Obedience Vs. Etiquette

When most people think of dog training, they think about “obedience” training. They think about teaching a dog to sit, lie down, stay, and come when you call them. Maybe, if their dog is really good, they might train some cute behaviors like shake, roll over, or spin. There is a whole other world to access through training that most people never think regarding teaching their dog. That is the world of “etiquette.” It’s easy to distinguish between the two worlds. “Obedience,” or dutiful or submissive compliance, is what your dog does when you tell him what to do. “Etiquette,” or conduct established for any occasion, is what your dog does when you’re not telling him what to do. Let me give you an example:

If you have a dog that jumps on people when they come in your house, the most common plan that people come up with is to simply train their dog to SIT and STAY while you let the person in your home in hopes that your perfectly obedient dog won’t jump on your friend. At least you’ll feel better as your friend comes in the house that you are “trying” to get your dog not to jump because as he’s jumping you’re frantically trying to pull him back and yelling at him to sit. If your dog is obedient and actually sits while your friend comes in the front door, and he doesn’t get up from his stay before you ask him to, once you release him from the stay… what happens next? Most of the time, the dog goes to jump on your friend and nothing has been solved.

Imagine the scenario where your friend comes to the door and all you do is go to open the door and greet your friend. You don’t have to micromanage your dog’s behavior. You don’t have to keep telling him what to do and you don’t have to worry about what he is about to do. “Etiquette” is what your dog does when you don’t tell him what to do. A dog that has good etiquette contributes to a peaceful household, free from stress about the dog’s behavior. Watch this video that was taken during one of my recent training sessions with a client. “Maggie” is calm, polite, and respectful without her owner telling her anything as she opens the door.

In my opinion, training your dog this way is what makes the biggest impact overall in the relationship you have with your pet. I’ve never heard of someone who got rid of their dog because they couldn’t train him to sit. So my suggestion is to focus more on reinforcing your dog for behaving the way you want him to when you are not telling him exactly what to do and you will see a difference in his behavior. As an upside, it will be a lot less work for you!

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