Many clients I work with have no rules for their dog. None. Some have too many where the structure is so rigid the dog is depressed and acting out. I suggest at least 5 rules where you’re asking for cooperation from this delightful member of the family. Puppyhood is where to start right with setting rules and enforcing them.
My 12-week year old has a good grasp of the word ‘no’, meaning she knows when I am asking her ‘not’ to do something. That does not mean she always obeys - hah! She is finding her own ways of doing things and unfortunately, the consequences. As a force-free behaviourist my role is to bring ‘Sunshine’ into this world as a good citizen in our community. Also, that Sunshine is independent, able to make good choice for herself and others, and self-reliant.
You may think, “Hold-up. What? Does that sound too much like a Human?” Well it does on purpose. Dogs have the same capabilities emotionally and cognitively as a 2-yr. old child - scientifically proven, and it makes sense to modernise our obedience training and include ways and means to enable sound mental and emotional reasoning in our dogs.
Back to ‘No’.
To reinforce ‘No,’ I first have to be asking her to stop doing something - like Biting. She needs to understand this. This is important. She needs to truly understand and practice self-control. These are very hard things to grasp for a puppy - patience is mandatory. All dogs learn from testing what a request means, meaning, if I say ‘no’ to jumping on the table, I can count on the fact she will need to jump on it several more times and in several more situations before she understands and cooperates.
Once I am positive she understands what I am asking her to stop doing something when I say ‘no’, and she still does it, then she is disciplined. Biting is the same concept. One of my key rules for Sunshine - no painful biting. Once I have provided every opportunity to chew anything but me, make my hands very still, and have said ‘no’ only then does discipline follow. I provide two strike-outs, allowing the dog to rethink if they want to continue. If the dog decides not to continued they are praised because I want to positively reinforce the behaviour I want.
Force-free discipline looks just like a time-out for kids. Proactively you know which room in your house is suitable, especially for a Puppy who chews anything. Ours is our bathroom. I always have a timer on hand. I put my puppy in the bathroom away from the family. To put ‘Sunshine’ into the bathroom, I pick her up, but you can lead a dog in as well. I do not yell, and picking her up is done calmly and lovingly. My ‘Sunshine’ is placed in the bathroom, the door is shut, and I set the timer for 2 mins. Not 1 and not 3, but 2 minutes. One minute is too short, three minutes is too long and ineffective. To a dog, being away from you is tough. Sunshine will whine and even howl a little. In 2 minutes, we open the door, no fuss, no drama. Sunshine comes out. Has she learned? Not necessarily, but I have started to provide good information to help her make good choices in the future when I say ‘no’. For sure she will try again because she is learning. I love when they try again. It means I am on the right track. The dog is figuring out what is acceptable and what is not.
There are nuances to this method, so feel free to message me about your particular puppy and I will help you out.
All the best,
'Sparky' Smith is a Canine Behaviorist and Practioner, educated through the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour, earning her ISCP.DIP.CANINE.PRAC.