Manners: Wait, Off, Quiet, and Drop It
It's really helpful if you can teach your puppy to understand some variations on the basics of Sit, Stay, Down, Come, and Heel. For example, when it's time to go for a walk you can call your dog to the place where her leash is hanging and ask her to Sit and Stay while you put it on. Most dogs are so excited about this part of their day that it's hard for them to stay still. Asking an excited puppy to sit still while you put on your coat, get your poop-scoop bags, put on your shoes, and check for your cell phone may result in your having to reposition her as she moves from the Sit/Stay several times. Instead, you can ask her to Wait, which means to remain in a specified area rather than in an exact position.
Another useful request is Drop It. Dogs typically learn this request when it's time to give up the tennis ball during a game of fetch. Once they understand it, though, you can use it to ask her to let go of a child's toy or anything you don't want her to have in her mouth.
Here are some of the particularly useful requests for well-mannered dogs and the ways to teach them.
As discussed, the Stay command means freeze in the Sit, Down, or Stand position, and therefore is very restrictive. The Wait command, though, allows your dog to move about, but only within certain areas. You can use it to keep your dog in the car or out of the kitchen. The only thing Wait has in common with Stay is that both last until the next direction is given.
Teach the Wait command at doorways first. Choose a lightweight door and estimate how wide your dog's front end is. Open the door about two inches more than that as you say Wait. Stand with your hand on the knob of the partially open door, ready to bump the dog's nose with it should she attempt to pass through the opening. Be sure never to shut the door while correcting. Instead, leave the door open with your hand on the door handle, ready to stop attempted departures with an abrupt and silent bump of the door.
Work with your dog on a leash so that, if your attempts to deter her fail and she successfully skips across the border, you can step on the leash and prevent her escape. Practice with lightweight doors until you feel confident that the timing and strength of the tap is appropriate to deter your dog. Then apply the technique at heavy or sliding doors.
Work with your dog at familiar and unfamiliar doors as a helper tries to coerce your dog to leave. Your helper can talk to the dog and drop food, but your helper shouldn't call your dog. As your helper remains on the opposite side of the door, engage in lively conversation to teach your dog that even when you are preoccupied, the Wait command is enforced.
When that lesson has been learned, you'll no longer need the leash.
Here's a request that can be confusing for you and your puppy. You're sitting on the sofa reading a magazine when your dog comes in and jumps up next to you. Your instinct is to say Down, while directing her off the furniture.
Think about it, though: What should Down mean to your dog? It should mean “assume a position of lying down until I ask you to do something else.” So when you say Down and push her away, you're sending a very mixed signal. That's when you need to remember to use the word Off instead. Off should mean “remove yourself from what you're on” or “get off of whatever you're jumping on.” To enforce the Off command pull her off her target with the collar or leash and praise her the instant her feet hit the ground.
It's nice when your dog barks at the door to alert you that someone is there. It's not nice when she won't stop barking, especially if your baby is asleep or you're talking on the phone. Fortunately, teaching her to shush is simple. There are three ingredients to teaching your dog to be quiet on command.
First, if you've been trying to silence your dog by petting her or giving her a toy, stop. You may not even realize you've been inadvertently encouraging her excessive barking, so the habit can be tough to break.
Second, leash your dog and enforce the quiet. Be on the lookout for opportunities to enforce, such as when she barks at your neighbor, a distant noise, or because she's bored.
Third, when you are confident of your ability to quiet your dog at will, introduce the command. If you start saying Quiet before developing a strategy, you're likely to get hoarse long before she tires of barking.
Should I say Quiet every time my dog barks?
No, in fact, feel free to praise and encourage your dog for appropriate barking, such as when an intruder is near. There is nothing wrong with a dog barking if you can silence her easily when necessary. But barking isn't necessary for a dog's well-being, so if you find virtually all barking disturbing or unacceptable, correct it.
Use the Drop It command to teach your dog to release objects from her mouth or not to pick something up. Some dogs, and virtually all puppies, like to chew, carry, and mouth anything they can — hands, clothing, the leash, gravel, cigarette butts, landscaping timbers, tissue. Your first reaction may be to pry her jaws open to remove it, but if you do, he'll soon be prowling for another item to grab. Teaching Drop It will reduce her scavenging tendency.
When you notice her eyeballing a taboo item, give your command. Accompany the Drop It command with a prompt jerk of the leash, as you quickly back away and offer to play with an acceptable object. If that doesn't work, carry Bitter Apple so you can give a spritz along with your command.