The Mannerly Dog
Mannerly dogs are not born, they are taught. A mannerly dog keeps his paws on the floor, not on your clothes. He does not bark at passersby on the street, and he does not rush out ahead of his human companion to lunge at cats or other dogs. Mannerly dogs never make people mutter, “There ought to be a law…”.
Dogs learn manners by being shown what is acceptable and what is not. This approach – setting clear boundaries for your dog – is at the heart of balanced training. Balanced training means you let your dog know what behavior you approve of, and what behavior is dangerous. Example: Sitting before he goes through the door — good. Example: Bolting out the door onto the street with nary a thought — dangerous. Balanced training is just that simple.
In the last several years, you may have heard and even internalized a lot of dog training advice — use only rewards, never correct your dog, use treats to achieve the behavior you want, etc. This advice derives from academic experiments into the study of behavior, usually on mice or rats that live in a cage in a laboratory. The conclusions were exported from the laboratory onto the street and into our homes, with no regard for the fact that our dogs live with us, not in a laboratory cage. Our lives contain far more dangerous distractions than any laboratory mouse will ever encounter.
The result? A walk down the street shows you distinctly unmannerly dogs jumping, pulling, lunging, and dragging behind them a person who wonders where it all went wrong. What you don’t see are the dogs who can’t even be taken out for a walk for fear they might injure someone. These dogs languish in backyards or are surrendered to animal shelters to become a public burden. This is where unbalanced training leads us. Unbalanced training leads directly to more anti-dog laws — restricted access to parks and other public spaces, breed-specific bans, etc.
Discover the balance! Your dog has an innate desire for structure. By giving him exercise, discipline, and love, in that order, you can tap into his innate pack behavior and satisfy his craving for leadership. Learn to be his leader, and he will relax, as will you, and you both can truly enjoying life together. As responsible owners with well-mannered dogs, we can band together and win back the access that allows us to enjoy our canine companions in as many venues as possible.