Dr. Al Townshend
Good manners are an essential part of getting along in society. We all need to get along and respect one another. Our pets need good manners for the same reasons; however, dogs and cats need good manners to get along with humans, and they need a different set of manners to live in harmony with other animals.
Like children, pets need to be taught manners. Good manners are essential if a pet is to get along with humans, other animals, and their environment; otherwise, the pet is not likely to be the loving companion we all hope our pets will become.
Much of the good behavior we expect from our pets is about control. Their safety and happiness depend on the Guardian’s ability to control the pet’s actions. Sit, stay, come, walking on a leash all keep them out of harm’s way.
Living in the home and spending time outside requires proper etiquette. What is acceptable behavior when it comes to getting on the furniture, jumping on counters, chewing, barking, digging in the yard all need to be taught? Otherwise, a pet’s natural instincts can lead to bad habits.
Social manners with humans outside the family, both in and away from home, are essential community skills every pet needs. Veterinary visits, daycare, and the pet parks are examples of where pets need to interact positively with other pets and with humans.
Teaching a pet what pleases their Guardian family and what makes them unhappy helps avoid disaster and establishes and nurtures the human-animal bond.
Good Manners Need Positive Reinforcement
Guardians need to acknowledge good behavior and reinforce it at every opportunity. Without positive reinforcement, pets tend to forget.
- During early training and until good manners are established, rewarding the pet with a treat is good positive reinforcement. Treats don’t need to be large. A small training treat or even just a piece of kibble is all that is necessary.
- Pets have a hard time understanding sentences; a simple “good dog” or a pat on the head is often all that is necessary once the behavior is learned.
Unacceptable, bad manners are some of the most common reasons Guardians give up their pets, increasing the risk they will be euthanized.
Starting early and doing all we can to encourage positive behavior and good manners is the best way to create a loving, healthy environment for both the pet and the Guardian.