Teaching your dog good manners is no different to teaching your children manners in your family hierarchy. Good manners – like the hierarchical behaviour of a dog pack – are the social lubricant that ensures that friction is minimised in social situations.
In a dog pack the dominant dogs will set the rules; in the family pack a dog with good manners is a dog that accepts that you and your family have rules and that these rules are decided on by you.
A polite person will wait for others to enter before barging through the front door, and a polite dog who knows and understands the family hierarchy must be taught to do the same.
Just as you teach your children to wait until everyone is seated, you should teach your dog patience at the food bowl. A dominant dog in a pack always demands first go at the food. Feed your dog only after the family have eaten, never feed your dog from your plate, and from an early age and throughout adolescence encourage your children – under supervision – to feed your pup from their hand once the pup is sitting politely. This tells your dog that your children are the source of good food and therefore very important, and that they must obey them to get what they want. It also ensures that your dog won’t snatch food from people or beg at the table.
Dogs and children who constantly demand attention are annoying. Dominant dogs are the initiators of play in a social situation, demanding attention when it suits them. Play with your dog when you want to and if you don’t feel like playing, ignore your pup’s overtures and make him settle down. If he becomes excessively exuberant then put him in a ‘sin bin’ (the laundry perhaps – not his sleeping crate) until he settles.
If you have small children and you have to intervene because your child is too rough with your pup, don’t comfort the pup. He will get the impression that you are on his side and this will reinforce any feeling of dominance towards your child. This may go against human notions of fair play but you must always be seen to support your child rather than the pup, no matter how naughty your child may have been – you can speak to them about it later.
If you need to discipline your pup, a low growl accompanied by a severe stare can be very effective, or you can hold the pup firmly and say ‘no’; however, the best way to stop naughty behaviour is to ignore it completely. Puppies are just like toddlers with their endless cries of ‘look at me, mum!’. Withdrawal of any contact, such as folding your arms while standing up and looking away as if the pup isn’t there at all, is a very effective tool for controlling pups. If necessary, banish him to the ‘sin bin’ for time out. Most importantly of all, start obedience-training your puppy from the first day at home – the principles of training are covered in the next section.