Setting Boundaries

Decisions to Make

Once you have your dog home the real work starts, this means we have to teach the dog boundaries so he can live comfortably in the home. The family need to make decisions as to what is allowed and what is not. So sit down and think about what makes you feel comfortable such as, Is the dog allowed on the couch? Is the dog allowed to eat food from the table? Is the dog allowed to jump up on you?

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.

You are the Authority Figure, you are the one who pays the bills hence you are the one who needs to make the decision and then set the boundaries and make it happen.

Blocking Behaviour

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). We are not just talking about volume of voice it is more about how strong you project your voice. 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: Level 4 and 7) 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.

Physical Blocks

Physical Block also works on levels (scale of 1 to 10) and does involve touching the dog in some form. A Level 1 might involve a tap on the side of the dog’s neck whereas a Level 2 will be a light push on the side of the 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 Physical Block

Grab and hold the scruff of the 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 up to 60 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 within a pack to accept discipline from higher members in his pack. 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 through 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

There is always a possibility that when you place a dog under pressure he may retaliate. This is often what fightens people the most and they hesitate to do anything to change behaviours, hence they do nothing and the behaviour gets worse.

If you believe there is a real problem and you are too scared to address this then you need to seek professional help. The problem will not go away and must be seen by someone who knows what their doing otherwise things will get worse.

However if your dog is like 99% of family dogs then there is no big issue, If a dog does react, 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.

Forgive mistakes from the dog just as dogs 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. You can use your hand to poke on the side of the neck or perhaps a shove to move him away as well as a hard serious Growl from you. It is important that the dog sees a negative response for his action then he can understand what he did wrong.