Friday, June 17, 2011

Welcome to Barn Charm School

While the Bad Rap barn offers its residents a chance to rest and recover after surviving crisis situations, barn dogs also begin the work that will prepare them for life as a family pet. It isn't just obedience training and socialization - even though these darlings have ample natural charm (you've met Zack and Nita already), they also learn how to be...well, civilized.

My parents believed in good old-fashioned home training: saying please and thank you, keeping our elbows off the table, not interrupting adult conversation, using our inside voices and so on. Similarly dogs living at the barn learn basic doggie etiquette. Welcome to “Barn Charm School”!

Barn dogs learn to sit and wait politely before leaving or entering any door. They also learn to sit and wait politely before meals. They get it pretty quickly since it’s the key to getting to the fun stuff and also being fed – really strong motivation. They learn to come when they are called. And eventually, even the most untrained dogs learns to...ahem... relieve themselves outdoors and not in their kennels.

But, just as children sometimes forget their manners, so too do the dogs. Star, a high energy and uber-smart little redhead who lived her previous life on the end of a short chain, had no such training before coming to the barn. This untrained girl took to nose-work as if she was born to it, and problem solves like a little four-legged Hermione Granger. But although she now knows that polite dogs sit and wait, she sometimes jumps up and down in excitement when a barn crew member comes to her kennel. New volunteers like me, learn how to gently and firmly remind forgetful dogs like Star that good etiquette requires a polite sit and wait. Star is whip-smart and usually remembers very quickly, the sheepish expression on her little elfin face saying, “oops, sorry tall lady – I remember now. I’m sitting and waiting nicely now so can I please, please, PLEASE go outside?” This picture shows Star demonstrating her best sit and wait manners at the barn door.

One of Catherine’s earlier posts talked about ways that the barn crew work to lower stress levels. But the dogs themselves contribute to making the environment pleasant and low-stress for all of the residents as well the crew by practicing good doggie etiquette, and it starts with a polite sit and wait. It’s all so very civilized at the "Barn Charm School".

Anita, Barn Crew Trainee


  1. When you're working with manners *and* potty training, how do the barn folks make sure to enforce manners as well as make sure the pup gets outside in time to potty?

  2. Hi Melch - Luckily, learning to sit at the door comes fast to these smart dogs - Most learn it almost immediately. Freedom is one of the biggest rewards and they love to earn it.


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