Sunday, May 29, 2011

Teaching Your Dog Manners

When we lived in an apartment with an elevator, I felt I was forever yanking Roy's head out of some poor neighbor's grocery bags they were carrying. The rascal was a stray, I would explain apologetically. We were still trying to teach him some manners.

Apparently he never learned that its rude to do a nose dive into other people's groceries, as he still does it when we come home carrying a bag.  But last night he did something that made me do a double take.

He usually knows he's not allowed to eat anything I drop while cooking unless I give the OK by saying "Clean Up!" We've been pretty strict on this as I don't want him gobbling up onions, garlic, eggs, grapes, chocolate, or anything else that might not sit well with a dog. I really hate cleaning up dog barf.

Usually if I'm standing there and drop something I give a firm "Leave it!" and he does...while staring at it intently. Sometimes he's a stinker and gobbles it up anyways. And if I drop something without noticing and walk away...its probably gone before I knew I dropped it.

Last night, though, I was trying to cut up some stale bread left out to put in the food processor for bread crumbs (waste not, want not). In my pregnancy clumsiness (which is increasing daily), the serrated knife slipped on cutting my second slice and skidded across the stale crust and onto my fingers. I dropped the knife and walked into the bathroom to start running some water on it and clean out any crumbs that may have gotten in the cut.

A second later I look in the hall and Roy is approaching with his head down, with the slice of bread I must have flung on the floor in his mouth. 

"Oh well, go ahead and have it," I sighed.

Roy put the piece of bread on the ground and looked at me.

"Go on!" I said encouragingly.

He picked it up, took a few more steps toward me, put it on the ground and looked up at me again with perked ears.

What is he waiting for? Is he seriously asking permission? I thought. 

"Go ahead," I said again and he just half lowered his head, his ears still up.

"Clean up!" I relented, and that dog gobbled the bread down.

Now how did we manage to teach our dog such manners?

And can I apply those manners to making him not look like a drunken slob when he naps?

1 comment:

  1. Kait,
    does Roy live with you since his puppy-age, or you took him adult?
    Most of the things he does, are "teachable", but the most efficient time to start with continous lessons, is his childhood.

    As far as he is a retriever, he will always EAT everything available (it is given by genes - if you give him a 10 kg pack of food, he will eat it all - if he is full, he will go somewhere to womit and comes back to eat the rest...)
    You can teach him not to touch food, but it is more complicated in adult age.

    Same with sleeping on sofas, chairs, bed...

    Choose only ONE WORD wich will mean "bad, don´t do it"... and use this with a different intonation + hit him slightly on nose each time he does something bad. That´s not hurtfull - just he will not feel comfortable with. But day by day he will rrealize that the more he respects you, the less number of punishments he receives... and as far as retrievers love to be loved, he will slowly adapt himself to new rules.

    It is important to do everything constantly and punish him slightly for each bad thing you note, and if something happened while he was at home alone, you need to explain him angrily how bad his behaviour was...

    Retrievers learn quickly, but the older the dog is, the slower the result come... because of his "bad" habits.
    The advantage of this breed is their empathy and relationship with family.

    I have set the rules in my house in the beginning. My lab Cora is not trained to official exams, but accepts perfectly all rules related to her life with us, she is our family member, she is also strong-headed, and she found her ways how to "protest", but finally accepts that I am the boss.

    She is a perfect babysitter, but she needed to understand that the baby (and also the cat in the garden) are our new family members and we love them on the same way we love her. She was jalous - extremely jalous on the cat (of course), and less jalous on the baby. But she got as much love from us continously (besides explanations and showing the same love to cat or a baby), and I needed to watch her all the time at least during the first 2 weeks... When she wanted to show me how much does she love a cat or a baby, she started lick them (and so on... you know it, Roy does the same), that I needed to stop her at some point to show here she is great and that´s how it´s perfect.
    Now I can rely on her, I can keep the house clean (she lives inside with us, doesn´t stay in the garden), I am sure I can sit or eat everywhere I wish... and the food will stay on its place without being touched by her. (But she gets to taste everything in the kitchen while cooking...)