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Manding - Why Teach It?

Updated: Jan 22, 2023

Children with Maremma Puppies that are Manding

One of the first behaviors dogs and puppies do that annoy humans is to put their feet on them. You can add to those behaviors such as excitedly jumping around, biting clothes and hands, etc. All these behaviors make complete sense to dogs and puppies because they are part of canine communication that works well for them with each other.

Humans, however, don’t communicate this way with each other, for the most part. Humans tend to expect their dogs to learn to speak “human” language with them. I think that raises a question for another day, that being why shouldn’t we, as humans of higher intelligence, learn to “speak Maremma”? Learning to see the world through the eyes of your dog will take you far in your relationship with your LGDs.

Manding is one of those behaviors that, in clicker training terminology, can be taught to use as an incompatible behavior; a dog who is manding cannot at the same time put his feet on you, jump, bounce, bite, etc. It isn’t physically possible.

There are many training modalities; the names of those and the jargon attached can get in the way of a human figuring out where to look to form a plan to walk outside, look the dog in the eye, and train. For my purposes here I will use the terms “traditional” training and “clicker” training.

In traditional training, a dog is taught things like off, down, sit, etc., in an effort to remove the offending behaviors. Part of what is important here is the timing. The unwanted behavior has already happened – so it has been allowed to be learned. The dog is “corrected,” and then if things go as they should the dog is also rewarded for changing his behavior. However, it doesn’t always go that way for dogs. Often humans tell dogs what not to do when they are annoyed by them but leave things well enough alone when the behavior of the dog isn’t a problem. Dogs don’t appreciate “corrections.” They aren’t fun and if dogs can avoid them they will (I would too). So dogs trained this way can become skillful at selective hearing and are often termed difficult, independent, or just not all that bright. Hummm.

Manding is a captured behavior, for the most part. A captured behavior is one that is naturally occurring and fully complete. As a trainer I watch for the very beginning of enough maturity in the pups to be able to capture this behavior or encourage this behavior. I do this BEFORE the puppies learn to put their feet on me.

Puppies LOVE to mand! They become excited at being given the opportunity to do so because it always, always results in something pleasant happening with the human they mand to, if the human understands what the pup is trying to say. On my ranch, visitors are not allowed to interact with my dogs until I have a chance to tell them about the manding behaviors all my dogs will offer and how to reward them for doing so.

The pleasant thing might be a treat, such as chicken or cheese, or a quick snuggle, or even just being told they are wonderful; the dogs have asked for attention – and gotten it!!! Yea! Dogs trained this way, with the very first baby steps of their education being so much fun, quickly learn to look forward to their interactions with humans and the games they may play together in the future. To my puppies, this is all about games! I think of training as the game they always win because I set up the environment and my expectations very carefully so that the dog is likely to be able to give me a behavior I can reward for, every time.

Dogs trained this way are often described as sensitive, sweet, intelligent, and special; they are the same dogs described above as independent, stubborn, etc.!!!! It’s the language used to interact with them that is different.

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