Manners Maketh Man – and dog! Teaching your puppy basic good manners will save you a lot of embarrassment in the future and will help ensure that the two of you can enjoy every moment together.
What are good doggy manners?
Just like human etiquette, manners exist to help everyone get along. They are unwritten rules that, if everyone understands them, avoid conflict and fall outs. It’s important not to get manners confused with obedience. They’re not the same thing at all. A dog with nice manners can assess a situation and make a sensible decision about how to behave. Your puppy needs to learn how to be well mannered around humans AND around other dogs.
A human baby is not born with good manners, neither is a puppy. Just as we teach our children basic manners from the get-go, puppy needs to start learning from a very young age. What seems cute in a fur baby might not be so funny from a 35 Kg muscle machine.
Good habits lead to good manners
There’s so much for a puppy’s brain to take in. Learning about the world and how to behave in it is an enormous task for a little brain. What will help is if you understand how dogs learn and tailor your training accordingly.
Dogs and puppies learn by association. They very quickly spot a pattern between action and reaction and they mould their own behaviour to maximise the number of rewards they can earn. So if puppy learns that jumping up earns kind words and a cuddle – that’s what he or she will do. On the other hand, if your little one realises that good things happen for puppies that wait patiently and look cute, the chances are they will grow into extremely loveable adult dogs.
A word of warning
Shouting or physical punishment are NEVER good training tools. All they do is teach puppy to associate you (NOT their behaviour!) with anger, confusion and pain.
For a dog to unlearn a behaviour takes a lot of time and effort on the owners’ behalf. Especially when the behaviour in question is potentially self-rewarding. I.e. fun. That’s why learning basic manners needs to start as soon as possible.
Puppy manners – basic lessons
When you are teaching your puppy good manners, start by deciding what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in an adult dog. In a year from now, will you want your dog on the sofa? Will he or she be allowed to beg for tidbits? How will you expect your dog to behave in a coffee shop or a pub? Start practising the basics straight away.
Consistency is the key, so everybody who comes into contact with your pup needs to know the rules too. That means family members of all ages, visitors and people you meet whilst out and about. You’ll soon get used to asking strangers to ignore your pup until he or she is ready to greet them calmly.
Let’s look at 2 typical examples of normal puppy behaviour that isn’t acceptable in adults – play biting and jumping up.
Puppy nips at your hands and feet while playing
Why is he/she doing it? To get your attention and to find out what happens when bits of human get in your mouth? (remember dogs explore the world through their noses and their mouths). Puppies naturally nip their litter mates in play.
How should YOU react? Distract puppy immediately. Find something different for him/her to bite – a toy for example. If puppy is getting too excited (dog trainers call this hyper-arousal), then he or she needs to be removed from the situation and given time to calm down. A puppy crate is awesome for this.
What does puppy learn? Biting humans doesn’t earn me the attention I crave. Biting toys is terrific fun though.
Why is he/she doing it? To get noticed of course. To say “hello”, encourage you to put the food bowl on the floor or perhaps out of sheer exhubance. Whatever the reason, puppy claws can be sharp on your legs, toddlers can be knocked over, clothes can be muddied and anyway, if your pup grows into a large dog, getting jumped on is just not funny.
How should YOU react? Here’s your opportunity for some “real” training. Young puppies learn quickly, so teach your little one to “sit” (subscribe to Dogversity to discover the easiest way to do this). Once puppy has mastered it, you can cue a “sit” before putting the food down, saying hello or putting his/her lead on.
What does puppy learn? Keep calm, sit down, look pretty and the human will do good stuff.
Teaching puppy manners around other dogs
As soon as your pup is fully vaccinated the two of you will be going out and exploring the big wide world. It’s inevitable that you will meet other dogs. What your puppy learns about doggy manners will last a lifetime. So it’s important to get it right.
Let’s put it into another context. Dogs are mammals, just like us. And whilst doggy society works slightly differently to ours, there are lots of similarities.
For example, how do you behave when out and about where there are other people? Is it acceptable to jump on everyone in the Supermarket and ask them to play? What would happen if you tried it? Do you even greet everyone? No. You might nod to or acknowledge other shoppers. You might have a short conversation with the person in front of you at the checkout. Other than that,
you just keep calm and carry on shopping – and so do they.
That’s how it SHOULD work in doggy society too. Puppy must learn to notice other dogs and leave them be. Sometimes, it’s OK to sniff, say hello and move on. Only very occasionally is it OK to play with strangers.
You’ll find socialisation much easier if you take some time to learn about doggy body language. That way you can help your pup decide who to greet and who to ignore. A good way to achieve this is to work with a qualified dog trainer who can give you lots of hints and tips on keeping your pup safe for life.
Dog and puppy training classes are invaluable for learning manners. Puppy can meet dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages and there will be a trainer on hand to make sure good manners are applied by everyone. The time you spend in training class at this age will be a true investment in your puppy’s future.
Learn more about dog and puppy training classes
Learning how to communicate with your puppy
How to choose a dog trainer
1-2-1 puppy training services