Living with Your Dog
These suggestions are intended to provide you with ways to get reliable and predictable behavior from your dog in and around the home. Every dog may not need every part of this information but we attempted to cover every aspect of life with your dog that falls outside of what is commonly considered "formal training". Follow these guidelines to start and then adjust as your dog's behavior changes or as you see that certain things are of higher or lower importance.
Supervise or Confine
Until your dog is reliably doing everything you want and nothing you don’t want, keep them on a leash (with you holding the other end), on a tether (with you supervising in the same room), or confined in a crate. The overwhelming majority of problems in the house are caused by the owner’s failure to control the dog effectively. If your dog chews up the leash or tether, you aren’t paying enough attention to them and they should have been confined. If your dog is able to run to the door/window when they see something, they are not adequately controlled. If they are able to pick up random items like pens, paper, socks, etc. they are not properly supervised. Ownership of these problems as ones you are creating or failing to effectively intervene in is key to resolving them.
One Set of Rules
If each person that your dog interacts with has a different set of rules, it makes it more difficult for your dog to understand what is and is not allowed. Make sure that the whole family is on the same page with respect to what behavior is acceptable and what is not, how to respond to those behaviors, what commands are going to be used, etc. Any family member, or guest, who will not follow those rules should not be allowed to interact with the dog.
Scheduling Food, Water, And Bathroom Breaks
Not every dog gives tell tale signs that they need to go to the bathroom. By scheduling access to food and water, we can begin to figure out how long after they are consumed that our dog will need to be aired. Using this scheduling we can better prepare for times when we will not adhere to our normal routines such as traveling or having to stay late at work.
Bathroom Location and Expectations
Get into the habit of selecting one designated spot close to your home where your dog is expected to use the bathroom. Do you travel for extended periods of time looking for just the right place to do your business? Of course not, because a place is designated. Take your dog to the designated spot and wait there for five minutes. If they don’t go to the bathroom, take them back inside and put them in the crate for a while. Take them straight from the crate back to the bathroom spot again. Repeat this process until the dog goes to the bathroom in the designated spot, then take a walk, or play a game, or do something else fun and interactive with your dog. Over time they will learn that walks, training, and any other fun stuff does not happen until they have used the bathroom.
Dogs have physical exercise requirements that can vary with breed, age, and for each specific dog. But we do not subscribe to the idea that “a tired dog is a good dog”. A trained dog is a good dog. But we do need to make sure we provide outlets for physical exercise. 30 minutes of walking or hiking daily, or games of fetch or tug, are usually enough for most dogs to fulfill their exercise requirements.
Some days the weather, long hours at work, or other circumstances prevent us from being able to give our dog the physical outlet they need. We can also tire them out mentally through training, or through games that require them to think. Things like training, scent work, puzzle feeders, or simply scattering kibble in the yard and letting your dog hunt for their food are all great ways to exercise the mind when you can’t exercise the body.
Using Trained Skills
The whole point of having trained skills is to make your dog’s behavior more predictable when it otherwise would not be, and to help give your dog information that will help them through situations before they have to experience a consequence from making a mistake. Think about places where you can use your obedience to proactively create the outcomes you want:
Use stay or kennel while you eat dinner to keep the dogs from drooling on your leg under the table.
Use sit stay to keep your dog still while you take equipment off or put it on.
Use heeling to keep your dog from charging through doorways.
Use stay and recall to get the dog out of the car under control.
Use stay and kennel to get the dog into the car under control.
Use recall to call your dog away from something they shouldn’t be doing/eating/interacting with.
Think of other places where you can apply your training to better help your dog understand what you need them to do. Doing these things allows us to guide our dogs through situations. Further, if we need to correct them, it provides more context as to why the correction is happening, instead of punishing them and requiring them to figure out why that happened through repetition.
Transitioning from Management to freedom
As your dog’s training progresses, you can use less management (crates, tethers, leashes) when they have proven they are trustworthy. Allow your dog to have interaction with their environment (other people, other dogs, various distractions) in direct proportion to how well they can ignore those things when you ask them to. As an example, your dog should not meet any dog on a walk until they have shown, repeatedly, that they can ignore that dog. To be clear, this means that they are able to ignore that dog without you having to make them do so.
Further, remember that in training we are trying to handle our dogs to teach them the right thing to do. Out in the real world, we handle our dogs to avoid failures. So unless you are reasonably certain an interaction is going to go well while you are out in public, avoid it.