- By teaching your dog clear boundaries, you help develop a loving and harmonious life with your furry family member. While the steps to applying boundaries are simple, the thought process can be foreign to many dog owners. This is because traditional dog training focuses on control and punishing undesirable behaviors instead of putting more emphasis on rewarding your dog when it chooses positive behaviors more freely. Follow these steps to help guide your dog to success with boundaries and communicating which behaviors you love!
Steps to Creating Guidance Through Boundaries
- 1) Changes in behavior need to be strategic to create long-term self-control. Your
strategy needs to be defined by small incremental milestones that will build a solid foundation of progress as your dog successfully achieves each
milestone. Don't worry about the end behavior yet; rather, find joy in helping your dog find success in the steps of your journey together. Break
down the change you need to create into 5-10 smaller behaviors. Then guide your dog down a path that will result in the final behavior.
- 2) The right motivation inspires change. Your dog must know you have something it desires…
food, a toy, etc. Once your dog knows you have the item it values, it will be motivated to work to have access to the item.
- 3) Establish an environment for productive learning. First,
determine what tool you will use to enforce a boundary - your voice, a leash, a squirt bottle. Each of these has an increasing intensity of
aversion. Be cautious when applying an unnecessary level of aversion to a situation so you don't shut down the dog's willingness to try new
behaviors by falling into fear and emotional distress. Next, address the distractions and energy level within the environment to insure learning
can occur for the dog.
- 4) Use tools to establish boundaries. Apply a punishment/utilize your tools when the dog engages
in a behavior you are trying to change. The purpose of this step is to teach the dog about behaviors that will not generate a rewarding response
and motivate them to try a different behavior. Applying a boundary minimizes the choices the dog can choose from, therefore increasing the
opportunity for the dog to choose the behavior you desire and receive the valued reward.
- 5) Reward good choices. Help
your dog understand and instill a desire to remain in the free space away from a given boundary. Your job is to patiently wait and only distribute
a reward when your dog avoids the boundary and moves to or remains in the free space.
- Be sure to follow up any punishment with an immediate reward for corrected/good behavior. Steps 4 and 5 should be repeated consistently to eventually
create positive habits of proper choices.
- Steps in Action – let's use puppy biting as an example behavior we want to address. Since puppies are typically more sensitive and we want to use a level of aversion that will address the problem, we will start with a leash pop. We could move to using a squirt bottle, but we will make that determination if the leash is effective.
- Following the steps above, the exercise will begin with Step 3:
- 3) We have determined a leash will be our tool of choice, so attach to your dog's flat buckle collar. Usually, puppy biting is a form of play that escalates when energy levels are high. Adjust the level of movement and excitement near the dog to insure the dog can be successful 95% of the time and you are only correcting the dog 5% of the time. If an abundance of correcting is taking place, the environment is beyond your dog's ability at this stage in the training, so make adjustments to fit the reward percentage.
4) Each time the dog puts its mouth on a human, pop gently on the leash away from the human. Don't pull the dog away, rather apply a repetitive tapping of the collar using the leash. This leash pop is setting the boundary and communicating that this behavior isn't acceptable. Continue to pop until the dog chooses an alternate behavior.
5) Immediately upon removing its mouth from the human, mark that choice in behavior with the word ''Yes" and provide a high value food reward to the dog. If the dog keeps its mouth off the human, continue to reward the dog for choosing the positive behavior voluntarily. As the dog is successful in the current environment with keeping its mouth off the human, gradually increase the difficulty level, while still following the same process.
Continue to repeat steps 4 and 5 until your dog is frequently choosing the behavior you desire. Remember, working at your dog's pace and always setting the environment with your dog's success as top priority will reduce your frustration and build positive habits your dog will routinely engage in.
Full House Dog Training's February FREE client practice class on Saturday, February 23, will focus on
the guiding your dog to better behavior through boundaries. Secure your spot and RSVP to join this event! If you are not currently a Full House
Dog Training client, we'd love to speak to you further about our unique training style that sets your dog up for success and teaches you how to
say "YES" to your dog and avoid becoming frustrated by bad behavior. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (801) 244-0303 for