Written by Joanne Bardsley - Canine Comprehension Dog Trainer and Tutor.
Don’t get me wrong, obedience exercises (e.g. sit, drop, stand) are a critical factor in training your dog. Learning the pattern of the exercises, along with the appropriate reinforcement, is teaching your dog the ‘language’ which we will communicate with them in most, if not all, our interactions.
However, there are also several other equally important features that contribute to having a well-trained dog. Broadly speaking, these areas include ‘manners’ and ‘boundaries’. When I talk about manners, I’m talking about things like your dog jumping up on you uninvited, mouthing, or even displaying over-excitable silliness. To address these issues, you will employ the same language that you did in your obedience exercises. For example, if I open the front gate and my dog comes bounding towards me, ready to jump, I would warn him. If he decided to jump on me regardless, a ‘no’ and circle correction would follow. And then perhaps the most important part would occur next: reset and retry. Set up the situation again and observe if there is any change in the dog’s behaviour.
In addition to manners, probably the most important thing you will teach your dog is boundaries. What do I mean by boundaries? Boundaries are areas of your house that the dog is not allowed to go unless invited. That is not to say that the dog is not allowed in that part of the house, but they must be invited – we usually use the word ‘through’. If your dog is allowed free reign in and out of the house, he will presume that this is his kennel, with which he can do with what he likes.
By teaching our dog our tones of voice or ‘tonal conditioning’, we are developing a language with which to communicate with them, regardless of whether we are working on obedience, manners or boundaries.
Once you have established consistent rules around the house, you will often see dogs go through some ‘venting’ behaviour, which may be new challenges, such as barking when left outside, or jumping up and scratching at the door. Fortunately, you now have the language and tools to deal with these situations!
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