Bringing home a new puppy is a very exciting event, everyone wants to love the puppy. They want to shower it with affection, with treats, with toys, giving it everything that it could possibly ever want, but the most important thing for your puppy’s transition is often overlooked. Structure is an important aspect of your puppy’s and soon to be adult dog’s life. It’s quite stressful if the expectations, rules, and what’s going to happen next are unknown.. Unfortunately we cannot simply tell the pup what all is going to happen, so we have to be consistent and deliberate with the structure we set in place.
We will outline some very simple ways to provide expectations and consistency in your home, that when done well will lead to a happier, healthier as well as a better behaved dog. :
The main place to create structure is your dog’s living environment, this is where your foundation begins. Setting boundaries is the first step to creating the desired structure. This is typically done by deciding what is deemed to be appropriate behavior in the home, as well as where your pup will be allowed in the home.
Let’s Set Some Boundaries
Dogs are pack animals by nature and thrive best when given a strict hierarchy and rules to follow. In the home, it is important to be the leader of the pack and control your dog’s movements and freedom. This helps to establish a good balance and keeps your dog from becoming anxious or stressed. Dogs that are allowed to roam freely around the house often become restless and can become destructive. Allowing your dog to have a specific area to stay in, and controlling their movement helps to create a calm and relaxed environment for everyone in the home.
Controlling movements and freedom in your home environment is one of the simplest ways to set some boundaries in your home. This is typically done by segregating large portions of the home to ensure that your pup is always within eyesight, especially during their initial transition to their new home, however this can also be achieved by utilizing the kennel, and place commands.
There are a number of reasons why you should crate your puppy when you’re at home. For one, it gives them a safe space to retreat to when they need a break from all the activity. Puppies can get overwhelmed easily, and a crate can provide them with a calm place to relax. Additionally, the kennel will help to transition your pups potty training by establishing a regular routine. Finally, crates can provide peace of mind for both you and your puppy. Knowing that they are safely tucked away in their crate will allow you to relax and enjoy your time at home without worry. Crating your pup during the day continues to give your pup scheduled structure throughout their life. If you think of your pup like a “forever toddler”, it will give you a greater perspective on how and what your puppy is feeling, as well as their needs.
There are many different ways to utilize a dog’s “Place” command, but ultimately it is up to the owner to decide what works best for them and their pup. A few popular methods include using the command to create an designated area for the dog to stay in during mealtimes or when company is over, as a way to keep them calm and out of the way. Additionally, some owners use the “Place” command to have their dog go to the cot when they need some alone time or to settle down.
Whenever you have a puppy, their antics are cute and often allowed until it’s suddenly a nuisance behavior. Puppy zoomies are fun and endearing, however whenever you have a 60 to 70 pound adult dog and they’re running through the house and they may be knocking people over, that’s not an appropriate behavior.
This is a preventable issue and starts as quickly as when they get home. If your puppy becomes over excited and begins inappropriate play, utilize a simple “ Ah Ah” verbal correction. If they continue to escalate the energy or play, your pup can placed on their training lead to associate taking control of the situation and redirect your pup into an acceptable behavior such as obedience or an appropriate toy item.
Other problematic areas where your dog may take advantage in your home are furniture. Our pups are not allowed on furniture in our facility however, if this is a privilege that you have allowed there are guidelines to ensure that there is still structure in place. We recommend that dogs only be allowed upon invitation only. Decide on a specific command to invite your pup or dog onto the designated furniture. In order to proof this behavior, if your dog jumps up uninvited you still need to correct them off of the furniture. You can correct by verbal correction, body blocking, or using the training lead to correct them back onto the floor. Ensure that everyone on the home is on the same page, and consistently correcting the wrong behavior 100% of the time.
Another area that is often allowed to be lax is “Door Manners”. Your pup or adult dog should always “Sit” and wait for the verbal release before exiting a door, this prevents your pup from learning that bolting out of the door is an option. If you find that this area of training has regressed for your pup, there are a couple of simple ways to reintegrate structure around the door. Using your body as a block to move your pup away from the door and simply “claim” that space will begin to structure and understand the expectation surrounding doorways. If your pup still continues to push the boundaries, the next step is to practice on leash. Putting your pup on their training lead, you regain control of the situation by directing them out of the desired space with the lead.
There are a variety of ways to drain your dog’s energy, unstructured play is one of those. Playtime in the backyard or a fenced space is important to allow an outlet for the zoomies or excess excitement.
A structured walk is a great physical and mental outlet. Practicing a heel position, not allowing stopping, pulling, sniffing, etc. Your pup should maintain left side position, auto sits, and consistent focus on the handler. This is you controlling the walk. If your dog is walking ahead of you, not auto-sitting, and generally distracted, they are learning that there is no control to be found during their walks.
Obedience training your pup is a great mental outlet. Not only does it ensure that your pup stays sharp with their training and commands that they have learned while enrolled in our program, it also ensures that they have adequate mental stimulation.
It is important to keep in mind that you can wear a dog out physically, but their brain is still going to be busy. This is why you can play ball with your dog in the backyard, bring them in and they may go find something to get into. Whereas if you give them something more structured to do, you practice your obedience commands, you make them think, you make them focus, this is going to be much more draining.
We’ve all heard the saying ”A Tired Dog Is A Happy Dog”, which is an absolute truth. By practicing the guidelines we can guarantee you will have a more tired, happier, and better behaved pup.
Structure Around Resources
Dogs, like any other living beings, have a set of basic needs that must be met in order to survive. Instinctually, dogs require food, water, shelter, and social interaction to thrive. In addition to physical needs, dogs also require social interaction to maintain their mental and emotional health. This includes playtime, exercise, and affection from their owners. Meeting these instinctual needs is essential to ensuring mental and physical fulfillment.
Our pups are trained to eat in their kennel to provide structure and security. By feeding in the kennel, puppies are encouraged to finish their full meal at once, this will help better gauge when a potty break is needed. Pups also feel more secure, and create a positive association being kenneled with the door closed.
The pup should enter the kennel, maintaining a calm demeanor, and wait until the food is placed in front of them with the release word “Ok” before eating their food. Some pups may be more motivated for food, therefore the excitement levels may vary. If your pup has higher food drive or is a bit pushier, refrain from feeding until you receive the desired response. Utilize your verbal correction “Ah Ah” for overexcitement, or darting for the food prior to being allowed. If your pup is struggling to maintain self control, the feeding routine may be paused for 5-10 minutes, or until the pup returns to a calmer state and the regime may resume.
As we have discussed how puppies relate to children, it also becomes apparent in how they react and share their items of value. When trained and managed appropriately, puppies and adult dogs should have no reaction or issues with their resources being touched or taken away. If your pup has a favorite toy or high value bone, it is recommended not to give them constant access to that item. Offer the item at varied times, and intervals. Always ensure that your pup understands that the best things in life are controlled and handed out by their owner.
We utilize a “Trade System Game” to encourage our pups to willingly share their toys. Even if you aren’t currently seeing any possessive type behaviors, prevention is always better than a cure.
To teach a “trade game,” introduce a high value food item that is not often given. We recommend utilizing small pieces of hotdog, cheese, freeze dried raw etc. Once the dog knows that you have this, give your dog a medium value resource (toy, bone, etc). When the dog has taken possession of the offered item, present the reward and as he drops the toy to take the treat, reward verbally and give reward. After several repetitions of this game, your dog will begin to drop items at your approach in preparation for receiving the reward. It is imperative to stay prepared and continue this game on for quite some time. During these training sessions, when the behavior subsides with the lower value resources the offered item should increase to high value.
Making your dog work for affection can have several benefits. Firstly, it can help establish a healthy and respectful relationship between you and your dog. This doesn’t mean that you don’t give your dog love and cuddles, it simply means that they need to do something for their owner before receiving something of value for themselves. This applies to every aspect of your pups life. By asking your dog to perform a task or obey a command before receiving affection, you are communicating to your dog that you are in charge and that they need to follow your lead. This can help prevent your dog from becoming overly demanding or pushy for attention. Additionally, making your dog work for affection can also be a way to provide mental stimulation and exercise. Many dogs enjoy having a job or task to perform, and having them work for affection can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Teaching your dog not to crowd your personal space is an important boundary for all dogs to understand. In a pack situation, a member of the pack would be strongly reprimanded for encroaching on the alpha’s space without an invitation. While we are far removed from such a primal situation, it is imperative to continue applying boundaries and expectations. Your dog should respect your personal space until you invite them into that space. If they are continuously pushing into your space, not allowing you to sit on the floor, or be on their level without being overbearing, immediately give the verbal correction and stand up or move away from the dog. Whenever the elicited behavior no longer produces the desired result, such as attention or affection, they begin to look for other ways to receive the desired response. You can speed up this process of understanding by giving a command following the verbal correction to encourage the appropriate replacement behavior. Consistently reinforce the behavior you want by rewarding your dog when they give you space on their own. Praise and treat them when they sit or lie down at a comfortable distance from you.
In conclusion, it is important to provide your dog with structure in your home. Dogs needs rules, limits and expectations in order to feel secure. A lack of structure can lead to behavioral problems. By providing your dog with structure, you will be creating a well balanced canine companion.