Dog problems can be very embarrassing, especially with an adult dog that should know better. That includes everything from jumping on house guests to peeing/pooping in your home and worse.
You have to set down the rules of your house the day your puppy walks through the front door for the first time. Purchasing or adopting any puppy or dog, even under ideal conditions, does not guarantee a life free of dog problems. Dogs don’t come perfectly well-adjusted. They have faults just like us and they don’t, and never will, speak your language!
Create a Super Puppy Today
The burden is on you to create the best communications possible that are fair and build trust with your puppy. If you know from the start what makes your new puppy do the things he does, you can avoid the mistakes that cause embarrassing adult dog problems.
Even if you didn’t start when you first got your puppy, it’s never too late to start now and correct your mistakes as you begin to create your ideal Super Puppy or Super Dog.
The very first thing for you to do is to understand the value of structure and setting rules and boundaries starting today, not after the holidays. There’s no time like the present. Here’s how to best understand structure:
1. The structure you provide for your dog shows him that there is a system he has to operate within, a way to go about doing things to get what he wants. You have to be consistent in keeping your system in place as it provides your puppy with a road map to success.
2. Rules are part of the system. The rules are very simple. Your puppy learns that doing sits and downs is his way to get the very things he desires like food, access to furniture, walks, potty breaks, etc… and you get to add more things to the list because the more things on the list that he is required to sit for, the better.
3. Boundaries have to do with personal space. Your puppy should not come into your personal space unless invited. Puppies and dogs are very space conscious and space sensitive. Personal space is considered a high value resource that you should control. You can always invite him into your personal space but he should learn to wait to be invited. And of course he should sit to earn the right to gain access to the couch or your lap.
Rules for Your Puppy and How to Do It
The more consistent the rules, boundaries and expectations are, the less stress there is for your puppy or dog. He knows what’s expected so he just has to comply. Here’s just one example of what we do at our house with our dogs.
If Sammy is on the couch when I come into the family room and I sit in my chair, Sammy is fine to stay on the couch. If I decide to sit on the couch, Sammy immediately gets off the couch. It’s a rule and I expect that Sammy will move out of my personal space when I sit on the couch. Now 99% of the time I will say, “Sit!” and then pat the couch and say, “Up!” and Sammy comes back up.
The rules about personal space boundaries that I expect him to understand and comply with, are in place so there is no need for him to be stressed about what to do. If a house guest sits on the couch, Sammy respects the rule about personal space and does not get on the couch.
This rule is consistently reinforced each and every time. If I didn’t reinforce it consistently every time, I would create confusion and Sammy would become stressed because he wouldn’t know when the rule apply and when they don’t.
Rules for You and How to Do It
This is as much or more about you than it is your puppy. You knew I was going to eventually say that, right? Well, I said it but your job is really easy. Here’s how you do it.
1. Make a list of the things your puppy does that you don’t like.
2. Now make a list of the things you would prefer your puppy do instead of the inappropriate behavior.
4. Understand the principle that “Dogs do what works for them” and they will tend to give you more of that behavior if rewarded for it.
Here’s a perfect example of what I mean. I recently had a puppy lesson and the owner had his puppy on leash with his foot on leash to prevent his puppy from jumping on me.
I said, “Let him go to come say hi to me” and when he did the little guy came over and started jumping on me, which I didn’t like.
So here’s a condensed version of what I did to explain the rules to the owner.
1. Jumping on me was the behavior I didn’t like so I put it on the list. Well, it was already on the list! Surprise! LOL!
2. I decided that I preferred that the puppy lay down over by the coffee table. So I put it on the list of preferred behaviors.
3. The owner hadn’t fed his puppy yet because our lesson was right after work so he got a small zip lock bag of his kibble.
4. Understanding that dogs do what works for them, I began to cross my legs and block his jumping. At the same time I tossed kibble over to the space near the coffee table to increase the value of that space. He went over to the space to get the cookie and I praised him just before he got the kibble.
5. Fast repetitive tosses followed by praise each time just before he got the kibble kept him there. He liked that as it was working for him. Yum!
6. Next, I needed to show him contrast between jumping on me and staying over there.
7. I stopped treating him and he eventually came back to me and tried to jump. I blocked his attempt by crossing my leg. Said, “Over there!” and tossed a kibble. He immediately went over there and I praised him just before he got the kibble.
8. He already knew the down command. So now it was time to add the down once I sent him over there. So I tossed the kibble as I said “over there” and praised him just before he got the kibble. I then said, “Down!” and when he did I praised him and tossed him a kibble.
9. Eventually I got it to where I said, “Over there!” and he sequenced going over there and lying down. So I got both behaviors and only praised and treated after he did both. Finally he was weaned off the treats.
While this looks like a lot of steps, it really is easy to do and this concept can be applied to just about anything you don’t like your puppy to do. Just put your “don’t likes” on the list. The rule for you is to be able to reinforce what you like then wean off the treats.
Remember, puppies learn fast, but reliability only comes with maturity and experience!
They learn more quickly on leash than off leash. Eventually train your puppy around distractions that are relevant to your situation and needs. Before you know it, you will have a Super Puppy and will have avoided any embarrassing adult dog problems because you had a Super Puppy.
Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you. So, what did you think. ? Let me know how this article impacted you and the way you think about training. Are you looking at it a little differently?
Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.