Dog etiquette in public

Not everyone is as pleased to see our pets as we are – so how can you make sure your dog is on his best behaviour when you’re out and about? From picnic-bombing to jumping up at strangers, we tackle five of the biggest doggy misdemeanours and find out how to get them into better habits.

A happy, responsive dog is the result of the bond you have with your pet – and the consistent messages from you that reinforce what is acceptable canine behaviour. If your dog ignores your commands; can’t resist surfing someone else’s picnic; barks, jumps or humps, or likes to spook a cyclist… Well, it’s time to re-establish some good manners!

Dog ownership has surged during lockdown, but there have been fewer opportunities for dogs to socialise around humans and other dogs, due to social distancing. An array of new noises and experiences lies ahead for ‘generation pupdemic’, and they’ll look to you to help them feel secure as routines change.

How to make sure your dog comes back when called

Good recall is an essential life skill for dogs, which helps avoid so many embarrassing (for you) or hazardous situations. It’s a good idea to brush up on recall training regularly, and the pay-off is life-long.

What to do: Before you do anything else, make sure you’ve checked out our expert advice and video on improving recall training. Start in the familiar surroundings of your garden, where there are no distractions. Get back to basics, using your dog’s name with an instruction: ‘Bella, sit’, and add a flat hand signal as visual reinforcement. Step back, increasing distances before the recall: ‘Bella, come’. Make the exercise fun, with an upbeat tone of voice, and be ready with their favourite reward when they obey.

When you’re confident your dog has got it, head to the park, where there are more distractions, to practise.

How to stop your dog barking at people and other animals

A dog’s instinct to bark can be a valuable alert. But it’s less welcome when it spooks other dogs, cyclists, pedestrians or children – even though your dog is probably only barking to express their own insecurities, or excitement.

What to do: There are many ways to discourage excessive barking. Encourage your dog to be less reactive to everyday situations by diverting attention from their barking triggers. On a lead in the garden, introduce a phrase such as ‘let’s go’. As you say it, coax your dog to walk with you in another direction. Employ lots of repetition, rewards and a cheerful tone of voice. Once they’re responding well, move onto the park, where they’ll encounter more triggers.

Ultimately, your dog shouldn’t need the reward, but have something in your pocket just in case. Our video on getting your pooch to ignore other dogs has more tips…

How to stop your dog jumping up at strangers

You’re their favourite person to see and they love showing you… By jumping up! But a leaping heap of fur isn’t everyone’s idea of entertainment, and can be quite frightening for children or the infirm.

What to do: The ‘meet and greet’ scenario needs to become less of a jumping trigger for your pooch – and good dog etiquette starts at home. Prime them by going in and out of your house a few extra times over the course of a few days, but resist making any fuss on your return if they jump up. When they do, turn your back and stand still, with your arms folded, and say nothing. Don’t even catch your dog’s eye! If they come around to jump, turn again. The silence encourages them to settle and wait calmly for your attention. Now get down to their level to reward and praise your pooch. Get everyone who meets your dog on board with this approach, to make it more effective. 

How to prevent your dog invading picnics

Other people’s picnics are a tempting scene for our dogs. And whether they’re snaffling sandwiches or knocking over drinks, there’s endless scope for mishaps! Plus they can easily steal something, such as chicken bones or chocolate, which will do them absolutely no good.

What to do: Swing into action with your recall and ‘let’s go’ commands. Getting your dog to come away from that chicken lunch when called is the ultimate test of doggy training! A long lead may also be useful during picnic season, for giving you more control. How about taking your dog out after feeding time so he’s less inclined to picnic-bomb? Or walk at the end of the day when the picnic rush has passed?

How to discourage dog humping

This is a usually harmless, natural, male-dog activity related to hormones or play – but it can lead to fights with other dogs, and be mortifying both for you and for the recipients of their unwanted attention.

What to do: A combination of commands and diversionary tactics will hopefully do the trick here. Take action while your dog is mid-hump, saying ‘stop’ or ‘off’, while at the same time removing their humping target. Then give them a different focus: bring out their favourite toy to play with, and reward them when they follow your command. If your dog is mounting someone’s leg, you might have to take the miscreant out of the room completely. If your dog simply won’t stop humping, it may be time to get some expert advice from a behaviourist.

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