Many of my clients initially approach me with the same problem – their dog has no awareness of boundaries. While it can be tempting to allow your pup to sit beside you on the sofa at night or snuggle up with you in bed, you need to make sure to set clear and sensible boundaries for your dog. Otherwise, it could lead to all types of behavioural issues.
Dogs are pack animals and should be treated as such. They will feel more comfortable and secure when they know their place in the pecking order – which should be below you and any other members of your family.
A dog who knows its place will feel more settled which will manifest itself in good, healthy behaviour. The trouble is, domestic dogs will often push their luck whether that be through giving you the ‘sad eyes’ when you shut them out of the bedroom at night or whining if you don’t let them upstairs or on the sofa.
Operate a tough love policy to show your dog that he can’t always have his own way. Setting boundaries will show your dog that he cannot always have instant gratification but he will be rewarded for learning and following the rules.
The easiest way to set boundaries is to start from the very beginning when your dog is a puppy or whenever he first joins your family. Make sure that you know exactly how and where you want to set boundaries as any confusion will only slow down the process and confuse or upset your dog.
You may wish to start with physical barriers, such as a stairgate, and remove these over time, once your dog understands where he is and is not allowed. Physically keeping him away from certain areas at the beginning will support your boundary training no end.
Boundary training may need to be reinforced after a major lifestyle change, such as moving to a new house or if your dog has been away from home for an extended period (e.g. if you took a long holiday and he stayed in kennels).
That being said, if you don’t set boundaries at the very beginning or have acquired your dog later in his life, you’ll likely be in for a more challenging situation. Many dog owners struggle with boundary training because there should be no exceptions! Not ‘Let's just have a five-minute cuddle on the sofa,’ or, ‘We’ll let him sleep in the bed for just one night.’
Once you break the boundaries you have set, your dog is going to want to see what other rules he can break. This is only going to cause problems. Don’t bend the rules, don't suddenly introduce new boundaries and don't assume your dog will know exactly what you want from him without adequate training.
I offer expert, professional boundary training to help your dog understand and adhere to boundaries, whether he is a puppy struggling with the word ‘no’, a stubborn dog or you just don’t have the time and energy to train on your own.
Above all, don’t expect miracles. All dog training takes time and rules need to be consistently reinforced to have an effect. You also need to make sure that your dog respects you as a leader before you start boundary training. This means that he will ideally already be trained in basic commands (sit, roll over) and knows that he should do what you say.
For the best boundary training, you should show yourself as a fair leader by using both positive and negative reinforcement. If your dog obeys your command to stay away from an area that he wants to go into, reward him with praise and a treat. It’s all about tone as well – use a consistent, serious tone of voice to show your dog when you mean business and he will learn to recognise that this means you are setting a boundary.
Setting boundaries for your dog will result in a happier and more fulfilling dog-owner relationship. It will make it easier for your dog to adjust to his family role and understand your expectations. You will also help him to break any bad habits. Dogs like to please their owners and it will be a far happier household all round if you are not constantly telling off your dog for breaking the rules.
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