Rules of Engagement or My Rules for Dog Training that is…
I always have rules, even if I don’t have rules that is the rule.
Okay, that doesn’t make sense ha ha but I often get questions about what one person should or shouldn’t do with their dog.
And, the answer can be sincerely different dependent on the dog and the person and the situation.
I have different rules for each dog. And if you’d like to see how I’d do that, I made these videos.
I know that sounds bad, but I base rule on the dog’s temperament, personality, and age and the privileges they have earned.
If you have possession issues and you don’t like to share with me, you will never find yourself sitting on my sofa, chair, or in my bed.
You will probably also have to eat alone in your crate.
But if you don’t have possession issues, and you listen to my commands and want to please me, then chances are I will allow you to get on the sofa.
If you begin to challenge me or not listen you will lose that privilege.
But I have specific rules of what I expect from all of my dogs.
And, I know that my rules will be different from your rules; but the important thing is that you set some rules. Dogs thrive on structure and knowing what to expect!
I had a client ask me today; my dog wants to sniff while we walk; how can I let him be a dog but not allow him to pull me on walks.
I want my dogs to be DOGS but I also don’t want to need shoulder surgery while they pull me from one bush to another.
So where is that happy medium?
This is where you have to establish rules of engagement or rules of dog training.
You can be a dog when I tell you that you can, and that means you can sniff if you’d like.
But, you have to adhere to obedience the moment I give you a command (say I see a skateboarder coming).
And, you are NOT allowed to pull me NO MATTER WHAT!!
Sometimes I work on structured obedience while I walk or hike and sometimes I don’t, it depends on the day and if I have upcoming trials etc.
In the Beginning
Of course you need to start at home teaching your dog manners and obedience commands.
Remember that it is more difficult for your dog to learn away from home.
If you need help with leash manners click here.
I walk to a park or somewhere that I can let my dog sniff a bit.
I require obedience and manners on the way to the park, and then I allow my dog to sniff at the park, and we do obedience on the way home.
By starting out with obedience you are better setting your dog’s mindset and his ability to be successful. You start out with work, reward with a little sniffing, then end with some obedience.
If you can’t get obedience all the way to the park, then your dog is not ready for the reward of sniffing while he is there!
What if he Pulls
By now, you have obviously been working on obedience and he knows some manners.
So he should know a command for no, or ehh, or stop when you want him to end a behavior.
When my dog begins to pull, I say “ehh” and I turn the other direction (so he doesn’t get the reward of sniffing whatever he wants.)
Most dogs will learn not to pull while they sniff, but it is an art to be able to follow your nose and still be obedient so be patient.
If, however, he won’t listen to you once his nose goes to ground then it is time to turn around and go home.
Sometimes the worst punishment is having to go home and not getting what you want.
If you allow the pulling and the sniffing you are rewarding that behavior, however if you go home (quickly)… this loss of privilege.
Think of it from a child’s perspective you want to go for a walk but your 5 year old wants to stop in the park, you don’t have time (whatever the reason) so she throws herself down and has a tantrum.
If you go to the park you are rewarding the tantrum. If you continue on and let her scream and cry you are also rewarding the behavior.
But if you turn around and go home and stop all the fun, you have made a statement about what you will and won’t tolerate.
Next time, she will be much less likely to tantrum.
I Know The Rules Before I Leave
I always know what I will and what I won’t put up with when I leave the house.
Like with my children, I don’t threaten with something I am not willing to do.
If I spent 250 on concert tickets, I am probably not going to “not go” because of something one of the kids does, so I wouldn’t threaten that.
If you are say training for a marathon and you absolutely can’t turn around and go home but you think your dog is going to pull, maybe running solo is a better choice at least for a while!
Dogs should be treated the same way. Know in your mind what you want the scenario to look like, and if your dog wants something different then you know you need a different strategy.
Some Times it’s All About Training
Sometimes you just need more obedience training before you can take leisurely walks.
Obedience is something that needs to be structured and worked on daily to see changes!