I’m very certain Oliver has in him) can ‘turn off’ their hearing. This helps them to home in on a scent, and in Oliver’s case, his excitement.
But being well-mannered doesn’t only pertain to not jumping on you/guests, but also includes not begging at the table, walking well on a leash, playing nicely with other animals and all round just having good listening skills.
After reading all my confessions, you are probably asking yourself what qualifies me to give advice about raising well-mannered fur kids. Well, those who can’t do, teach, right? So hopefully the tips below help to make a small change in your pets’ behaviour. I’ll just be sitting here in my corner with Oliver, praying for adolescence to be over.
Define your boundaries
We all have different ideas on what we deem acceptable behaviour, so it is important to determine these limits and clearly convey them to your pets. Your pets need to know what they are allowed to do and where they can do it. For instance, I don’t mind my dogs and cats gathering around me while I eat, as long as they keep a respectful distance. They know that once I am done, they each get a bite.
Training using positive reinforcement
Obviously one of the best ways to get your pet to be well-behaved is to train them using force-free methods such as positive reinforcement. This is a great training method as it works by rewarding (be it treats or a happy verbal cue) the behaviour that you want and ignoring or redirecting the unwanted behaviour. If you have decided that you do not want your dog jumping up on you, you would ignore this behaviour and reward them when all four paws are on the ground. Or if your dog gets a bit mouthy during playtime, redirect their attention to a toy that they are allowed to chew on. Over time your dog will learn to associate positive connotations (i.e., the treats) to the behaviour that you are enforcing.
If I have said this once, I have said this a thousand times. You have got to be consistent! Reprimanding your dog for begging at the table one day and then giving them half of your wors roll the next day, is very confusing. Your pet is not a mind reader. They can’t tell which time you will allow them to push the boundaries and which time they will get told off for it. So, if you don’t want them to exhibit a certain behavior, be consistent in your expectations and maintaining your boundaries. Giving in just one time, can undo all the work you have put in.
Socializing your dog has a dual purpose. It not only exposes them to other animals and people, but it also teaches them how to behave and interact with other dogs. Being able to read social cues and body language displayed by other canines is a very important skill for your dog to learn. The last thing you want is for your pet to be a bully and not respect boundaries that their companions are putting up. The best way to socialize your dog is to join a play group hosted by a dog training school who will be able to guide you and correct any undesirable behavior.
While training, socialization and consistency are all very important to raising a well-behaved pet, the secret ingredient to bring it all together is love. A loved pet will grow up to be confident and happy which in turn will help them to deal with new situations and react in a more positive manner. However, even the most loved dogs can still be insecure. Oliver is the most confident and happy boy when he is just with us, but he can be very nervous and fearful of new situations and people. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t get enough love, it just means he needs a little bit extra.
Also, don’t buy into the old mind-set that dogs are pack animals and should be treated as such. Showering your dog with love and attention won’t spoil them and result in them not listening to you. It will only strengthen your bond and make them want to please you even more.