The holidays are officially here, so now is the perfect time to start practicing those all-purpose good manners skills with your dog! From people arriving at the front door to those unexpected plates of food left at your dogs eye-level, you’ll want to make sure your canine companion has been taught to make the better behavior choice – or to at least listen to you when you ask him or her to do something specially.
Let’s face it, just like our own behavior choices, training and working with our dogs is a constant, ongoing process. In order for an animal to become conditioned to behave in a manner to which you’d like, you must teach and practice with him or her in a variety of locations under a variety of circumstances. Similar to us learning math or English, where we learn to use these skills outside of the classroom, our dogs need to do the same in order to become proficient in any skill.
The following are just a few popular behaviors I teach in my dog training classes and to my private dog training clients – I thought I’d share them with you to help ensure you and your dog are set up for success this holiday season.
- Greeting Nicely in and Out of the Home: Teach your dog to target a mat near the front door. This way when you open to let guests in or out, your dog is welcoming everyone politely (as opposed to jumping up on visitors). It also helps prevent door-dashing! For additional tips on teaching dogs to not jump up on people, check out this Dear Inquisitive Canine column about a dog named Reggie who seems to be quite the welcome wagon.
- Loose Leash Walking: If you’re having company, why not take advantage and have your guests do the honor of walking your dog for you? Or, it’s a great way to visit with guests while at the same time getting your walk in. If you and your dog are visiting someone else, it’s a nice way to explore a new neighborhood.
- Sit/Down – Stay: Whether you’re sitting at the dinner table or around the fireplace having your dog sit or lay down for longer than a few seconds is always nice.
- Coming when called: Calling your dog from another room, a new park, or if he or she has made a dash out the front door, the sound of your voice should be music to your dogs ears – this one is especially important to practice until he or she responds without thinking (this is the conditioned part).
- “Leave it!” – for those times when someone inadvertently left a plate of food on the coffee table or the roast turkey too close to the edge of the counter.
- Enrichment: This is where baby gates (or confinement that is safe and fun), food stuffed toys, bones and chewies all come in handy!
Asking your dog to do a wanted behavior is a win-win for everyone! So remember, even if you’ve taken your dog to a multi-session class, maintaining the behaviors is a life-long process. If you practice a little each day (which is what my Out of the Box Dog Training Game is all about), your dog is surely going to be the best behaved at any holiday party!