The other day I heard some barking in my backyard. I live in a very unique neighborhood. In the small block that I live on, there are about fifteen houses. Out of all those houses, my family is the only one that owns dogs. Nowhere else in America will you see fifteen houses in a row, only one of which has a dog! It’s crazy.
So you can imagine my surprise when I went out in my slippers to let my dogs out in the morning, and I hear barking from across the fence. It was a yapping noise, so I knew it wasn’t one of my dogs. Oh no, I thought. A dog got into our neighbor’s backyard somehow and got stuck! Later in the day that dog had turned up in my yard. He had tunneled under the fence and found his way in, and my dog couldn’t figure out why there was a new dog in our yard.
As it turns out, my neighbors were dog-sitting. They shared—with my wife, not me—that it had been very tough, because the dog was constantly barking and peeing in the house. They were staying home to watch it all the time, and whenever they let it outside to use the bathroom it would bark its head off. They weren’t sure what to do. Apparently, their friends hadn’t told them that their dog was like this.
This reminded me of this summer, when we traveled to California to visit family. A few times, my sister-in-law had to bow out of an activity so she could go home to check on a dog that they were dog-sitting. It was the same situation: the dog was peeing, chewing, and barking, even though his owners had mentioned none of those negative behaviors.
It’s a common occurrence. There’s a difference between a well-trained dog and a dog who isn’t doing anything wrong. The well-trained dog knows how to do things right. The dog that’s not doing much wrong doesn’t know how to do the right thing; he’s simply fallen into a schedule at home. The owners might have a schedule or a pattern, and they might sometimes get angry when the dog does something wrong. Overall, however, the dog seems fine—until he goes to stay at someone’s house. then it turns out that the dog isn’t well-mannered, just in a pattern. (Or perhaps the dog was a nightmare at home too, and the owner was just oblivious to that fact!)
It’s very common for a dog out of its element doesn’t have the inclination to do many things wrong, but when the environment changes it becomes a nightmare. Again, the solution is something that I preach all day long: super solid obedience and relationship training. You have to train your dog to make good decisions rather than following a pattern that might change when you go on vacation or move to a new house.
When I’m gone, I guess that my dogs aren’t quite as obedient or well-behaved as they are when I’m around. But our dogs will be well-mannered because we’ve taught them good manners, obedience, and structure such that those qualities are largely independent of us. They know not to jump on things, or chew, or pee in the house. If you take me out of the equation, my dog will still follow those rules. The dog that has just fallen into a pattern will
Get your dog trained! Don’t fall back on the old excuse of “he’s well-behaved.” How well-behaved is he, really? Can he lie down for ten minutes when you’re making dinner? Does he come when called with distractions? Will he follow you off-leash? If the answer is “no,” think carefully. Maybe your dog isn’t well-behaved; perhaps he just doesn’t misbehave.