Obedience is not only Classroom Behavior

Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Competition, Agility, etc., all of these are wonderful classes that owners take with their dogs to better their obedience skills and mentally stimulate their dogs.  I enjoy watching my client’s dogs improve each time they work their dog in each class.  The improvement is dramatic and the results are great; but, why do owners believe that obedience is only the mastering of skills learned in class, during class? 

Obedience is 24/7 with our dogs.  From the moment we wake up until the moment our eyes are closed, if we are near our dogs, they should be well mannered and obedient.  Too often I have dogs entering my classes and urinating or defecating on the floor.  That is not being well mannered.  Do these dogs use their homes as their ‘indoor rest room’?  I have plants in my training facility, not trees for marking.  My business is my home, a dog lifting his leg on my wall or my plant is an insult to me.   

Owners must realize that any where they take their dog; from training school, to their neighbor’s home, to the Veterinarian’s office or to a hotel; that they need to make sure their dog has had ample time to relieve himself and is entering the building being well mannered.  What good is a dog that pulls its owner into training school but heels perfectly during class? 

First Mistake: 

The first mistake owners make is that they allow their pets to get away with the misbehavior.  Just because you are walking in with two dogs, doesn’t mean they should pull; whether they are excited or not.  Obedience does not start with the teacher beginning class, obedience starts when that dog is walking out of your home with you.  He should be well mannered in the car, leaving the car, walking into the building and leaving.  Dogs that are pulling or out of control are so because their owners allow it.  And then they have the nerve to announce, ‘I wish Fido was this good at home’.    Dog’s are creatures of habit, break the habit, and do not allow them to get away with misbehavior, whether in class or outside of class.   


Stop walking; don’t go inside, make your dog understand that he is not going to get what he wants (going in thru the door) unless you get what you want.  Yes, it may take you 20 minutes to walk into class but at least your dog is entering class like he belongs there.  The only way to stop the behavior is to make sure the dog knows that you are not going to allow it to happen. 

Take your time: 

We all get stuck in traffic more than we like but it is better to enter class late, after your dog has been walked and had ample time to relieve himself, then to enter class and within 10 minutes find a mess on the floor. 

What the Instructor can do to help: 

As an instructor, I will ask a client to go outside and come through the door again, this time with the dog under control.  I don’t do it to embarrass my client but to remind him or her that obedience is about having a well mannered pet that you can take anywhere without being embarrassed.  If I notice that the client is frazzled, I will ask him or her to relax, bring in their equipment and when they are more organized then get their dog out of the car.  This way they can concentrate on making the dog obey. 

The dog that is growling, posturing or marking: 

This is very unacceptable behavior that the dog feels he can get away with.  This is like a person entering a party swearing, spitting and pushing people around.  There is no reason for it and owners need to realize that it is unacceptable and needs to stop immediately. 


I allow my students in puppy and basic class to get away with allowing their dogs to behave this way for a couple of weeks, and then I put an end to it.  I feel it is my job to point out the body language and inappropriate behavior to inexperienced handlers so that they can achieve the results that they want; to own a well mannered dog that is welcome everywhere. 

Beth Bradley 

Beth Bradley began studying animal behavior and dog training at 12 years of age.  She became a New Jersey State Animal Control Officer in 1986.  Beth graduated Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminal Justice.  Throughout her schooling, Beth worked and studied under many well-renowned animal behaviorists and trainers.  Beth formed her own company in 1989 and has made dog training her full time career since 1995.  Beth is also a writer for the Animal Companion, she has produced CD-Roms and DVD’s on training and is author of a training book titled Real World Dog Training. 

Beth is a member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America – Working Dog Association, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America, and she is Secretary and Training Director of the Greater Philadelphia Schutzhund Club.  Beth actively competes in both American Kennel Club and Schutzhund Trials both in the United States of America and Europe.  Beth is a certified Canine Good Citizen Evaluator for the American Kennel Club. 

Beth presently owns 3 German Shepherds and a Jack Russel Terrier.  If you would like more information on Beth’s achievements and qualifications you can view her extensive resume at