Bringing home a new dog is one of the most fun parts of life. However, it is crucial to start the relationship off the on the right paw by setting boundaries. Let’s discuss how to set boundaries the right way:
What Does It Mean To Set Boundaries For My Dog?
According to Inside Dogs World, setting boundaries means letting your dog know what is expected of him or her. For example; what behaviors are acceptable (polite behaviors), what behaviors are not acceptable (jumping, begging, or other rude behaviors), places that your dog is welcome to be (where you will spend time together in your home), and places that your dog should not be (alone in a baby’s room).
This is communicated by training your dog and by being consistent with the training. The consistency must continue throughout the dog’s life; it should not stop, otherwise it could be confusing to the dog.
How Do Dogs Behave When They Do Not Have Boundaries?
When dogs do not have boundaries, they often do not behave well in general and have the potential to develop serious behavioral problems. A dog without boundaries may:
- Ignore training commands.
- Barge ahead of their humans through doors.
- Pull on leashes during walks.
- Jump on visitors.
- Growl at, snap at, or bite humans or other dogs.
- Become a “resource guarder”, which means aggressively protecting whatever they deem to be a valuable resource. Do not assume you know what the resource will be. These resources will not always make sense to humans, but in the dog’s eyes, the resource is very valuable. For example, a dog may resource guard a dried worm on the sidewalk.
When Do I Need To Start Setting Boundaries For My New Dog?
Boundaries should be set beginning on day one. By setting boundaries on the first day your dog comes to live with you, you will set the tone for the relationship in the future.
If you do not immediately begin setting boundaries, it allows your dog to get comfortable doing things that you do not want him or her to do, which will make teaching boundaries later confusing.
According to Crafty Canine Club, for approximately the first three days that a rescue dog comes home, it is an overwhelming experience for them. They will need to be eased into their new living situation. Dogs adjust best when they know what is expected of them and have a routine to follow. This means that you should set boundaries immediately as a part of their new routine, but not expect to do lots of training immediately.
How Do I Set Boundaries With My New Dog?
You set boundaries by training your dog, being consistent with that training, and investing your time and energy into your relationship with your dog. A dog is a significant responsibility and time commitment; if you are not prepared to do this, a dog might not be the right pet for you.
To begin, enroll in a basic dog obedience class so that you and your dog learn from the ground up together. If your dog already has some training, consider hiring a trainer to do private lessons to customize the training to your dog’s needs.
What Boundaries Should I Set For My New Dog?
Here are some examples of boundaries that are wise to set with your new dog on his or her first day in your home:
When approaching the door to your home, ask your dog to sit and wait. When you open the door, you should walk inside first. Your dog should not charge ahead of you. If your dog tries to charge ahead, shut the door and have your dog sit again. Do not go in until your dog has sat and waited while you entered first.
Food and Water
When offering food or water, ask your dog to sit and wait as you set the bowls down. When you set the bowl down say something like “release”, “break” or “okay” to tell your dog they can go ahead and enjoy their meal. If your dog tries to get up as you set the bowls down, make him or her sit again and do not place the bowls down until your dog waits for your next command to release. Once your dog has stayed sitting, give the command to release. They do not have to wait for a long time; if your dog is not used to this, waiting a long time will be difficult and you will need to start small. The goal is to get them listening to you and working for their food.
When offering your dog a toy, make him or her perform a command before giving them the toy. Basic commands such as sit, down, shake or roll over are fine. Again, the goal is to get them listening to you and working for their toy.
How Does Training Help Set Boundaries With My New Dog?
A well trained dog knows what is expected of him or her and is well behaved. Dogs need jobs and training gives dogs jobs. If they are not given jobs, they will find jobs for themselves. What dogs consider to be good jobs are not usually things that people appreciate them doing, such as constantly barking or digging in the yard.
The following commands are crucial to setting boundaries with your new dog:
“Focus” or “Look”. In this article by Avid Pup about how to stop a dog from barking when outside, the author describes the benefit of the “focus” or “look” command. This command is important to teach your dog because this is a good way to regain their attention if they are excited. Watch this video by McCann Dog Training to learn how to teach this command.
“Wait”. Watch this video by McCann Dog Training to learn how to teach this command.
“Sit”. Watch this video by Chewy to learn how to teach this command.
“Place”. Watch this video by Nylabone to learn how to teach this command.
“Release”, “Break”, or “Okay” (owner’s preference). Watch this video by Upstate Canine Academy to learn this command.
Remember, nothing should be free. According to DIBS Rescue, good behavior is reinforced when a dog has to earn toys and other positive things. This is not mean; it does not mean that you do not love your dog. By making your dog work for good things, this provides them a job and mental stimulation, both crucial to effectively setting boundaries.
What Should I Avoid When Setting Boundaries With My New Dog?
Consider these three things when setting boundaries with your new dog:
Remember that your dog is a dog.
While it is tempting to treat dogs like human children, remember that dogs are dogs. You can love them as much as human children, but treating them like human children is not fair to them because dogs have different needs than human children do.
Remember that no one is perfect.
Owners must also be realistic; while your dog is undoubtedly amazing, he or she is not perfect. No one is perfect, every humans and every dog has something they need to work on. If you believe that your dog is perfect you will not see issues that need to be addressed and you will miss the opportunity to bond with your dog through the training that would take place working on those issues.
Remember that positive reinforcement training is the most effective method.
Positive reinforcement for good behavior helps dogs understand when they did something correctly, which is crucial to setting boundaries. Just like how people value different things, so do dogs. Some dogs will be all about the treats, others want all the praise and petting from their people, others want their favorite toy as a reward. NEVER use physical force or physical abuse to train your dog. While most dogs respond to a serious voice best when being told a command, yelling at a dog is not effective either.
Setting boundaries is crucial because dogs can live for a long time; living for ten plus years with a polite dog is an absolute joy, while living with a poorly behaved dog can be burdensome. Do not hesitate to enlist the assistance of a trainer even if you are experienced with owning dogs because there is always something new to learn.