House Manners for All Dogs

This article by Dr Cynthia D. Fisher, B.A. MS, PhD - Chief Instructor (Obedience) at Gold Coast Dog Obedience Club - is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.


Is your dog an inside dog or an outside dog? Mine are both they stay out in a well-fenced yard while we are away, and are inside much of the time that we are home and awake. They have draft-free dog houses with dry bedding in the yard, and plenty of shade for hot summer days, but they also spend many hours each day inside with us.

Although our mild climate permits many breeds to live comfortably outside all year, almost all dogs will be much happier if they spend a good part of each day inside with people. Dogs are social creatures, and need to spend plenty of time with their pack the humans in the family. You may have fewer behavioural problems stemming from boredom, frustration, and lack of stimulation if the dog spends hours each day with you. Most people get dogs for companionship and protection unless you spend a lot of time outside, you wont get much companionship from an outdoor dog, nor it from you.

Further, very few backyards are stolen - the dog can deter theft of your valuables better if it's inside with them. Many people enjoy having their dogs sleep inside the house both for company and for safety. The more time the dog spends with you, the more likely it is to bond with you and be willing to work with you. It will learn to read your body language and you will learn to read its as well. This makes for a much more successful training/learning relationship. Many dogs are exiled to the back yard because they behave badly in the house.

However, it is not difficult to teach a dog some house manners, as described below:

  1. House train the dog thoroughly. See the housetraining handout to learn how to do this kindly and effectively. House soiling is probably the number-one reason dogs are exiled to the back yard.
  2. Prevent destructive behaviour. Dog proof the house close doors so the dog can't raid the dirty laundry or waste bins. Remove food from bench tops so the dog never gets a reward for counter-surfing. At first, close enough doors that the dog must stay in the room where you are so you can monitor its behaviour. There is no law that says dogs must have unsupervised run of the house from the very beginning.You wouldnt grant a very young child this privilege! Notice and praise calm and appropriate behaviour.If necessary, you can tether the dog to your belt with a lead so it stays with you and out of mischief. You can also install tethering points and a nice dog bed (perhaps an old rug) in the rooms where you spend most of your time, and tether the dog where the family is hanging out at the moment. Provide lovely chew toys, rawhides, or stuffed Kongs on the rug, so its not a punishment but a good place to be. Its not hard to teach the dog to go to its mat by itself, without being tethered. In the early stages, you may choose to let the dog be free inside while you are home, but have it drag a light line six or eight feet long from its buckle collar so you can catch and control it easily if it starts to do the wrong thing.
  3. Teach basic obedience. Come, sit, drop, and stay will help you manage the dog indoors. Learning stays also teaches dogs some self-control, and the ability to calm themselves.
  4. Decide on the house rules, teach them to the dog, and be sure everyone enforces them. For instance, is the dog allowed on the furniture? If not, be very vigilant, and the VERY FIRST TIME the dog starts to get on a piece of furniture, immediately throw a fit for a second or two until the dog jumps off, then turn to sweetness and light - 'Good dog!' - for having all four feet on the floor again.on't let bad habits develop. Either prevent the wrong action or firmly interrupt it in the first seconds of the very first time the dog tries it out. Obviously, this means you need to be watching the dog 100% of the time while it is learning house manners. And don't forget to praise the dog for doing the right thing, lying quietly on the floor for instance.
  5. Don't leave the dog home alone with free run of the house until you have thoroughly taught it how you want it to behave. If the dog is inside while you are away or asleep and you aren't 100% certain it will behave, confine it to a dog-proof area with tiled floor and nothing that can be destroyed. Provide plenty of good chew toys to keep it occupied.

Alternatively, create a dog-friendly back yard as a safe place to leave the dog when you can't supervise it.

Cynthia D. Fisher