Improve Your Dog’s Manners By Teaching These Three Behaviors

Improve Your Dog's Manners By Teaching These Three Behaviors

BY MIKKEL BECKER | Article Featured on

Recently, I talked with a frustrated dog owner who felt like she had missed her chance to teach her dog good manners. “I want to train my Cocker Spaniel to stop barking every 30 seconds,” she lamented, “but he’s 4 now and it’s too late to change him!”

I hear that a lot, and while I understand why a pet parent would think that way, I’m always happy to tell them that it’s not true. The fallacy that an old dog can’t learn a new trick has been disproven time and again. And there’s more good news: Teaching a dog of any age new tricks and better manners usually doesn’t require extensive effort or hours of training.

Training can provide a fresh start for your dog, whether he’s newly adopted and still learning the boundaries of his new household or a longtime family member who needs a brush up on his manners. No matter how old your dog is, training that emphasizes rewards can help to reframe patterns of interaction in a way that rewards and builds desired behavior in place of undesirable habits. This is a win-win situation for you and your dog: You get less barking and more behaving, and he gets rewards for doing what he’s asked.

For many dogs, the foundation to better manners is as simple as focusing on three basic behaviors: go to your place, make eye contact and tolerate touch. Here’s how training each of these behaviors can change your relationship with your dog for the better.

Go to Your Spot

One of the most useful behaviors you can teach your dog is to move to a designated spot — like a mat or his bed — when asked. Teaching this behavior can help solve a variety of problems, including begging at the dinner table and dashing out the door. Teaching your dog to go to a designated spot can also provide a strategy for steering your dog away from problem behaviors like jumping or chasing the cat. In each of these situations, your dog replaces an undesirable behavior — jumping or chasing — with a behavior that you reward with treats and praise.

In addition, “go to your spot” can be useful when you and your dog are navigating situations where your canine may need to be directed to a designated area — for example, when you’re unloading groceries and don’t want your dog underfoot or when guests are arriving or leaving and you need to be sure your dog isn’t tempted to slip out an open door. “Go to your spot” can also help to increase your dog’s independence by reinforcing that it’s OK for him to be separated from you for limited periods of time.

Make Eye Contact

In a dog’s world, direct, prolonged eye contact can often be perceived as a threat or challenge. For this reason, many dogs are fearful of direct eye contact from people. But because eye contact is a normal part of human interactions, it is something your dog is likely to encounter. Teaching your dog to make eye contact and treating it as something positive that leads to rewards and praise can help to build your dog’s self confidence and may help reduce anxiety or stress associated with human interactions.

Making eye contact can be helpful when you need to have your dog’s attention in order to distract him from behaviors you would like to see less of. Rather than simply yelling at him to stop barking, you can ask for eye contact and then follow up by offering a reward or asking for another, more desirable behavior like a down stay.

Tolerate Touch

Teaching your dog to tolerate and respond to touch offers one more way to get your dog’s attention when he is exhibiting behavior you would rather not see. Touch can be used to redirect your dog when he engages in unwanted behavior; training him to allow you to touch or gently hold his collar can be useful for situations where you need to get his attention in order to ask for an acceptable behavior.

Training him to accept being touched by unfamiliar objects can also be helpful in minimizing certain fears and eliminating the related behavior. If your dog hides when it’s time to trim his nails, try introducing the clippers by simply touching them to his paw and rewarding him for calm behavior.

Every canine is unique in the behaviors they’ll benefit from the most, but for the majority of canines, these three behaviors can be used to create a framework upon which to build better manners. And no matter how old your dog is, it typically doesn’t take a lot of effort to teach these behaviors — particularly once you commit to making them part of your everyday interactions with your dog.

Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital (OVSH) has been serving the Portland and Beaverton area community since 1979. Dr. Robert T. Franklin (Internal medicine) welcomes referrals from veterinarians all over the Pacific Northwest. Our goal is to help your pet regain health and live a long and happy life.

Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital

9339 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy,
Beaverton, OR 97005.

Phone: 503.292.3001
Fax: 503.292.6808

Bartonellosis: Another Reason for Pet Owners to Banish Fleas

Bartonellosis: Another Reason for Pet Owners to Banish Fleas

BY DR. JENNA ASHTON DVM, MS, DACVIM | Article Featured on

While you may not be familiar with Bartonella, you’ve probably heard of cat scratch disease, a human condition caused by one form of this bacteria. As the name suggests, people can get this disease from the scratch or bite of an infected cat. But dogs and cats can get sick from these bacteria as well, often from exposure to infected fleas.

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10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

When your dog is in pain, you want to help him feel better — fast. Luckily, there are quite a few things you can do to relieve the aches that are an everyday occurrence for dogs with arthritis:

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What Is Cat Chirping and Why Do Cats Do It?

What Is Cat Chirping and Why Do Cats Do It?

Article by Christine O’Brien | Featured on Hillspet

Chirping: It’s not just for the birds. In fact, cat chirping is one of several ways that cats communicate with their pet parents. But why do cats chirp and what’s the meaning behind this distinct cat noise? Let’s find out.

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Pet Talk: Pet Dental Health Month

Pet Talk: Pet Dental Health Month

While any pet owner knows the importance of a regular grooming and exercise routine for their pet, proper dental care is often overlooked. With February being National Pet Dental Health Month, there is no better time to develop a maintenance plan for your pet’s oral hygiene.

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Is Your Puppy Ready for Adult Dog Food?

Is Your Puppy Ready for Adult Dog Food

A puppy’s nutritional needs are different than those of adult dogs, but as your puppy grows, how will you know when it is time for adult dog food? The answer is more complicated than just your puppy’s age, but it is possible to make a safe and healthy choice for your growing friend.

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Seizures in Your Dog or Cat

Seizures in Your Dog or Cat

Article Featured on Pet Health Network

What is a seizure?

Watching your dog or cat experience a seizure can be a scary thing, and for good reason: seizures are usually accompanied by convulsions and wild thrashing, yelps and cries, and sometimes excessive drooling, urination, and pooping.

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Cat Life Stages: Providing the Best Care for Your Cat at Any Age

Cat Life Stages: Providing the Best Care for Your Cat at Any Age

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When you think of cat life stages, you might think that they consist of kittenhood, adulthood and senior age. You might also think that once a cat reaches adulthood, there isn’t much difference between cat care in adults and younger cats. If that’s the case, you’ll be surprised to learn that, according to International CatCare, cats go through six distinct life stages, all of which have their own care and feeding requirements. Keep reading to learn which of the cat life stages your cat falls into, and how you can provide your cat with the best care and nutrition for her age. Please keep in mind that some cats mature quicker than others, so it is important to check with your vet to make sure she is getting the right nutrition as she grows.

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Intestinal Parasites: The Squirm-Worthy Side of Living With Dogs

Intestinal Parasites: The Squirm-Worthy Side of Living With Dogs

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The woman dangled the plastic bag, pinched between the tips of her forefinger and thumb, at arm’s length over the clinic counter. “I agreed to a puppy, but I didn’t sign up for this,” she said dramatically. Through the clear plastic, I spotted roundworms wriggling in the stool sample.
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Cat Killing Conditions That Can Hide Undetected

Cat Killing Conditions That Can Hide Undetected

Article Featured on Cat Health

When you have a cat in your family, you want to do the best you can to keep him healthy and happy. The best ways to do so are to keep up with his veterinary visits, feed him good quality food, and spend time playing and interacting with him every day.

However, some conditions are common in cats that can hide until they are quite severe. These conditions kill many cats every year, and it’s important to know what they are and what symptoms to watch out for.

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