The best time to begin teaching house rules is the day you bring a new puppy or dog home. Before bringing a new dog home, it is helpful to think about what rules you want for the adult dog long-term. If you want a well-mannered dog, then you must establish, teach and reinforce a clear set of rules. Ignore behaviors you don’t want and praise behaviors you do want.
Recommended Household Rules:
1. No dogs allowed on the furniture. If you want your dog to spend time on the couch or bed with you, then teach the dog a “cue” such as “couch” and “bed” and then do NOT allow the dog on the furniture without getting the cue first. Teach the dog it is ONLY okay to be on the furniture with permission. This is not an easy lesson for dogs to learn. You must also teach the word, “off” and be consistent in telling the dog to get “off” if the dog gets up without permission. Use instructive praise.
2. No dog teeth allowed on human skin. If is NOT okay for dog teeth to touch human skin. Teach dogs to first do gentle mouthing, second not to mouth without permission, and finally not to mouth at all.
3. No dog feet on people. Do NOT allow the dog’s front legs up on people for any reason. It is easier for people to pet or hug a dog that is up on two feet but allowing the dog to get attention in this way leads to trouble. Unless your dog is small and you WANT this behavior for a lifetime, get down on the dog’s level and ONLY give attention when the dog has all four feet on the ground. Teach the dog to “sit” for greetings and praise. Do a quarter turn and do not give the dog eye contact if the dog jumps on you.
4. No barking away from home. Do not allow your dog to bark at people, animals or objects when you are off your property. Teach your dog the “quiet” instruction at home so that you can use it for times outside of the home when you want the dog to stop barking. At home, do not allow your dog to join in with neighborhood dog barking as this habit can become a nuisance.
5. No canines blocking human paths. Do not let sleeping dogs lie if that dog is in your path. Teach your dog what the word “move” means and then use it to move the dog out of your way. You don’t need a dog underfoot when you have an arm full of groceries. Dogs that block pathways often perceive they are controlling a power area which may lead to a misperception that the people in the house are there to serve the dog instead of the opposite.
6. No food bowl or toy guarding. Do not allow dogs to think that food and toys belong to them. Instead, teach the dog that you own and control ALL the valued resources in the home. Show the dog how generous you can be if the dog shows you deference to your leadership. In other words, always ask the dog to “earn” his supper or a toy by asking the dog to do something for you, FIRST, such as sit, lie down, roll-over…you get the idea! Do not allow the dog to guard food or possessions from any people, under ANY circumstances. As with all rules, begin this lesson on day one!
7. No household destruction. Do not allow the dog to destroy dog toys not designed for destruction (e.g., balls, squeaky toys, plush toys, or anything made of fabric.) The dog may not know how much you paid for that item but they do need to know the item is NOT theirs to destroy. Supervise all play. If the dog begins to show destructive chewing, take the toy away.
8. Always come when called. Teach your dog to come when called. Do not accidentally punish the dog for coming to you when called by then putting the dog outside, punishing the dog for not coming quickly, or giving the dog a bath. NEVER follow the word, “come” with an action that is unpleasant for the dog.
9. Cheerfully go into your kennel. Teach the dog a “kennel up” instruction to cue the dog to enter the kennel upon request. The goal is for the dog to LOVE being in the kennel and to respond to this cue with delight. Teach your dog “contented confinement” from day one by providing a treat that he/she loves and only receives while in the kennel.