Pack structure

An example of why and how of structure and freedom with a dog

I've noticed something with a recent client and their dog. Not only was the dog hyper and unruly, he also did not like it when you told him what to do.

For instance, if the dog jumped on me biting my hand and I told him “no” he would jump even more ferociously. He would have his calm moments after a while but for the most part this was his normal behavior.

Now I am a firm believer in punishing biting by the dog. Some are against this and say that the dog will grow out of it. Some dogs do while others don't. I am not in the business of leaving things to chance.

So that is what I did first. I punished the biting at a correction suitable enough to make the dog not want to bite but not enough to cause the dog pain. It is a tricky balance.

The next thing I did was get the dog to stop taking advantage of the owner, who was a sweet woman. She didn't realize that she was giving the dog way too much freedom. He was allowed access to the whole house and whole yard. One thing always sticks out to me is that dogs with too much freedom can never sit still. They are like kids with adhd. These dogs need duration exercises to teach the dog how to calm down and relax in one place. I had the owner and her family sit still and not engage with the dog. The dog looked lost. He had to be in the grass sniffing, in the garbage sniffing, bothering the owner by biting on her shoes, etc. This dog needed something to do and told what to do. The best way to control is to keep a leash on the dog even in the house. Now it is time to give the dog something to do.

When we are in the house I want the dog to lay quietly on their bed. I will usually put the bed next to the couch where the owners watch tv. This makes it easier and no big deal or effort considering the owner is not doing anything they wouldn't do anyways(watching tv). The dog at first kept trying to get up. This is why the leash is handy. You can keep watching tv and feel if the dog is moving away from their bed by holding the leash.

Structure and limited freedom is the key to get your dog to listen to you without doing obedience.

The above example shows one way to live with your dog in the house. By keeping your dog on its bed for a duration of time, they learn to relax in place.

Another way to add limited freedom is to cut off certain areas to your dog. Areas that are off limits might include the living room, the bathroom, a special room. How do I stop the dogs from entering these areas?

I put up little baby gates that you can get from target the store. If you don't put anything across the doorway and rely on your voice then you'll be screaming a lot of “get out” to the dog. Also the dog is faster than you, so they will be in the room before you can get a word in. If you put up a baby gate the dog will respect the barrier and eventually stop without the barrier there.

A structured walk is also important. On a structured walk the dog is not allowed to sniff, pull, or stare at any dog or person intently. The dog can sniff the ground only when I give the okay command.

It is important that you realize that you don't need obedience if you just want to live peacefully with your dog. Rules and respect make a relationship thrive in the dog world.