Bad manners and setting boundaries

Canine bad manners can be easily corrected with clear direction from you.

By Alice Williamson, CPT

 Don’t you hate it when your best friend’s Labrador jumps on you and gets you muddy or scratches your legs?  It’s annoying when your friend’s dog begs for your food at the dinner table—or worse, takes food from your plate?  It’s rude.  Don’t allow your dog to be “that dog.”  Teach him to have good manners and raise the expectations of your dog.  Set boundaries for your dog and then enforce them!

You can easily correct bad manners with clear direction from you.  Remember, you are the leader and need to define the rules.  “Bad manners” consist of the following behaviors:


Do not allow the dog to decide how, when, and to whom he will greet.  Be aware of the friendly saboteurs.  Everyone has that special someone in their life who says, “I don’t mind.”  Think about this:  Is it ok for him to jump on you when you are wearing shorts or a business suit?  Is it ok if he jumps on Grandma?  Is it ok for him to jump on your two-year-old?  Be consistent. It is never ok. If your dog is small, do not pick him up.  He has two more legs than you do and is perfectly fine on the floor.  If he growls or barks at people, picking him up only emboldens and encourages this behavior.  In his eyes, he is now at human eye level and able to take on the world.

Barking/Whining for Attention

If you are reading the paper and your dog barks at you because he thinks, “Hey, you’re not doing anything else.  You may as well get my ball and throw it for me”, then the dog has decided when it’s playtime and how you should be spending your time.  Play should be initiated on your terms.

Fussing in the Crate

If your dog hears you come in the door and starts going ballistic in the crate: barking, whining, digging, etc., ignore him and do not allow him out until he has calmed down.  Never release him from the crate when he is in an agitated/excitable state.  It only confirms his belief that the crazier I get, the quicker I get out.  Desensitize him to the crate by putting him in it for short amounts of time while you are still in the house.  The crate should be in the most common room in the house.

Pulling on the Leash

You define the pace and direction–not your dog.  You may not always want to go for a run, or you may not have three hours to smell every flower.  It is ok to allow your dog to spend time reading pee-mail, but he should move on when you’re ready.

Claiming the Bed/Couch

If your dog growls or nips when you tell him to get off the bed or couch,, he is not allowed on the furniture.  That’s it.  It’s that simple.  This is a privilege, not an entitlement.  If you want to snuggle with him,, you get on the floor with him for a few minutes.  Some dogs may be re-introduced to furniture privileges when you have a better relationship, and the boundaries are clearly defined,. Still, some may not ever be allowed to sleep in bed with you again.  It depends on each dog.

Barking Excessively Out the Window

There is nothing wrong with allowing your dog to inform you that something is out there in front of the yard. When the dog doesn’t stop when asked or if he gets overly-agitated, it’s time to set boundaries.

It’s Treat Time!

There is nothing wrong with giving your dog a treat when you decide to, but if your dog decides when he deserves one, you have a clear relationship problem.


Do not feed the dog from the table, from your plate, and do not drop food on the floor while cooking dinner.  Do not allow him to stand underneath the table like land sharks waiting for chum or scour the floor like a hoover vacuum.


Do not allow your dog to stand up and take a peek at the goodies on your countertop.  If your dog is eye level with the countertop do not allow him to rest his chin on the counter or engorge in a full meal!

Stealing Socks, Tissues, etc.

Dogs like these sorts of things because they smell like you!  This is often your dog’s way of trying to engage you into a game of chase.   If it’s not an emergency or something he can hurt himself with– don’t engage.


The sky is the limit.  A well-mannered dog is a happy dog.  Consider formal obedience training to expand your dog’s knowledge.  Obedience helps you learn how to communicate effectively with your dog and keep him active.  It is important to exercise your dog physically, and it is just as important to exercise your dog mentally.  It is also exciting to work as a team and see the results in every aspect of your life.  The rewards are endless, and your relationship will continue to thrive!

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Set aside some time to receive Spike’s dog blogs by Acme Canine.

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