Friday, September 18, 2009

Training Rant - Table Manners

Well we've had way too many raindrops and lollipops around here lately. This is because I’ve been stewing about some things but haven’t yet been able to put them out into well formed sentences – let alone well developed posts! I imagine you all don't want to see a post full of me sputtering unintelligibly. The amount of drafts labelled “Rant” in my blogger account is staggering. So, I figured I’d finish one off today … today’s special is Table Manners.

Why do some people find it so difficult to teach appropriate table manners to their dog?! This is NOT a difficult concept – I promise! Good grief. I get tired of people coming over and having their dogs drooling on my dinner plate.

With every foster dog I’ve had come through, it usually takes around five days to teach them appropriate table manners. FIVE DAYS! That includes the puppy mill dogs who have lived their whole lives in crates; it includes the neglected dogs who have lived outside tied up their whole lives; it includes the owner surrender who used to eat off the owners’ plates; it includes the aggressive dogs, the shy dogs and the abused dogs.

So why is it that I have such success with table manners but people who have had their dogs for months (or even years) are not able to teach this?? I’ve been trying to figure this out for a while and I can only assume it is one of two things:

1 – They don’t care how their dog acts while they are sitting at the table.
2 – They don’t know how to teach appropriate table manners.

So, what do I mean by “Appropriate Table Manners”?? Well it is really quite simple. Here's what I don't want ...

- No begging (staring at people and using “Jedi Mind Tricks” to get food)
- No drooling on people, the floor or the table (the last thing I want is to slip on a puddle on the floor and break my neck! Not to mention the fact that leaving said puddle on the table, people or floor is just gross)
- No nose/face/other body parts on the table (that is where my food is – not the dog. I don't even put my nose or face on the table, so why would I let the dog?)
- No walking around or under the table (makes me dizzy)
- No walking around people (this not only makes me dizzy but makes me feel creeped out)
- No pawing at people (what a great way to knock the food out of the person’s hand so it falls on the floor, eh?)
- No dogs on laps at table (this is just plain irritating let alone the fact that it's is Rude and allows the dog to drool on people and the table. It also opens it up so the dog thinks it is ok to check out the table's offerings.)
- No playing (we don’t need fur flying around food and if I have to monitor the play then I don’t have the opportunity to eat my dinner in peace)

So, that’s a good list of what I don’t want, but what do I want? What is appropriate? One of the most IMPORTANT things in training dogs is first identify what you don't want, then identify what you DO want. Focus on what you want and teach them how to do it.
Here is my idea of appropriate table manners …

The dog needs to go lay down somewhere in the room and ignore the people eating as well as any other dogs in the room at the time. (It doesn’t count if the dog is in a down and staring at someone who is eating – that is considered begging.)

I spend most of my time when I’m not in my day job volunteering for the humane society, walking/playing with our dogs, training the dogs in my care or teaching people how to train their dogs. You know what? My dinner time is my time. Just like my shower time. I will gladly open up my house to all manners of four leggers, but I expect the dogs to go lay down during these times.
Call me selfish. Call me what you want. But don’t expect me to share my meal with your dog.


GoLightly said...

Oh, great post.

I had a big old out-of-control yellow lab visit my place once. Once.

He grabbed food out of his owners hands. Why?

Drives me Nutso.

Why would you let a dog do that?

Viatecio said...

You're not selfish. You're realistic. My attention-whore of a Golden mix is constantly after me with her feminine wiles to play/pet/talk to/otherwise interact with her, and she does it so well that I feel guilty (GUILTY! I can't believe what I'm writing!) being the bad cop.

But she leaves me alone when I tell her to, and pretty much knows that some times (during meals, meal preparation, watching TV, etc) are NOT appropriate times to uncork the energy bin.

Thankfully, most people with whom we share our social time do not allow bad table manners either. YET, at least...

Splash said...

Okay, you can't come over to dinner. I don't mind any of those behaviors. I do mind folks who come over and insist MY dogs behave to THEIR standards though.

This reminds me of the sign that used to be sold at dog shows in the 80's. "This house is run for the comfort of me and my dogs. If you cannot abide that, I cannot abide you. Please go away."

/end my rant

HEY I did a rant! Go ME! I don't usually!

*Amber* aka Suzy SINsation said...

We have a slight difference of opinion here. I have a 130 lb wolfhound who could set his head on the table but doesn't (and is not allowed to), and my dogs do not lick, sniff or eat anything on the short coffee table, but sitting across the room looking at the people eating is perfectly acceptable in my book.

Laying under/around the table is acceptable until I ask them to "Go lay down" at which point they much move away.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Splash ... I agree - if one is in another person's house, it is only polite that they respect the rules of the house. That's irritating when people come over and insist on your dogs bahaving by their rules in your house.

Rant away.

Amber ... It is the eye-locked, drooling stare that bothers me.

Sweetpea said...

I TOTALLY AGREE!! It was so nice to read this post and have someone verbalize for me one of my BIGGEST pet peeves about dogs AND their owners. My dog is trained in the exact way you are specifying but almost every other dog we know is not. I have one friend whose house I do not even like to go to because their 2 canines stare & drool & pace constantly during meals - yuck - and they are big dogs, too!

I think you are right - it doesn't take a lot of time to train good table manners. It does take stick-to-itiveness tho and that's where I see people fail.

Thanks again for the great post!

Chris said...

Well said. There has to be limits set in order for all to live peacefully. I commend you for your efforts in helping shelter dogs be rehabilitated

Monica Marley's Mom said...

OMG I so agree, the only thing worst is people who brag about their dogs bad behavior around food. You know the person who says, "I have to share food with my dog he won't leave me alone." Drives me crazy!

Especially when they are simply astounded my dog does not behave in that manner.