Teaching our dogs self control so they can be a big part of our lives is what everyone hopes for.
What gets lost is how to do that and in what way. It can be confusing with all the different methods and ideas that go into how to raise a dog, much like raising kids. It may seem like a cop-out to say “it depends on the dog”, but much of it does. Dogs are incredibly emotional and diverse creatures, but one thing doesn’t change…that they need to know what is good and what is not good behavior.
I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of every dog is different, requires different levels of guidance with different reward and correction based systems depending on the dog’s temperament, age, relationship with owner, etc….whew! But I’d be lying if I didn’t say those things play a huge part!
What’s simpler is things you can do every day to really help you and your dog’s relationship and communication. First, have the household pick some rules and stick with it!
Here are some ideas to start with:
-Stop calmly at all thresholds leading to the outdoors. This stop is automatic and not based off of a command. The dog is not just waiting, but calmly waiting.
-Waiting for permission to get to the food bowl
-Not allowing them on furniture without permission when you are sitting there.
-When they come up for affection/attention, they can be told ‘No’ and easily go lay down.
You have your rules, now everyone must be consistent. Without consistency you create confusion and that can lead to real anxiety that bleeds into other areas.
But how do you get that Self Control!?
That comes with accountability. If you are consistent, then you need to hold your dog accountable for bad decisions. Notice I said consistent FIRST!
Otherwise, accountability would be unfair.
Accountability could be a firm tone of ‘no’ and using spacial pressure to have your dog give space from the front door before a walk. That could be a leash guidance when they won’t stop pawing and nudging you demanding attention when you say “no” and then you guide them to what you do want them to do. There are many ways to communicate to your dog to make a different choice and that decision of how you do that needs to be consistent within the family and potentially seeking the advice of a trainer to help guide you through it. It’s not something to be afraid of, just like when you raise kids you want them to respect your boundaries, you just need to communicate that to dogs differently since you can’t explain things to animals.
Now finally, training!
However, it is the FIRST thing you do of course. Training starts the moment you get your dog or puppy. They spend hours learning about you from your first moments with them. I mention it last only because without the first two, training won’t work. You must train your dog what you want them to do & work with them, but if you aren’t consistent and hold them accountable, your efforts may be fruitless.