Does anyone else have family or friends that love your dog, but sometimes in all the wrong ways? Because mine sometimes blatantly disregard my wishes, like giving my dog every treat they can from the dinner table. I get it: they’re doing this out of love for my pup, but at the end of the day, I’m the one that’s left with his bad habits.
In my particular case, I'm the mom to a 6-year-old, 60 pound rescue dog. When I first adopted him he was really scared of men and honestly, hesitant to approach almost anyone. So my dad made it his personal mission to be his best buddy...by way of chicken. In the past year and a half that’s escalated from simple treats to straight up begging behavior. I tell my dad that he can’t feed him from the table anymore only to be dismissed with an “it’s ok, he’s a good boy!” as if I’m the person intentionally depriving him of any goodies. That’s not my goal at all! I just want a well behaved dog.
When it comes to dogs, they learn best through consistency. And that consistency requires a lot of hard work. I had to be really diligent in rewarding only certain patterns of behavior. I could work hard all week to resist temptation and pouting puppy eyes to give my dog a snack from the table to have all that training effort blown the moment he gets it from someone else. It seems small and harmless, but it undoes so much of my work and undermines me.
So it got me thinking, how can I communicate my wishes for my dog’s wellbeing so everyone is happy? Broaching the subject can be as short and sweet or long and explanatory as you’d like. We took the liberty of drafting out a few phrases you can copy/paste to leave everything on a good note!
A small mention
When it comes to things like food from the table it’s ok to mention “hey so sorry, we’re working on his manners! He’s not allowed to eat human food from the table. If you want to give him a treat we can put it in his bowl.” That way you’re not putting blame on the guest for the dog’s bad behavior and you’re still giving them the opportunity to give your dog a treat. It’s a win-win!
Involve them in fixing the solution
Little tendencies like jumping and play biting might have been cute as puppies, but we can all agree they’re simply annoying habits as full-sized dogs. Most people will just allow it to happen when they enter your home as not to cause a fuss, but it might be cool to get them involved too. Next time ask them to walk straight in and not give the dog any attention until he calms down.
It’s hard to fight the urge to greet a dog as excitedly as they greet you, but in the long run it will make for much better visits and that is something you can thank your friend for!
Sit down and be honest
I’m mostly writing this part for myself because I’m past the point of kindly asking someone to mind my rules for my dog. Nowadays dogs are viewed as much more than just pets. My dog is my kid - I pay for him, I pick up after him, I bathe him, I walk him, I talk to him. It’s much more than just loving him. He is my responsibility and raising him and his behavior is in my hands.
Sitting down and leveling with someone on why it means a lot to you that they respect your wishes will get you far for most any issue you have in life. Communicating how much effort you put into your dog’s wellbeing through every aspect of their life should help underscore why we all have to work as a team towards their best behavior.