If you are in the throes of dog training, take heart my friend. There is hope, and it gets easier.
Whether it’s chewed up photo albums, daily wet spots on the carpet, holes in the backyard, o-dark-thirty bark-fests, or finding the under the counter garbage can’s contents all over the kitchen floor when you get home from a long day at work, we seasoned dog lovers have been there, done that.
You adore your dog, but sometimes you’re at your wits end. You’re glad Fido is part of the family, but he just can’t be ruling the household anymore. What do you do? Where do you start with training, and how?
There is one simple thing that all dog parents need to know about training: you’re the boss, not the dog. We greatly prize our democracy, and feel as though a civilized culture can be cultivated through egalitarian means. Not so with your canine. Dogs are pack animals and in order to feel secure, they need to know who’s the boss, and who to follow. Of course we’re not suggesting at all that leadership means the cruel old-school methods of yelling or swatting with a rolled up newspaper. No, we’re talking about calm, assertive control.
If you don’t assert yourself in the home, your dog will assert him or herself instead. So unless you want your dog to be the boss—acting out, tearing up family heirlooms, leaving nice surprises at the foot of your bed, make the mail-man pee his pants daily, etc—it’s time to take control.
So stand up straight, take a deep breath, stick your chest out and let’s go. In no particular order, here are 3 dog training tips to show your canine who’s the boss.
1.) Enter doorways first, and don’t allow the dog to lay across the threshold
We people like to think we’re king or queen of the castle when it comes to our homes. Our homes are our domain, and our territory. Dogs are no different, and when you allow your dog to squeeze between your leg and the doorjamb in front of you while you’re bumbling with your keys and balancing that bag of groceries, you might have a problem. When your dog tears into the house before you, or makes a habit of lying across threshold, just know that he or she is claiming territory. Instead, enter doorways first, and kindly but assertively get the dog to move out of the way of the threshold instead of stepping over them.
2.) Make your dog wait before eating
Our family used to have a big, jowel-y, brindled 85-pound American Bulldog named Snoop Dogg. Boy, was he slobbery! One of our standard training exercises was making Snoop wait before he was allowed to eat. We’d pour his food into his bowl, commanded him to sit and stay. His jowls would fill with drool and literally run onto the floor. He got so good at waiting to eat that there were times we’d forget that we hadn’t told him it was “OK!” to eat, only to find him minutes later staring at his food bowl in a pool of his own saliva. It’s kind of gross now that I think of it, but still a cute pet memory nonetheless.
Obviously, dogs are highly motivated by food. And if you can train them to have the self-control not to eat until you give the signal, you are setting a good precedent for who’s in control of the home.
3.) Don’t allow your dog onto the furniture unless he or she is invited
If your dog has a regular spot on your bed or chair, they are staking out territory that first and foremost belongs to humans. You may not have the heart to make hard and fast rules against keeping Fluffy off the furniture at all times—you need a partner to watch Netflix with after all—but allow the dog on the furniture as a privilege, not a right.
Remember: you’re the boss, not the dog. Be calm, cool, collected, assertive, and you’ll make it happen. If you can get some traction with these 3 easy tips, you’re on your way to a more orderly home, a happier, more contented doggy, and with any luck, less garbage to pick off the kitchen floor when you arrive home.