My husband Ed, our official family pet leader, and I were enjoying a pleasant evening dining out when we heard a couple close to us talking about the behavior of their neighbor’s dog.
Even without joining their conversation, I could tell they weren’t exactly praising the pooch. And I was just as sure they were blaming its behaviors on the neighbor.
If I were betting, I would say the couple was talking about the dog using their yard as its personal bathroom.
Most parents teach manners to their kids — how to answer a phone, introduce themselves, act at a dinner table.
But dogs also need to learn manners.
On our way home, we talked about Teddy, our 9-year-old Lab, and all he’s learned in that area.
Teddy knows his basic commands — sit, stay, come and down. And we’ve added “move,” which tells the 60-plus-pound pooch to clear a path so I can roll past him in my wheelchair.
His table manners are good, too. Teddy does not beg or bother us or guests when we eat, the exception being grandparents. Both his grandmothers fed him under the table. His grandfather still does.
Teddy and Ed walk every day, and my husband has had to learn that Teddy takes his cues from him. At first, the Lab hesitated when kids would come up and ask to pet him. Ed now shows kids how to pet Teddy, and you can see Teddy relax as Ed demonstrates the correct way.
As for bathroom habits, everything I’ve ever read on dog waste has stressed in some form or fashion the importance of carrying poop bags on walks and using them. No exceptions.
Ed carries the bags home and deposits them in our garbage cans, period. No placing them in someone else’s cans. No tossing them into a field you may walk by. No throwing them in the sewer when nobody’s looking.
Improperly disposed poop bags don’t magically disappear. They wind up in creeks and lakes near you.
If that couple wasn’t discussing “bathroom” issues, my second choice would be blaming the neighbor for a dog’s excessive barking.
“Dogs typically bark with good intentions,” Aurora James writes at dogbehaviorblog.org, “but loud and constant noise will eventually wear down your nerves and those of everyone else on the block.”
Teddy is an excessive barker when someone rings our doorbell. Unfortunately, I can’t just blame it on Ed. It’s my problem, too.
COVID made it worse. Our visitors were reduced drastically so we’re literally back at square one.
Vicky Haines, a rescue and rehab trainer speaking with rd.com, suggests one training technique Ed and I hadn’t tried: “When your dog starts to bark inappropriately, call your dog to you. When he comes, offer him a treat and use the word “yes” as praise.
“After a couple of days, you can begin to phase out the treats and keep using the word ‘yes’ as praise. Using a short word like ‘yes’ communicates to your dog very quickly and clearly they have done something right.”
A suggestion we both need to try as Teddy continues to learn his manners.
Resource: To get the Free AKC eBook “Tips for Responsible Dog Owners,” go online to http://images.akc.org/pdf/ebook/Responsible_Dog_Owners.pdf
Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She lives in Greene County with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.