I often hear people tell me that they just want their “dogs to be dogs”, doing what they want when they want to. But while most cats may be perfectly well-adjusted without ever being given tasks to do while getting whatever they want when they want it, dogs do not fare so well in such settings.
In their wilder days, dogs’ ancestors lived in packs with complex social structures and numerous rules of social etiquette and behavior. Today, they live in our homes, as members of human families. Over the years, we have bred them for specific jobs, and today’s working dog wants some kind of direction from us so that they may know how to be a good dog. And unfortunately, without some kind of structure in their lives, dogs can run amuck, confused as to what their “responsibilities” within the household really are.
Following are some rules to help your high drive dog to be a polite member of your family:
- Wait at all doorways – while common lore suggests that this may help dogs understand their rank, there is a much more important reason for this rule, and that is safety. A dog that waits at doorways is far less likely to bolt out into the street, or to rush visitors outside on a porch, causing you problems with friends or delivery personnel, or your mail carrier.
- Go to your Place – this wonderful cue is ideal for keeping your dog out from underfoot when you have other things to get done. It can also be used to help your guests to feel more comfortable in your home, and so you don’t have to compete with your dog for their attention.
- Get off the furniture – While it may be easiest not to allow him on furniture at all, if you do allow it, make certain he’ll move over when asked. An “off” cue is vital here. The easiest way to teach this is to say your cue (“off”) and then lure your dog off the furniture and to the floor, rewarding when he is off. If your dog guards the space he is in, seek professional assistance with this, as simply forcing a growling dog off of furniture could prove dangerous.
- Work for everything – This not only establishes the habit of responding to your cues, it also adds value to your commands; when you ask your dog to do something, good things happen, therefore it behooves him to respond appropriately. Work could simply be a “sit” and “wait” for food or a “down” prior to being petted or let out into the yard. This is a sort of “please and thank you” for a dog.
Most likely, you will have more rules for your dog, such as not jumping on counters and not begging for food at the table. Remember that, like children, dogs need rules in order not to cause trouble. If you are having difficulty enforcing rules, contact your local trainer for assistance before things get out of control.