Want your dog to be well-behaved in public? Trainer shares five things you need to work on

Woman and dog enjoying time together at a cafe
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re a dog parent, you’ll likely want your pup to be well-behaved as often as possible. However, it’s probably even more important for your dog to behave well in public. 

With lots of tempting distractions, from people to other dogs to wildlife, a dog who doesn’t behave well in public can be seen as an annoyance, or even hurt themselves or someone else – even if they don’t mean to! 

So, if you’re trying to get your dog to be well-behaved in public, perhaps with handfuls of the best dog treats, but they aren’t quite there yet, here’s what to try, according to certified dog trainer Melissa Goodman, of Mission Pawsitive

“Do you want to have a well-mannered dog in public?” asks Goodman. “That is a goal for most people I work with, so here are five core life skills to teach them to be able to reach that goal.”

1. Waiting at doorways: “It is common courtesy that can also keep your dog safe,” says Goodman. 

2. Ignoring people and other dogs: It’s important that your pup learns they don’t need to approach every person or dog they see. 

3. Settling anywhere you go: “When you stop and relax, your dog should stop and relax too,” Goodman explains. 

4. Walking close to you on a loose leash and paying attention to you around distractions: You want your dog to be able to pay attention to you when there are distractions around, rather than putting their focus on the distractions. 

5. Being comfortable with all the different sights, sounds, and surfaces you may encounter: Many of the things your dog encounters will be new to them, so it’s important that they’re happy even when they’re seeing, smelling, or hearing something new. 

Goodman stresses that you should teach your dog the foundations of these skills at home, first, as well as in less busy or distracting environments. Then, when your dog has got the foundations down, you can begin to practice in busier places. 

“For things like getting dogs comfortable with all kinds of sites, sounds, and surfaces, you do need to get out of the house on some level to do most of that,” Goodman explains, “But I often am not putting a dog in a position where I would need the other skills mentioned, so I’m not setting the dog up to fail/practice unwanted behavior.”

Perhaps you’re happy with your dog’s behavior in public, but there’s something else you’re hoping to address? If so, you might want to take a look at these 32 common dog behavior problems and solutions. Meanwhile, if your dog struggles with reactivity in public, you might find this article useful: Owning a reactive dog is hard. Here's how I navigated the social challenges with my pooch.

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats  
$16.89 from Chewy

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats 
$16.89 from Chewy
We gave these to our tester Isaiah for his dog Hayes to try. He reports back that they're his new favorite treat and are a suitable size for training. "He could and would eat the whole bag if allowed!"

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at DogTime.com, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.