Teach Your Dogs Well …

Jana and Cali rest under a retaurant table

My mom recently spent a week in Italy, where she noticed dogs everywhere — in restaurants and shops, walking politely down crowded sidewalks — often stylishly clad in jackets. She mentioned multiple times that the sidewalks were spotless.

In chatting with other dog-loving and well-traveled friends, we heard stories of other European countries where well-dressed dogs hobnobbed with humans in restaurants, stores, and even historic homes that the humans were touring.

Obviously, the dog culture is very different in Europe than in the U.S.

I can’t tell you how or why it’s so different, but I can tell you what works: socialization and practice. Dogs who are out and about have to learn manners and be held to high standards of behavior. American pet dogs generally stay home and, too often, are allowed to develop poor manners and habits. It’s a vicious cycle: The dogs are unruly, so we don’t take them in public. Lacking exposure and practice, they don’t learn to behave better. So it’s too much effort to take them to even the few places they are welcome. So they don’t learn …

I’m not criticizing, just observing. I am as guilty as the next dog owner. Many times, I’ve decided not to take Cali into, say, our local dog-friendly Ace Hardware because I just want to get my shopping out of the way. She loves going in, and she’s not horribly behaved — but she puts a lot of effort into looking for employees whom she can hit up for cookies, and I do have to watch her to make sure she doesn’t shoplift those dog treats that are in a nose-level bin. I’d love it if she just calmly walked by my side, ignoring the treats, but I haven’t put in the effort needed to get her to that point.

In my service-dog-training days, I took many, many puppies on many, many trips to stores, restaurants, and every kind of public place. In those instances, I was 100 percent focused on the puppy, not trying to do my own errands, and I taught the puppies to behave properly (I hope). It takes a lot of effort, though it’s well worth it.

I admire the European owners who’ve managed to combine training with living their lives. Obviously, behaving calmly in various situations will come more easily to some dogs than to others, but all puppies need to be taught. Taught to settle down quietly and not demand attention while the humans are eating or talking. Taught not to search for and pick up scraps of food or trash. Taught not to beg at restaurant tables. Taught not to seek attention from strangers. These are, of course, skills that are valuable at home, too, especially when the doorbell rings or a repair person is working in the house.

Everyone’s ideas of what behavior is intolerable and what’s “good enough” are different. Teaching dogs manners is hard work and demands a lot of repetition and consistency. Lots of us are not very good at that, but we really do get out of it what we put in. Maybe it’s time to take Cali to Ace for more practice …



2 thoughts on “Teach Your Dogs Well …

  1. I took Hannah and Zig everywhere in CA and they were very well behaved even in places with treats at nose level. So yes it’s practice.
    Also Europe allows dogs everywhere so they are accepted in the culture and the dogs get lots of practice
    Training and practice.
    Even a mom has to watch her human child while shopping.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here’s a thing I’ve noticed: businesses would rather ban all dogs than ask the irresponsible owners to leave and let the responsible ones stay. Like our local farmer’s market for example. A few people were bringing their aggressive dogs, un-muzzled, into the market, and a few people were letting their dogs jump up and put their paws on the tables, a big nono as some of these tables contained food. None of these owners were ever asked to take their dogs out of the market, and nobody said anything, they were just allowed to do it. This continued for quite some time. I stopped taking my dog there because I was afraid someone else’s dog would attack her. Eventually, enough people complained about it that whoever runs the thing decided they needed to do something about it. So they just banned dogs from the market.
    Why not put up signs stating clearly that aggressive dogs and dogs that jump on the tables will be asked to leave? Why not address the owners and ask them to leave? It’s not just the market, I’ve seen this happen with other dog-friendly businesses too.
    Some say that businesses won’t ask irresponsible dog owners to take their dogs out because they’re afraid of being sued. I think that’s foolish. Put signs up that clearly state what behavior won’t be tolerated, and if people don’t read the sign, it’s their own fault. there’s nothing to sue about.
    Also, IMO, we in the US are much more… entitled? I don’t know if that’s the right word. But people who don’t like dogs, rather than ignoring the dog if they see one in public, are more likely to be all “OMG, how dare they bring a dog in here, I’m so offended! they have to leave!” (Just look at all the videos on YouTube of SD handlers being denied access because somebody doesn’t like dogs.) Personally I have more of a shut up and put up attitude. Do I enjoy screaming children in a restaurant? Of course not. So I won’t go and sit next to that table. If I don’t like the noise, I don’t sit next to it. That simple. I’m not going to freak out and ask them to leave. You don’t like my dog? Don’t come near us/sit next to us then. That simple. And if I’m an irresponsible owner and I let my dog come up to you and be all over you, complain, and I’ll be asked to leave. (I’m assuming for the purpose of this example that this is in a world where the business owner would ask me to leave.)
    For me personally, I would walk a lot more if I were allowed to bring my dog into stores. Rather than walking the dog and then going to the store, I could accomplish both at the same time, which would be a lot more eco-friendly. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to walk my dog and then walk to the store.
    Do I think pet dogs should be allowed everywhere? Absolutely not. There are definitely places where pets don’t belong. But they should be allowed more places. They do it in other countries. Why not here?


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