Setting Boundaries

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Introduction - Once you have an understanding of some of the background to Training it is time to talk about the practical side. This includes the ability to STOP or BLOCK any of the dog’s behaviours you don’t want.
Remember when we are blocking behaviour this is not teaching... teaching is when we must remain positive in our approach, whereas with blocking we need to stop the dog behaving in a detrimental way. Creating a BLOCK should ideally start with a verbal and only go physical if the dog hasn’t responded.

Blocking Behaviour - It is common for dogs to have behaviours that we find annoying. It doesn’t mean the dog is bad just that he is reacting as a dog and does not understand our human rules. Show him what is acceptable and what isn’t. Encourage what you want and then Block behaviour you don’t, just be firm and consistent and your dog will learn to trust your leadership. Establish your blocking voice. Generally a form of low growl is best, use a sound that comes naturally to you. That allows you to respond quickly. I find that ‘ARRRR’ is a very good blocking sound. You can drag the word out longer when needed and once the dog responds to the sound you can easily lighten the blocking to ‘Uh-Ahh!’

Choose the Levels - Think of having a Verbal Block that works on a sliding scale from 1 to 10. (1 is gentle and 10 being dramatic). You will decide your own levels, but if your Level 4 doesn’t work then you know you have to increase your energy to make it happen. Some dogs have high energy and require your levels to be higher whereas a very sensitive dog will respond well to a softer approach.

Achieving the Block - Starting with a Verbal Block
The instant you see behaviour you want to stop, Look directly at the dog and growl your BLOCK voice. Initially start with a Block at around your level 5
- If this DOES stop the behaviour then next time you try a level 4.
- If Level 5 hasn’t worked then jump to a Level 8. This will show the dog you are serious and he is more likely to stop. On the next occasion you can try Level 5 again, hopefully he is now understands you mean business and is likely to stop on this.

With experience you will end up lowering the Block level, point by point, till eventually you have a dog that is receptive enough to respond to a Level 1 or even less.

What happens if a Verbal Block doesn’t work? - You have made 2 or 3 verbal blocks up the scale (eg: 5, 8 and 10) however the dog doesn’t respond. In fact now the dog is running around you, perhaps barking. He thinks you aren’t being serious; therefore he is going to play games with you. Now you need to go to the next level.

Achieving the Block - Moving into a Physical Blocks
Physical Block also works on levels (scale of 1 to 10) and usually involves touching the dog in some form. A Level 1 might involve stepping in front of the dog and attempt to make strong eye contact, whereas a Level 2 will involve a tap on the side of the dog's neck. Should you need to go to a Level 5 or 6 you actually have to really push on the side of the neck – if you go to this point you need to unbalance the dog not just distract the dog.. Generally I find if you have used two verbal blocks to no effect then you need to move into a physical block fairly quickly. Step in with say a level 2 or 3 Physical Block so the dog is able to understand you are serious. If he ignores you then you must up the scale quickly to perhaps a 6-7. Once the dog has stopped the behaviour you are wishing to block then you stop and leave the dog alone.

A Strong Physically Block
Grab and hold the dog's neck or collar and lean the dog towards the ground. Be firm enough to hold the dog until you feel the dog’s body relax and accept that you are in charge. If your dog squeals or yelps he is trying to manipulate you into backing off, ignore this behaviour and keep a firm hold. If he tries to grab or bite you, hold firm and ignore. Do not get angry your dog is just testing your limits. This may take 5 seconds or perhaps 30 seconds, just hold firm and wait. As you feel the dog relaxes then relax your hand but keep resting gently against his neck/shoulder area to ensure that he has relaxed his mind as well as his body. Once your dog has softened his mind and pays attention then step aside and let the dog up to his feet.

Emotions About Physical Block - For many people this can be a difficult concept. There is a fear of hurting or upsetting the dog. However it is important to realise that it is normal for a dog to accept some conflict, after all learning to accept boundaries is part of learning to compromise behaviour..
If your dog steps out of line there must be a consequence. You need to prepare and be committed.

After the Block - After a strong physical block, do not excite the dog with cuddles. Also, don’t feel guilty but remain confident and calm, this allows your dog to see you are in charge. The dog needs time to focus again. Often the dog will want a drink of water and you may see the dog yawn or have a good rolling shake. These are great signs of your dog accepting the block and now releasing tension thru their body.

Important - once you have achieved the block then stop and leave the dog be.

If the unwanted behaviour reappears then you need to start back with a Verbal Block. Remember the objective is for the dog to need lighter and lighter blocks. Use a Block that is just enough to be effective. If the dog stops but shows nervousness then you need to lower the level next time.

Dog Bites at You - It is possible that when you place a dog under pressure he may retaliate. Do not get upset. See it for what it is - the dog making a mistake. Perhaps he will have a nip/snap at you, even a serious growl. He is testing you - stand firm and be consistent. If you have already been using a physical block when he bites then you must not back off - you must continue. What is important is that he understands you will not accept that type of behaviour. He needs to learn from his mistake.

We forgive a mistake from the dog.
As the dog will forgive us making mistakes.

Dogs do not understand smacks or hits. However if your dog does bite you (even in error) you must react. Do not pull away but stand your ground and be firm. I do not mean for you to use your mouth to bite, instead you use your hand as a grab on the neck or perhaps a shove to move him away as well as a hard serious verbal Growl from you. It is important that the dog gets a negative response.

Hitting will achieve nothing except to show how mean and stupid a human can be.

Dogs who use Aggression - Occasionally you may come across dogs that use aggression whenever they want to get their own way. Luckily most dogs who try this are generally just spoilt and will use growls or nips without being particularly serious - these guys back off provided you stand your ground.

However there are rare occasions that a dog may have serious aggression problems. These dogs are not for the faint hearted and should be passed along to a professional who is better able to deal with this type of dog. Do not enter into a full on confrontation if you do not have an understanding of the situation. If you are scared of the dog they will know then you will have difficulty achieving any blocks.

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