Inclusion as a Reward
Most of the dog owners I know want their dogs to be a part of the family as much as possible, and I can’t say I blame them, cause I want that too. So, if you want your dog to be part of the family, trustworthy around the house, and just all around easy to live with, read on.
Inclusion, or freedom around your house, is something your dog must earn. Dogs are not born deserving to be included in everything we do. This highly desirable commodity must be withheld until your dog can handle it – this is vital to creating a good housemate.
Dogs don’t understand the rules of the human world. They don’t know that counters are not for surfing, that rugs are not a good bathroom spot, that table and chair legs are not chew toys. These things must be taught in a fair and consistent way. If you get a brand new puppy or dog and immediately give him free reign of your house, he will try these things and many others, and learn how fun it is to act like a dog in the house!
The best way to teach your dog how to live with you is to use confinement as much as possible when you are not watching the dog. This means the dog is in the crate a lot when he first comes home with you. If you can’t watch your dog, then you can’t communicate with him if the does something you don’t approve of. And if your dog learns to have accidents in the house or destroy things in the house while you aren’t around, then he learns that those things are ok as long as you don’t see him do it.
Ask yourself what you want your dog to do when you aren’t paying attention to him. Do you want your dog running amok and doing what he pleases? Then leave him loose in the house, unattended, right from the beginning. Or would you prefer that your dog settle down and chew his bone, or take a nap while you aren’t there to supervise? If so, crate your dog to teach him this.
Dogs do what works, if chewing on furniture is allowed, even for a few seconds, then the dog will continue to chew your furniture in the future. If the only thing available to chew is a bone, like the one you leave in the crate with your dog, then the dog will learn that chewing on bones works for him.
If given the option, most dogs would prefer to search around the house for things to do instead of settling down and relaxing. Limit your dogs options by using the crate and leash to teach him to settle in the house.
To have a dog that is included in your life, you must set the environment up for success in learning the rules of the human world. It’s impossible for your dog to sneak food off the kitchen counter if he isn’t ever allowed in the kitchen unattended. And he can’t learn to have secret accidents on the dinning room rug if he is on leash with you any time he’s out of the crate.
To stop unwanted behaviors, you must witness your dog doing what you don’t want and tell him “no” in a way he understands, more on that later. If your dog misbehaves when you aren’t around, two things happen. First, you miss a training opportunity to teach your dog that the behavior isn’t ok. Second, your dog learns that the behavior is ok. Chewing on things, going to the bathroom, swiping food off the counter – all of these things are fun for your dog if he gets away with it. The more successful your dog is in performing these sorts of behaviors, the more he will do them in the future.
Use inclusion as a reward for your dog right from the beginning of your relationship. Crate your dog with appropriate things for him to chew on, often! When not crated, have your dog on leash with your leash in your hand. The purpose of the leash is to keep your dog within eyesight so you can communicate effectively with what is allowed and what is not allowed. I also use an exercise pen for my puppies.
As your dog’s behavior starts to line up with what you want, you can start to give him freedom. Instead of holding the dogs leash in the house, you can let him drag it around. I would still require the dog to stay in the same room as you for a while; you can use baby gates for this. Eventually you can progress from having the dog drag their leash around, to putting a 1 foot long tab leash on their collar so you can still grab it as needed.
Dog training doesn’t progress in a straight line; it goes up and down. So if you start to see some bad behaviors crop up as you give your dog more freedom, cut back on the freedom and start using your crate more. House training takes time and consistency. The more consistent you are, the quicker your dog will learn how to live in the human world.
Do these things, and you will solve most of your house training problems.
Because you deserve a good dog.
About the author: Jen Banks has been training dogs professionally since 2008. She started her own pet dog training company in 2014. Owner and trainer at Banks K9 Solutions, she provides group classes and in home training for family dogs.