Boundaries for Dogs
Dogs are Territorial Animals
That means they have an instinctual establishment of boundaries. Just like in the ancestral wolf cousins, dogs still mark their territories but unlike the wolf that hunted in packs, they don’t risk attack if they cross over into another packs space. You have to simulate the rewards and punishment that keeps a dog in “their territory”
The family dog should have boundaries and it is up to you to establish and maintain them. Start off from day one of having the puppy or new dog in the house and be consistent from then on. Consistency is absolutely the most important part of having boundaries. Dogs will never get that it is ok one day and not the next.
Boundaries in the home are things like not getting on beds or certain furniture, not begging at the table, not running out the door if it is accidentally left open, etc.
In order to create boundaries, you have to start with the will to be the alpha, the leader. Dogs have a leader in the pack and the only workable way to have a pet is to take on that role. That does not mean you have to be mean or lack love towards your pooch, it means you have to physically control and verbally control the dog. If you can’t do that you should not have that dog.
Be the Alpha Dog
A good way to establish alpha is to insist that you go first through doors and on walks. During training, the first thing you do on a leash is to get them to walk slightly behind you. This is done by making the leash very short and holding them back as you walk. Practice this as a pup and you are being the leader. “Heel” is a very basic command that creates alpha in the trainer.
You have to own the space that you live in and purposefully allow and not allow what you want. What rooms are ok to enter and not enter, what furniture can be sat on and can’t. Control is the willingness to start, change or stop something. Good control is firm and consistent. Control can include putting up baby gates or keeping doors closed that are off-limits.
Timing is Very Important
Yes if they are on the sofa and that is against the rules command them off and move them physically. The correct time to say “no” is when they are about to jump on the sofa. Dogs are pack animals and want to be near you. If a sofa is off-limits provide a doggy bed close by and let them be there. Chasing a dog away from being near you is just being a harsh pet owner. All living things need to feel accepted and loved.
Use the same commands over and over. Dogs learn words. Choose your commands and stick with them. “No, Stay, Come, Sit, Off” are all pretty basic. Don’t switch to “get down” if you are using “off”.
Good Control by Good Leaders
Remember, you are the commander in chief and you need to be comfortable in the role. Good leaders are firm but fair and they make it clear what is needed and wanted. Good leaders reward good behavior and save heavy-handed tactics for extreme situations only.
Good leaders lead every day and not just when they feel like it or are not involved in a tv show and just ignoring the role. This once again goes back to the key factor of consistency.
Dogs need boundaries and adopt them as part of their nature. If you do a good job of defining, maintaining and enforcing boundaries both you and your beloved pet are going to have a great relationship.
If you need help, the SPCA is a great place to find Dog Training Classes.
May you have a long and happy life with your dog and keep them safe and secure.