Is your dog well trained but badly mannered?

A guest blog from Rebecca Chin

In training, dog owners often place priorities on different things. Some people don’t care about having a dog that can walk on a loose leash but want an operant dog that knows 101 tricks. Some people want a dog with a bombproof reliable recall and don’t care if the dog knows many commands outside of basic training. Some people have Obedience Champions that counter surf, pull on the leash, jump on up on people and only have a reliable recall inside the trial ring.

There is a difference between a dog that is well trained and knows many commands and a dog that is well mannered and well behaved. The two are not the same thing; you can have one and not the other. While ultimately there is no right or wrong when it comes to what we prioritize in training, there can be downsides to managing a dog that is obedient and well trained but not well mannered.

Often we meet dog owners whose dogs will behave themselves inside the context of training but outside of training, or with the absence of a command, the dog displays undesirable behaviour. For example – you could have a successful obedience dog that has terrible manners in the house. If the dog is told to down, it will, but as soon as it’s released it counter surfs, steals food, is unable to self-settle or nuisance barks.

This is because outside of training, the dog has never been taught how to behave. We often place so much importance on teaching the dog commands that we fail to teach the dog how to behave in the absence of a command or how to behave outside of a training session.

Again – there is no real right or wrong when it comes to what we prioritize in training, but there can be downsides to having a dog that only knows how to behave within the context of training. If you have a competition dog that expends a lot of energy outside of training self rewarding by doing things like counter surfing, destroying things in the house, finding ways to seek drive satisfaction away from the handler and gaining it, there is no doubt that it will effect the dog’s ability to give 100% in training and competition.

Outside of competition dogs, new puppy owners can often get frustrated when they have spent time teaching their puppy to sit, drop, or rollover but still end up with a dog that pulls on the leash, misbehaves in the house, toilets inside and doesn’t come when it’s called. A lot of emphasis is placed on teaching new puppies basic commands but not so much emphasis is placed on teaching the owners how to train basic manners or teaching them how to train the puppy to behave in the absence of a command. This lack of emphasis, and often lack of available information, placed on training basic manners contributes to the fact that some of the most common complaints dog owners have is that their dog pulls on the leash, toilets inside or fails to recall when they call it – though you can guarantee that most of those owners have taught their dog to sit.

What we teach our dogs – or what they teach themselves – outside of planned and structured training sessions can have just as great an impact on their behaviour as what they learn when we teach a new behaviour, command or trick. The times we allow our dogs to experiment, gain success and develop habits outside of training sessions can either help or hinder our ultimate training goals.

What do you prioritize in your training? Do you have a well trained but badly mannered dog? A dog with basic training that is well behaved? Or both?

– Bec

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  1. Totally agree Jess – I would rather have a basically-trained, well-mannered dog than a dog that only works in a ring situation or under constant command and I have seen a lot of the latter! However, we are still a “work in progress” so not too much criticism from this end…lol!

  2. Great article bec. A few years back I was horrified when at an agility comp I stumbled across at our local park one of the competitors bcs was being allowed to rush aggressively at other on lead dogs including mine. Despite being successful in the ring the owner clearly did not care about basic good manners in her dog. My own dog has only basic training but I spend a lot of time ensuring that he knows how to behave appropriately in public at friends houses and at home. We won’t win any prizes but we sure won’t interrupt other people and dogs enjoyment of life

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