Bad manners occur when a dog has not be taught how to behave in a way that is socially acceptable to others that it lives with or comes into contact with. Dogs that are bad mannered have often learned to please themselves and many act on impulse without caring about the consequences of their actions.
If your dog is less than 6 months of age, go to ‘Puppy Bad Manners’
What can go wrong
Dogs that are bad mannered will often barge people out of the way, jump up and use their paws to get what they want, whether it is food on a surface or attention from a person or child, and usually are unwilling to consider doing what you want but, instead, prefer to do what they want to do instead.
Prevent and stop
Whether your dog has one or two bad habits or whether he is constantly getting into trouble, the first thing to do is to stop or prevent unwanted behaviour. Do this by controlling your dog’s movement around the house by means of stair gates and house lines (see ‘How To Use A Houseline’).
Physically prevent him from doing whatever it is you do not like, such as jumping up (go to ‘Jumping Up’ for more details) or leaping onto the work surfaces or tables searching for food. Don’t punish him but just stop him from doing the behaviour that has been so rewarding for him for so long.
Show your dog how to be good
At the same time, teach your dog what he should do instead. Train him to sit and wait instead of barging you out of the way at the door, or to wait patiently for his dinner instead of knocking it out of your hand as he charges forward to get it.
Start with the small actions that you can control easily and be insistent and persistent to make sure your dog complies with your wishes.
As soon as your dog does what is required, reward him well with whatever it is he wanted, whether that is freedom to go outside, praise from you, a game or a tasty treat. Make sure the reward is as good or better than the reward he would have got if he had behaved badly. This will ensure that, over time, as you begin to break bad habits by not allowing them to occur, the new rewarding habits will quickly take hold.
Be patient and persistent
If your dog is young and has never been taught good manners, it may take a while before he learns enough to be nice to have around. Until that time, keep him confined when he is in the house so he cannot do too much damage, provide him with toys and chews so he can entertain himself when alone, and make sure he is getting plenty of exercise, games and chances to run free. Train him and teach him as often as you can. The more you do, the quicker he will learn to behave well.
Start with small things that are easy to change and work up to more difficult things like pulling on the lead (go to ‘Pulling On The Lead’).
If you teach your dog how to behave well in this way, he will gradually begin to behave more acceptably. You are likely to have set backs along the way where he seems to have forgotten everything, but this is normal. Gradually you will see big changes and because you have trained them positively so that he enjoys behaving well, those changes will be permanent.
See also 'Problems With Rescue Dogs'.
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