Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dog Training: The Bad Party Guests

While most people think of our dogs like this:
You might be surprised to hear Miss M has officially been banned from all family parties and holidays. And Mr. B is banned through association.
Despite how well we have trained our pooches, we have found it's hard to be consistent with training outside of our home. The first time Miss M went to E's family for the holidays, she had the best time of her life. She was so excited because everyone was petting her. People were slipping her food under the table. And she was allowed to sit on the couch at whim. Though we tried to reinforce our rules with her, everyone loved her and thought our rules were mean and that she should enjoy the holiday. And any time we weren't looking they'd slip her a snack.
Because of this, Miss M was conditioned to become a bad party guest. We'd see her begging for food. Discovered her rooting through the trash to eat watermelon rinds. And despite her restraint and ability to stare at food without eating it
The last straw was when Miss M  stuck her head in a the platter of potato salad and actually ate straight from the bowl.
It's not only family parties, but it also happens when we're on daily walks. Someone will go to pet Miss M, and all of a sudden she's learned how to jump. We correct her, because we don't want her jumping on people, to which the person says "Oh, it's ok with me" and reinforces the jumping by petting her.
For some of these small instances, we don't want to come off as rude, or over-reactive. Plus, it's hard to correct things when people just think they're doings something nice for the pooches. At the same time, they're now being conditioned to learn bad habits. How do you balance training and manners when people just want to spoil your dog?

44 comments:

Mack said...

I just can't picture Miss M's head in any bowl!
She would do great over at our house!

Two Crazy Coaches said...

I can totally see her eating that potato salad!

We haven't had too many issues with the dogs,but then again, we don't usually have them around if we're going to have a bunch of people over.

badmuthafudruckers.com said...

Ernie trained houseguests not to bend over to pet him by (accidentally) headbutting everyone who did so. No one ever believed me when I warned them!

Taricha and Nyx said...

Ohoohhh Other people 'retraining' to jump up is the worst! Even when asked nicely the people think its okkay, theyre just saying hellow! Its cute! noo, muddy paws on your shirt is not cute!

Pauley, Middy, the Mr. or the Mrs. said...

Sorry, but the picture of her head in the salad really cracks me up. I feel your pain though & have had the same problems. Our Annie & Chloe who are normally very conservative will become beasts at parties due to the same reason. We have yet to find a solution other than preventing them from attending parties :(

lindsay said...

Our dog trainer told us to tell people politely "i'm sorry, he/she is in training" while walking, eating at an outside cafe, etc. It seems to work. But I feel you, we work really hard to try not to teach the dogs to beg and how to be good, but when we visit the in-laws they get fed thanksgiving dinner off a china plate....which does nothing for our training.

loveandaleash said...

this drives us absolutely bonkers too. we are trying our best to teach miss lollie wonderdog not to jump up on people (a skill she picked up after she was with us and had gained some threshold of self-confidence, by the way), but it's so hard because there are always new people coming around to meet her, and they all think it's sweet. i guess it's something her forever family is going to have to learn to deal with!

aleksandra
follow our foster: loveandaleash.wordpress.com

Maggie said...

Oh, man... This is probably my biggest struggle! Friends and family slipping the dogs food, letting them get really pushy, scratching them under the dinner table, and on and on. I haven't figured out how to convey that that behavior is unacceptable. "Oh, it's ok. I don't mind." Well, I do!! It's been really bad with the puppy "because he's so cute" or "because he's a baby" or whatever. If you figure out the secret to getting other people to stop, let me know!!

Corbin said...

We run into that issue all the time. Corbin is a very well behaved boy, but he gets overly excited when he's at someone elses house, so we enforce his rules and training. My mom continues on about how mean we are and how we don't allow him to be a dog - but when his 70lb self jumps on her, she throws a fit. Can't have a well behaved dog without training! Same thing at Adam's dads house... when I'm not there, he gets anything and everything he wants. He's allowed to jump on people and walk all over people sitting on the couch. He knows better when I show up, but I get so angry because they praise those bad behaviors! Guess there's just not win/win!
-Corbin's mom, Jenn

RED said...

We're pretty lucky - Zeus is not allowed on furniture at our house and our family/friends respect thatm, even at their own homes. Our biggest issue is having people over to our house with their dogs - Zeus is great, but all of our friends dogs are allowed on the furniture at their respective homes, but not at our house- so they spend a lot fo time trying to get up on the sofa (while zeus is curled up on the floor) and then i feel bad since they aren't allowed there. Our other issue with Zeus and parties, with kids, is that he doesnt' realize he's 60lbs and can knock someone over. We play rough with him (our fault) but we're teaching him how to play without being rough play, because right now, none of our nieces/nephews can play with him bc he pulls and doesn't realize how strong he is. He is welcome at most family parties though, and if we show up without him everyone asks where he is, we're pretty lucky though, he's the only dog in our family.

Leila said...

I can picture the potato salad incident so clearly in my head. Too bad there are no pictures.

Family & friend get togethers are hard. It was a long tough road for the Quizz to be desensitized to groups. He still meets and greets enthusiatically, but it is all wiggles of joy. No jumping. Yes, I can't train the humans completely, but I do carry a squirt gun for the human element. It works surprisingly well. Humans don't like to get squirted any more than dogs. (picture a big evil grin!)

My FTW moment was when we were having a cook out and Quizz was sitting attentively by the Grill. Not begging, no whinging. Just looking handsome. Ready to clean up anything that might sacrifice itself on the floor. When nothing happened he went back to his clean up duties with my one year nephew. Happy as a clam.

Maisie's Mom said...

my friends are the same way...though Maisie is allowed on the furniture, they do say I am "mean" whenever I try to discipline her for anything. she is good about going to and staying in her bed while people are eating. but she did jump up and grab a bun off an outdoor table when I hosted a 3rd of July bbq last year!

http://maisieme.blogspot.com/

Kerri said...

I've given up on family and friends as well. Dogs are easier to train than people! I do try to prep visitors to the house though: "Just ignore the dog until he calms down and sits nicely". We've had relative success with that technique so far. But bring the pooch to someone else's house, and all bets are off.

In Black and White said...

Sadly Billy is still far from being trained in any situation! But I do know what you mean. He has a tendency to get wildly excited at the slightest provocation and the hardest thing for me is when I have him at heel and am working to keep him calm and someone (usually an "I LOVE dogs person") starts squealing about how cute he is. Of course he then starts to bark and jump and they glare at me as if I have a savage, rabid beast on the end of the leash. They blame the dog, they blame me but of course never consider for a second that maybe it was their actions that got him riled up in the first place. A real dog person quietly asks the owner if they can say hi. At which point I at least have an opportunity to lay down the greeting rules.

Wyatt said...

Miss M and the tater salad! Oh, Miss M!
Our dogs are rotten party guests as well. They take a time out in their kennel, when the food comes out!

Wyatt's Mom

Brenda said...

Oh wow, nice to know I'm in good company. I've had all these same experiences. I think maybe these "But I LOVE dogs" people are people with smaller dogs? At least that's the way it is in my world. And why it may be cute to them when a small or medium sized dog jumps or acts pushy, it's not at all cute when the dog weighs 90 or 100 pounds. Love those photos of the dogs eyeing the food. Wonderful! Dogs are so smart though, and they can intuitively sense when they're with people who will allow them to run the show. I love Leila's comment about squirting the people. From now on, I may start carrying a spray bottle with me on walks to discourage the bad behavior of the "But I LOVE dogs" people.

Married with Dawgs said...

I think this is an issue ALL dog owners struggle with. I do the "in training" comment while we're on walks and don't allow anyone to pet them.

When guests come over, well...that's the difficult one. Some of our guests are great with not spoiling the dogs; others not so great. I generally invite the great guests over a little before the not so great guests. That way the girls have a chance to practice good door greeting behavior and are less excitable and jumpy once the not so great guests arrive. That being said, Maggie still lives up to her puppy nickname "The Dog that Hipchecks you at the door".

Winnie said...

I DEFINITELY agree that dogs are easier to train than people.

I think the idea of saying: "i'm sorry, he/she is in training" that Lindsay said is a great one to use on well-meaning strangers in the street - and maybe you just have to be firm the same way with friends and family too.

I am in awe of the pictured self-control when confronted with those scrummy cupcakes.

Love and licks Winnie

Fiona, as typed by Dr. Liz said...

We don't have a lot of people come to our house; we've got two regular friends who come by, and one has a dog, and while he is friendly and will play with the girls, he won't tolerate them jumping up on him, and that is good. Our other friend doesn't like the dogs jumping on him, but REFUSES to do anything I ask him to do (like turn around and ignore the dogs), and I end up having to take the dogs out, and them bring them back in (they seem to do better when they come in after someone else has already arrived). It irritates me to no end. Especially since I've got his kids trained to behave appropriately with the dogs (which wasn't easy, as one of his kids originally was all freaked out by the dogs just being friendly - now she's happy to play with the dogs, but can firmly tell them 'no' when they get too energetic - funny that the kid has learned it and the father, who has supposedly had dogs his entire life, hasn't...). Vent, vent, vent. ;-)

-Dr. Liz (who is on a course of steroids, and might just a be a wee bit cranky at the moment....)

Kari in WeHo said...

We find that when our parents come to visit us they throw our rules out the window and the dogs get free run of the house and we have to retain them once everyone leaves

Kari
http://dogisgodinreverse.com

puddleofink.com said...

The boys are generally good about not snatching food, but people let Napoleon jump on them all of the time, because he's "so little and wiggly." The problem is, he's a therapy dog so I can NOT have this behavior reinforced for fear of him trying it out on the elderly or a sick child. Usually, if I explain that to them ("I know you don't mind, but he's a therapy dog and could accidentally hurt someone that way - please correct him"), it works out okay. I actually tell people that before he even greets them - you can pet him, but don't let him jump on you. He's cute and he knows it, the little monkey!

Tucker said...

Aww, Miss M. and Mr. B. would be welcome at our house anytime. And Mom would not contradict the rules.

brooke said...

hahah Miss M the potato salad thief!
I have to admit, even though I know the "rules" of not petting a dog when they jump up on you, I can never stop myself quick enough to think don't pet... I just keep petting!

Lindsay said...

It's really difficult to have others follow the same rules that you have for your dogs. We generally don't bring the dogs to any functions or parties because of their size. Their tales and butts are often hitting things or knocking stuff off of tables. And Heffner has NO restraint around food that's right at his level. People don't even have to offer it to him, he'll just take it if they're not paying attention (and that's something that he's bad at around the house in general). If we do take the dogs with us somewhere, it's usually to a function with not so many people and I'm the primary one watching the dogs. The best thing I can do to combat a lot of bad behaviors is just a down stay.

mayziegal said...

MayzieMom here. Okay, the thought of Miss M going bonkers because she basically knows she can, is just too funny. I know it's probably not funny to you but she cracks me up because she's so smart. :)

We travel for the holidays and the same type of things happen with my family (who are huge dog spoilers). I was able to reduce the treats this time by telling them that both the dogs get sick when fed too much people food. Not entirely true but it definitely helps.

As far as behavior goes, I try to enforce the rules as much as possible but I've gotten to the point where as long as they don't have their heads in a potato salad bowl (ha!) or knocking over elderly people, I let them get away with stuff that they wouldn't normally. (But I also take their crates so if they lose their minds TOO much, they get a little time out to regain their sanity.) It's usually just a few days and then we're right back to the routine, which they fall easily into.

Shauna (Fido and Wino) said...

We have the same problems. We either make a point of saying, "We're trying to break X habit, please ignore them if they are not being good," or we shake our heads and go, "Ah great. Took 2 months to break them of that. Now we're back to square one. Way to go." :)

Something else I do: Put them on leash when people are over (hold the leash and correct them when they are annoying). We don't have people over all the time so they don't get a chance to learn that Rule X applies regardless of whether it's just us or with strangers, but we figure eventually they'll get it :)

Benny and Lily said...

Oh Ms. M..BOL. We vote on grabbing any tasty treat in sight
Benny & Lily

susan said...

Stella gets overly excited around big groups and also seems to think it's a free for all where the food is concerned. A couple of weeks ago we went to my sister-in-law's house and while I was in the kitchen feeling guilty that I'd forgotten to bring her food, she was busy rooting through an upstairs trash can for half a roast beef sandwich. She would NEVER do such a thing at home. Also, I'm with everyone else on the retraining. I'm one of the "mean" ones too but those same people are always grilling me about how I got her to be so good.. they rarely see the connection.

Dog Foster Mom said...

I love that Mr. B is "banned by association". Poor guy :-) I have no helpful advice. My dogs are usually banned from all family events because they're total brats. :-)

Susan Campisi said...

I am so impressed with the line of dog biscuits on their paws! I thought Tommy was well-trained but that is one trick that has not been learned in my house.

The dog lovers are the worst when it comes to re-enforcing the bad jumping up behavior. My trainer used to say that I had to learn to manage other people as much as my dog. I try to tell people, "No, it's not okay for him to jump up," but they don't want to listen. It's a challenge. I guess we need to be as firm with people as we are with our dogs in setting the rules.

Jed and Abby in MerryLand said...

Same way you would if you had kids. A polite "thanks, but we're teaching her not to do/get/act that way. Please don't confuse her." Lindsay has a good idea, too. If you get desperate, get them some of those service dog jackets to wear out, which reinforces the "in training" message. Leila's squirt gun sounds good, too! Mama may get one.

Jed & Abby

ForPetsSake said...

Very good question - we deal with the jumping thing with Arwen. We don't have this problems with Nyxie as you can probably guess.
It's like when T goes to see her grandparents in Alabama and forgets EVERYTHING!!! We spend months retraining all her good habits back into her. It's exhausting. And frustrating. Short of never seeing her grandparents again, we have no other recourse but to just retrain. **Eye roll**

Leng said...

As owners of two dogs (puppies), my husband and I encounter the same problem. At times I feel like our pups are easier to train than humans. A lot of times I just tell people to not feed from the table or allow to do something, but they get really upset or turned off by. It's especially difficult when meeting new people who could care less about our dog training. I think I have come up with a solution though...when the dogs are in their crates or pen crying (they'd be let out when they stop), I'd put up a cute sign saying "please help train me to have patience, so that I can play with you by ignoring me until I stop crying." Or "please help me become a therapy dog by not letting me jump on you. I would like to visit kids in the hospital someday." Also telling our friends in advance about exactly what we are going to do helps out a lot. With the really bad family members, I throw guilt trips on them. I know it's a bit mean, but extreme situations call for extreme measures. It might be a little harsh, but sometimes friends, family, and strangers all need to be trained as well. My motto, if you want to pet my dog, you gotta follow the rules.

Pibble said...

Not that I have ANY control over my dogs (think shoemaker's kids/no shoes... trainer/no trained dogs), but I feel your pain. Why is it that people think it's funny to toss your dog a hot dog (in the bun, with mustard) or let them up on their lap at the table when you're begging them otherwise?

Oh, well. In their hearts, they mean well...

Jennie Bailey said...

I hate when other people reinforce the bad habits! My mom does this when we visit her. As for the jumping, the only way we've found that works is getting Lily into a sit-stay first, focused on us. Then she gets her new command, "Okay, greet!" This starts her greetings on a more calm level. I still have to watch her as she does sometimes start to get amped up. I pull her back into a sit-stay in that case. I feel like such a task master, but I don't like my 80 pound dog jumping ever. The worst words in the english language to me are "oh, it's okay." :-/

Alana Friese said...

I just want to say I absolutely love your blog! I stumbled upon it through the grapevine of the many I follow, and I am so glad I did. Your dogs are amazing and so well behaved, and I love seeing bits of your home as well you guys have fantastic style. My husband and I recently adopted an amstaff/mastiff mix named Boss. We had never expected to get a bully breed dog before but he so completely amazing! Now I am avidly reading several pitty blogs and doing loads of research about all the "pit bull" breeds and am quickly becoming a huge advocate for these snugglers. Boss has made such an impact on our lives already with his goofy antics, gentle nature and super sugar sweet attitude. We are determined to be responsible bully-breed owners and show of these incredible dogs. So I just want to say thank you for writing your blog, you have so many helpful tips and tricks we have already started implementing your ultimate kongs into Boss's training :)

houndstooth said...

Oh boy, does this one resonate! My husband's grandmother has the fattest dogs that I have ever seen. It disturbs her on a level that I can't even comprehend that our dogs are so slim. We took our first pair of Greyhounds over to her house one afternoon, and she decided they both needed a bowl of her dog's food. I protested, but hubby didn't back me up with her and she was very insistant. Hawk would Hoover any food placed in front of him and of course he went to town. Since he polished off one bowl of food, he must need another, right? I said again that he didn't need any, but she upended the bag and gave him another huge bowl full. By the third bowl, I was glaring daggers at my husband and he finally told her that she really shouldn't feed him anymore because Hawk had a sensitive stomach. Well, about that time he reached maximum capacity and all that dog food came back up on her carpet. She didn't feed him more than a bite of turkey at Thanksgiving after that! lol We generally play the rule enforcement by ear with our family and the dogs now. I don't take them around his family as much as I used to because there are some younger labs who are not the best mannered and it's just easier not to have to deal with them pestering our girls.

Kirby, CGC said...

I agree it's hard to train your dogs with other people. I have worked with Kirby on sitting when being petted, even though he's a small dog. When he goes to jump, I'll tell someone to wait, and they say, "that's okay I don't mind." I have also been working with him on mouthing and it has gotten so much better, but when you tell people to stop petting him when he mouths their hands they say, "that's okay I don't mind." Yeah, I feel your pain!

Kirby's mom

the booker man said...

miss m is a foodie just like asa. :) asa was already a known counter surfer when we adopted her. we had a hard time with the in-laws wanting to feed her from the table, which resulted in her learning to beg all the time...even though she was nicely sitting while doing so. we started setting up a partition on the table so she couldn't see us eating or make eye contact with us. she eventually got bored after a few weeks and would lie down under the table while we ate instead.

the booker man and asa's mama

Kim said...

I just discovered your blog, and that first picture with the cupcakes? Melts. My. Heart.

Laura said...

I would also say that it's especially important when one has "pit-bull" type dogs. The better trained they are, the better representatives for the breed they are - and that can be really, really important for these pups. If something were to happen, they just aren't given the benefit of the doubt that other dogs might get. I have had to explain that many, many times to strangers or friends. That being said, this issue of ruined training is also soooo true for human children. In our particular case, it's been the foster kids that we welcomed into our house last summer. We've spent *considerable* amounts of time and energy breaking some bad habits (a 4 year old swearing?) and instilling good habits and my very well-meaning mother comes in and blows it all to pieces. Extremely frustrating. I finally pulled her aside and said something to her - made her cry, made me feel guilty - but on her next visit things were much, much better.

Laura and Hans said...

I'm ashamed of myself because I'm glad that your dogs aren't as perfect as I thought they were! This post made me laugh as Wilbur loves nothing more than a family get together. Pumpkin pie, butterscotch creme pie, you name it he's scarfed it down as fast as he could as soon as everyones back was turned.
He's lucky he's so stinking cute.

rustbeltrebel said...

This is a great thread. I hope some folks who don't have dogs read this.

We don't have the jumping issue, we have the opposite. Stella was scary fearful with people. So for us it would set her off when people would talk, make eye contact, try to pet her. This was after we asked "friends/family/strangers" to not do it. Our behaviorist point blank said you have to be assertive with everyone, you have to be on your game all the time with a fearful dog. He was right.

We tell people that the dogs are in training and to ignore them. We put up signs on our door for Thanksgiving dinner. Most people back off when we tell them this. For the folks who don't get it - no eye contact, no talking, no touching - in our best assertive polite way that we know.

Yielding is a great way to teach the no jump. I used it with a friends new beagle rescue and little man figured out real fast that you get no petting if you are excited and jumping on me.

To be honest...people coming up to my dogs and trying to pet them without my permission just pisses me off.

KellyK said...

Yeah, that frustrates me too. The worst for me are people trying to pet my dog when I've already told them she's shy. Especially cornering her or petting her on the head. I want to put a sign around her neck that says "Hi, I'm easily frightened. If you want to be my friend, sit still and quietly, preferably holding bacon."

The tricky thing for me is that she's calmest and friendliest when people are still, so I'm 100% cool with scritching her under the table, as long as she's not begging or being a nuisance. Feeding her from the table, not so much, but sometimes I have trouble drawing that line with other people, especially since we do want to encourage her to be friendly.

"She's in training," is the suggestion our behaviorist gave too.

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