Your dog will be as obedient as you request of him, or her. We have all witnessed pet owners that must lounge for their dog when the door is opened, or thrust their knee out to block the dog when it see’s something it wants to go after. I won’t do that. Neither will I scream at the top of my lungs while my dog runs off anyways. We see this all the time with dog owners, all the time. It is not necessary.
Dogs are intelligent animals. They will do exactly what you allow them to do. They will go as far as you let them, just like a child. Boundaries are rules your dog obeys without you physically imposing them. The dog knows such, and such, is not something he’s allowed to do, so he simply doesn’t do it. You do not have to physically intervene. Maybe you did when the boundary was first set, but not anymore. Every person that owns a dog has a set of boundaries. I can hear it now, “Oh, no, I don’t set boundaries for my dog” or “My dog ignores my boundaries”. Well, no, and no again. You DO set boundaries whether you are doing it intentionally, or not. You set them all the time.
Spend time with your dog. The more time you spend with him/her the more in tune he/she will be with you. Spending your spare time with your dog he/she will learn quickly what your boundaries are. He/she will learn you don’t like them bounding off, or barging through the door.
From the questions I’ve been fielding, and my own observations, I believe I should expand on this area of your dog minding your boundaries.
I hear, “I wish my dog would do that.” or “My dog just shoves his way through the door when it’s opened.” Your dog does these things because you have allowed it. It is acceptable to you, even if you don’t consciously realize it, you do. Let me show you an example: When you sit down for dinner, do you allow your dog to jump up on the table and eat from your plate? (I think I heard a gasp or two). Of course you don’t. That’s not even something most of us have to think twice about. No, my dog better not get on the table and eat from my plate!! That’s because it’s an unacceptable boundary to cross, and you expect your dog not to do that. You know he/she would if you let him/her. You feel strongly about this, and you have let your dog know that you feel strongly about this, so you don’t physically grab the dog every night at dinner and remove him from the dinner table, he knows he is not to get on the table, so he does not do it. If you have the same diligence and desire for any behavior, as you do for your dog not eating off of your plate, than he/she will do as you expect.
Just a few months ago I witnessed a dog that was barking incessantly if one of the owners was in the room, yet would stop barking if the other owner was in the room. The first person couldn’t figure out why the dog would not stop barking when the second person was in the room. They both claim to be reprimanding the dog when it would bark unnecessarily. When I observed the dog with the second person it was clear, he was actually encouraging the dog to bark and didn’t even realize it.
When the dog would start barking at something, and continue barking, the first person would say, “Enough” in a stern tone, and the dog would stop barking. When I observed the second person with the dog he was consoling the dog like a human when it was barking! The dog began barking and he walked over to it, began stroking the dog gently, and saying, “Hush, Fido, that’s enough. It’s okay.” in a quiet soothing tone. That’s completely opposite of what they wanted to accomplish! What do you think the dog is hearing him say in his quiet, soothing tone? The dog hears, “Blah, Fido, blah, blah, blah, blah.” What is the dog sensing? Positive physical affirmation. He is gently petting the dog. Isn’t petting our animals a basic reward for when they produce behavior we approve of? Yes, it is. So the dog gets the impression that he likes all the barking because he comes over and pets him/her gently speaking sweet nothing to him/her. When this behavior was removed the dog stopped excessive barking.
Every command you give your dog, can be a non-physical boundary, if you so choose. I have found that I have more trouble teaching the owner to keep their hands off the dog, then teaching the dog the boundary! Depending on a persons experience with dogs, they will have certain ingrained idea’s in their mind that are super hard for them to let go of.
Every time you open your front door, does your dog make a run for it? Do you find yourself blocking the dog from making a quick exit with your knee, or by closing the door? The most common physically enforced behavior is blocking the dog with a knee, or grabbing their collar, when the front door is opened. The dog has been taught, when my human opens this door, I get to push and shove, and try to get past him. He’ll try to block me with his knee’s, or body, and take hold of my collar but I’m faster than that! That is what has been taught to the dog, seriously. Try a different mindset. Try placing the feelings you have about your dog eating off of your plate onto this situation. Have the same, “That is not going to happen in this house attitude.” You will be shocked with the difference you will see with your dog. It will take a few times to break the old behavior of barge through that you’ve taught him/her in the first place. But when he/she see’s your just as serious about this as staying off the dinner table, things will change in a hurry. I can open the front door, walk out, walk back in, walk to the car, what ever, and the dogs will stay in the house. Albeit they will sit by the door watching me, but they won’t step a paw outside. Because that is as unacceptable to me as sharing my dinner plate with them, it just won’t happen.
Learning to not physically restrain your dog is going to be the biggest challenge……for you. If your dog is already allowed to force his/her way until you physically restrain him/her, this behavior will need to be retaught, when you decide to stop physically restraining him/her and become serious about what you expect. That will be your biggest challenge. Don’t let yourself get in the way of you having a mindful, .respectful, dog
From day one, whether young, or old, when you first bring your dog home, set the boundaries that you want. The first few times you open the front door, yeah, the dog is going to think its time to walk out the door, but if you say, “No, stay” as you open the door, and put a palm to his/her face, you’ll have a far better chance of him doing just that. If he stays for a second, then gets up to walk out the door, then you take him by the collar, while leaving the door open, pull him back to where he was and repeat, “No, stay” and let go of the collar (be ready to grab it again). Repeat this until the dog gets it in his mind, if I try to walk out that door, my owner isn’t going to let me, so I’ll just stay here. It won’t take forever, but it might take twenty minutes for a couple of days to get this boundary set, just like the boundary of stay off the dinner table, make stay back when I open the door, the same kind of boundary. How long did it take to teach him to stay off the dinner table? Maybe once, maybe twice, but then he got it and it doesn’t happen anymore.
Your boundaries are where you decide to set them.