Building Respect Through House Rules
Your puppy/dog doesn’t come to you automatically trusting and respecting you just because you are “human”. To earn his trust and respect; you must set and enforce a consistent set of rules. Consistent means the same rules with the same consequences enforced by all members of the household.
Dogs need 4 things in order to be happy, obedient and mentally well balanced: essentials (food, water, shelter), exercise (structured), clearly defined and consistently reinforced rules and love
If there are no defined rules in your household, your puppy will either become confused due to the inconsistency of rules/consequences or become completely out of control, following perfectly normal behavior for the dog world that does not fit into the human world. This will lead to frustration and anger from you, creating frustration and/or aggression from your puppy.
When your puppy becomes frustrated, that frustration will manifest in one or more of the following:
Nipping Biting Chewing Barking Digging Aggression
Although all of these behaviors are natural and normal for your puppy, they can escalate very quickly into a frustrating and potentially dangerous situation for your family. Here are some tips to help him stay happy and well behaved.
- Setting the house rules: Make a list of rules for your puppy. Put this list together with every member of your family’s input. List everything he is not allowed to do (i.e. jumping on people, bolting through doors, nipping, pottying in the house and anything else your family decides on). After each rule, write down what consequence you will give him if he breaks that rule. Decide together, and then post it on the refrigerator where everyone can see it. This will help your family to be consistent and make your dog’s training progress at a faster rate. See example below.
- Walking: Dogs have an instinctual need for walking and this is one of the best ways to burn off some energy, add in some training, as well as give your puppy much needed mental stimulation and happiness. This is not a “potty” walk, it is an exercise walk. Using the proper equipment is very important; use a leather or nylon leash and either a buckle collar or no pull harness. There are many different equipment options on the market, so if a buckle collar or no pull harness doesn’t work for you and your puppy talk to a positive reinforcement trainer for additional suggestions. Walk your puppy at least once a day (preferably two times a day) for at least 20 minutes.
- Nothing in life is free: Your dog must work for everything he likes! Food, walks, attention and play all need to be controlled by you. Your dog must sit and wait or at least be calm before he gets to eat his food, before you put the leash on, before you pet him and before you begin play. If your puppy seems to be bossy, you should be the one to instigate all play. If he brings you a toy, ask him to sit first and then you can pick up the toy and engage him in play. Your puppy demanding that you play with or pet him may be cute at first, but it won’t be so cute when he is bigger and more demanding.
- Decide whether your puppy will be allowed on the furniture. If you don’t want your puppy on the furniture, NEVER allow him on it, don’t make exceptions – your puppy will not understand when it is ok and when it is not. If he is allowed on the furniture, attach the Nothing In Life Is Free program to it, he must sit before you give him the ok to jump up on the furniture. For pups that are having dominant, bossy or aggression related behaviors or if you just don’t want them on the furniture; they should not be allowed on the furniture at all – even when you are not there. If this is the case, you will need to block his access to the furniture when you are not home.
- Teach your puppy not to invade your space. He should not be allowed to jump on you. When he jumps on you, use as little physical contact as possible; ignore him completely until he calms down and then give affection.
- Stay calm and confident: Dogs read and feed off of our body language. If you show uncertainty, frustration, nervousness, confusion, anger or stress, your puppy will pick up on those feelings and become stressed, confused, aggressive and/or nervous. If you are calm and confident, he will be calmer, balanced, happy and more obedient.
I believe dog training should be fun, rewarding and exciting for both the dog and the human. I take a scientific approach to training and train through love, kindness and respect with clearly defined rules and boundaries and get fabulous results. I have been a trainer for 20 years, graduated from Animal Behavior College (ABCDT), I am certified through Association of Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA) and the International Association of Canine Professionals (CDT). I am the founder and president of HEARTland Positive Dog Training Alliance; a group of pet professionals and dog owners dedicated to positive reinforcement training.