Introducing Basic House Rules - Rule No. 1
As was mentioned in the section on human/canine hierarchy, it is imperative that dogs know their social standing in the pack. Not to do so leads to more behavioural problems than most people realize, as when a dog does not feel that the position is being held, it will try instinctively to take over, often leading to disasterous results.
I believe that dogs, like many children, are opportunists and if they can get away with something they most certainly will. Very often we (inadvertently) reinforce the behaviour we don’t want by shouting, paying the dog attention etc. To a dog, attention is attention, whether negative or positive, especially to a dog that has a lack of attention.
With children we can explain that if the veggies are not eaten then no pudding will be forthcoming, we just can’t do that with a dog. What we need to do is to open up a clear, concise method of communication, be consistent, (and this includes all members of the family) and let the dog know what we do, and what we do not want.
We achieve this by interacting with our dogs in a manner in which they understand ‘talking dog’ to a degree! The end result will result in effective communication and co-operation within the human/canine pack and the dog will know its standing in the pack. This will produce that takes heed of your requests, being better behaved and allow us to have a happy, well balanced, well mannered dog – without having to have lifted a finger in anger – now how great is that and easy to achieve!
In a dog pack, it is the leader who will determine where a pack will travel, playtime, when to rest and when to hunt. We, as humans, have at our fingertips all the resources a dogs requires - we determine where and when they eat, when they receive exercise, where they sleep, when they receive attention and how much, their access to different areas and even if or when they are allowed to mate. Taking this into consideration you will see that we are already the pack leaders; we have just not followed through enough!
The basic House Rules are:-
1. Ignoring your dog when you arrive home, then calling, asking for a sit.
2. Ignore all demanding attention. Attention is given on your terms or not at all.
3. Work to earn – no more freebees!
4. Food Bowl Exercise and Wait.
5. NRM – Non-Reward Marker
It would be ideal to bring in all of these as quickly as possible but time does not always allow for this with our busy lives, so try to bring them in as best you can, starting with point (1) which features below and by the time we put up point No. 2 you will be ready for it!
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or queries.
1. Ignoring your dog when you arrive home; - This exercise to be carried out in silence until the dog has a total understanding of what you expect. Thereafter, the use of the NRM which is explained later can be used, if need be.
Your dog would not bound up to the leader of the pack and jump all over him and demand attention, so why should your dog do this to you? Granted pups do have a certain time of ‘puppy licence’ where the behaviour may be allowed in the natural pack situation, but this is not behaviour that would be tolerated in the long term. If we relate this situation to human terms, would you allow your child to come up to you and say “I want it, give it to me now” – I hope not! – You would probably say something along the lines of “when you can ask me in the correct manner and say please, we will see what can be done” or similar. We teach our children to be well behaved, well mannered members of society, so why then do we not teach our dogs the same thing? Simple, we just haven’t thought about it that way and you did not have the skill to ‘speak dog’.
By walking into the house and totally ignoring your dog (or coming downstairs in the morning, moving from room to room etc), you are giving the message that you are in control – attention is given on your terms, or not at all. Interestingly, I find that this exercise is the hardest one for owners to adhere too and it is one of the most important one’s – if you do not carry this through correctly, you are immediately limiting your chances of success. With adult dogs it much easier but I find that with pups who are just so cute and adorable and it is so hard to resist picking them up all the time and giving them a cuddle. Doing so, unless on your terms, is setting in place a habit that will need to be broken at a later stage – why not just start the right habit at the beginning? The importance of human/canine interaction is to be consistent, otherwise you are reinforcing the behaviours you don’t want and totally confusing the dog.
As you walk in ignore your dog, do not look at it or speak to it, and if necessary utilize your own body language to get the message across – turn your head away and even fold your arms which shows that you do not want your own personal space violated. Your dog may initially think you have gone mad and the behaviour will worsen (a bit like a child throwing a tantrum) and it will try to jump up more or demand attention. Simply push the dog gently off you remembering not to look at (this signals either aggression or that we want something from the dog) or talk to it. After a time the pup/dog will settle down, walk away or find something else to do. Allow it this time out to digest the change in circumstances for a few minutes, then in a happy cheerful voice, call the dog/pup to you, ask for a sit and praise. It is impossible to tell a dog to do nothing, what we are doing instead, is showing the dog what behaviour we do expect i.e. sitting quietly and waiting to be greeted.
If your dog becomes a total hooligan (and this can happen) and the behaviour of jumping up etc looks like it will never stop, simply turn away, walk out the door without interacting with the dog at all and stand on the other side of the door for 30 SECONDS. Then walk back in and repeat the exercise. You may have to do the walking out the door a few times with dogs that are totally over the top.
This is a variation of the Time-out that is used in behaviour modification and dogs really relate to this. What you are doing is a form of negative punishment – removing from the dog what it wants the most – your attention. If you think about it you may remember many instances where you have called your dog to you and instead of complying, it has simply turned its head the other way and ignored you – now you too are ‘speaking dog’ in a manner that the dog understands.
I do recommend that when teaching this new behaviour that praise and a treat is forthcoming – this will just reinforce the new behaviour as well as make it rewarding for the pup to perform this new behaviour. When teaching a new behaviour you should reward on a continuous schedule – 100% - once the dog has a firm understanding you can start to fade the reward.
In the case of a puppy, if you start to practice this as soon as possible after the puppy comes home, then you won’t have a problem with jumping up. The pup is being taught right from the beginning what is acceptable behaviour.
NEXT BLOG – HOUSE RULE NUMBER 2