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10 Habits to Help Improve Your Dog's Manners and Behaviour

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Training your dog is a process that requires time and consistency. This can make it seem like an overwhelming and maybe even impossible task! But it doesn't have to be hard. Here we talk about habits you can incorporate into your daily routine with your dog quickly and easily to help them become the well-mannered pooch everybody wants to have!

1. Ask your dog to 'sit' while you clip the lead on.

Walkies are an exciting time for your dog, and some can't wait to let you know all about just how happy they are at the prospect of going out! Jumping up, turning in circles, rolling around, even mouthing at your hand while you try to clip the lead on can make it very difficult to get out of the door. Start your walk off with good manners right from the outset by asking your dog to 'sit' nicely while you clip on. If they don't let you do it the first time, put your hands behind your back and wait for calm before you try again. It might take a lot of tries to start with but if you're consistent and do this every time your dog will soon learn the quicker they calm down and let you put the lead on, the quicker they'll be off for that walk!

2. All four paws on the ground before greetings from humans.

Jumping up is a bad habit that is all too common and is at best really annoying, and at worst could mean serious consequences for you as a dog owner and your dog if he/she jumps up at a stranger in public. But it's actually really easy to train your dog not to do this. Make it a rule in your household that every time your dog approaches, they get absolutely no attention from you unless all four paws are on the ground when they greet you. Cross your arms, turn your back, walk away but don't say a thing. When they're firmly on the ground and not jumping, then they get rewarded with a pat. It won't take long to realise that if they want attention, they have to greet you politely!

3. Ask for 'sit' and wait before getting in the car, and 'wait' for getting out of the car.

The car for many dogs means going for an adventure, so of course they can't wait to get in (and out again at the other end)! But as we mentioned above with the clipping on the lead scenario, starting your walk off in a calm manner means you're more likely going to have a calm walk with your dog (and much more relaxed for you!). Teach your dog that you need calm before they jump in the car by asking them to 'sit' and 'wait' every time. These actions will help engage your dogs brain and refocus on the task of being a good boy or girl! This technique will also help dogs who tend to get over excited in the car - incessantly barking or jumping around throughout the journey which could be dangerous and distracting for the driver.

By asking for a 'wait' when you open the car door at the other end before allowing your dog to jump out, this gives you more time to make sure you have control of your dog while you get organised and lock up instead of them running freely around the car park and potentially getting into trouble before you even start your walk.

4. Ask for 'sit' and 'wait' before going through doors.

When you;re out and about with your dog, if they're barging through doorways willy nilly you have no idea what might be on the other side that could cause potential issues. A toddler or an elderly person with walking stick who might get knocked over, another dog who isn't keen for a surprise greeting, a waitress with a tray of coffees... who knows. Get into the habit of asking for a sit and wait every single time you open a door, to give you chance to get through it first and see what's on the other side. Your dog will learn that doors are not to be barged through whenever they feel like it and they'll enter the room already in a nice, calm state of mind.

5. Train your dog to turn their attention to you when another dog goes past, instead of immediately rushing towards the dog.

It's easy for owners of friendly, playful, social dogs to forget that not every dog is the same as theirs. Some prefer their own space and the consequences of allowing your dog to greet every other dog without direction could be disastrous. If a dog is approaching you on lead it's always best to assume there is a good reason for this - maybe the dog is reactive, maybe they can't be off lead due to recall, or perhaps they are in training. Either way, their owner probably won't appreciate being tangled up in that lead while your dog is off lead and trying to play! It's just polite to make sure you have them under control and paying attention to you as closely as possibly.

To help with this you can train a 'look' command that you practice every time another dog is approaching. This will help keep your dog's attention firmly on you until you can establish that play is welcomed (by both the dog and their owner). If in doubt, walk on by with your dog. Here's a video by one of favorite trainers, Zak George, to help show you how to get started with this technique:

6. Play only when invited.

We touched on this point earlier - although your dog may love to play with other dogs, not all dogs may feel the same way. In a worst case scenario your dog's incessant bothering could lead to a reactive dog responding aggressively. Best habits for socialising your dog are to keep them close to you (on a lead if you think they'll get distracted and will run off towards the other dog) until you can establish that not only does the other dog's owner say it's ok for the dogs to play together, but also when you can read both dogs body language to tell that they're happy with the scenario playing out (and recognising when it all becomes too much so that you can put an end to it safely and calmly)

This video below explains what 'play' looks like in dogs and how to tell when it's going too far. This is something that's so important for all dog owners to understand.

7. On lead walking.

This one is for all of you who say "oh he's terrible on lead, it's easy to just let him go free". We hear that all the time, and to be honest we're lucky here in Wanaka that we do have so many places we can walk dogs off lead. But by never doing it, you're creating a rod for your own back in that when you do need to have your dog on lead (and there will be those times!) it's going to be very difficult because your dog just isn't used to it. In fact, we have had to decline dogs with no lead manners for our group walks as it just isn't safe or practical to be walking a group of dogs if we can't get them all on lead when needed. Just 10 minutes on lead at the start of each walk can be a great opportunity to practice your loose-lead walking skills with your dog. You'll be surprised at the difference it makes!

Here's another of Zak's videos to help you with your loose-lead walking training:

8. Always ask for a trick before a treat!

This is a really easy habit for you to get into that will really go a long way to helping your dog understand that the best way to get a reward, is to do something you've asked them to do! We all love to spoil our dogs now and again with a treat, but before giving it to them make sure you ask them for a 'trick' first. It doesn't have to be overly complex - in fact, it's better to just ask them something simple that you know they already know. Whether that's a 'sit', a 'shake hands' or a 'high five'. Once they've done it, reward them with the treat!

9. Mat training.

Basically the idea of this one is that your dog has their own spot that you can ask them go to when you need them to settle down. This can be useful for scenarios when you have guests over for dinner and you don't want the dog pestering them under the table, for example. You can practice this at home while you're eating dinner, watching tv, or working at your desk.

10. Set them up for success.

This is one we always say when it comes to any kind of dog training. Dogs learn by getting it right and being rewarded for it, so help them to do that! Don't ask anything of them that you know they don't understand. Start small and simple and build up gradually, rewarding them for all the little steps in between along the way.


Remember; having a dog with good manners is about an easier, happier and more relaxing life for both you and your dog!

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