From Beast To Beautifully Behaved Dog: Why I Teach My Dogs Good Manners

I adopt a lot of dogs.  I train them and then place them in good homes.  If it’s a truly exceptional dog, I’ll keep him for myself.  When I first bring a new dog into the house, my objective is to teach the dog good manners as soon as possible.  Here’s how I do it:

First, many of the dogs I adopt have a lot of raw potential: They have intense drive to chase a ball and they have high food drive.  They may be cast-offs from a potential client who finds it easier to give me the dog than to work through the problems, themselves.  Or it could be a police dog wash-out.

Needless to say, they almost never come to me as nice, well-mannered dogs.  They come as high drive, obnoxious, rude dogs.  Good dogs with bad behavior.

Dutch ShepherdSo, since I need to live with these dogs first-and-foremost and I may not be able (in some cases) to start formal training right away, teaching good manners immediately is necessary to get through those first few weeks.  Here’s what I teach:

Crate Training:  Teaching a dog to sleep quiety in the crate is the first order of business.  This helps with house training and gives the dog a quiet place where he can de-stress.  It also allows me to know that the dog is safe and not getting into trouble when I can’t keep one eye on him.

The Recall Command:  I don’t want to be in a position where a momentary lapse of attention means that the dog is out the front door and running down the block.  Been there, done that… too many times.  So, teaching a rock-solid recall command (Come!) is top of the list.

Boundary & Perimeter Training: The dog needs to know where he’s allowed to go in the house and where he’s not allowed.  For example: We don’t let our dogs up on the furniture or in our bedroom.  We also insist that all dogs wait for a “free!” command before going out the front door or the back door.  This also includes learning to keep paws off counters and not jumping up on people.

Good Manners Around Other Animals: Because we raise working dogs, I don’t let the dogs play with each other, willy-nilly.  Play is an activity reserved for me and each of our dogs.  It is a relationship building activity and something I want my dogs to look to me for, not to the other dogs or animals for.  This creates a deepr bond between dog and owner and it also teaches impulse control around other animals.  We also insist that our dogs either ignore the chickens until we tell them to actively help us “round ’em up” when it’s time for the chickens to go back into the chicken run.

Most people would probably say, “Wow! That’s what I’d consider a trained dog!” — but let’s remember that this is all just taught in the initial first few days.  After that we continue on with formal obedience exercises like the sit, down, heel, loose leash/attention getter exercise, formal ‘come’ and off-leash proofing in a variety of environments.

To learn more about my approach to training I go into greater detail in my book, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!”