Building boundaries
Shooting Times & Country|July 14, 2021
Dogs need to know what they can do, where they can do it and for how long; Ellena Swift explains why she sets rules from day one
ANDREW SYDENHAM

Dogs, like humans, need rules and boundaries, so they know what to expect, what is acceptable and what is not. In the early months, this is vital. For example, if your puppy is not allowed on the sofa, then it is important to not allow it on the sofa. This may sound glaringly obvious; however, these inconsistencies are more often than not the reason why a dog behaves a certain way.

Pulling on the lead or not walking to heel are among the most common problems I help clients with. Pulling tends to begin at an early age, most generally shortly after the puppy’s introduction to the lead. In a bid to get it out and about, the owner rushes to socialise the puppy by proudly being dragged around public places while people gush and coo at how cute the puppy is on two legs at the end of the lead.

Every time the puppy greets a dog or human, they do it before their owner and by pulling on their lead. But it is OK because “he just wants to say hello” and “she just wants to play”. A few weeks later, the owner enrols in training and the heelwork begins. Despite the puppy only being 13 weeks old, they have already been taught to pull like a train on the lead when they want something.

While the owner might talk about rules, they have already broken their own. They also refuse to impose rules on anyone else. It is vital when out with a puppy that not only do you control them, but also the people and dogs around you. For example, when someone gushes over your puppy, encouraging and rewarding them to jump, pull and ignore you, tell them to stop. They are not to look, touch or talk to the puppy until the owner says it is OK.

Now, this may sound extreme and will certainly invite some rolled eyes and mutterings from others. However, by doing this, you can take your time to settle the puppy. Get its focus and reward it. Once it is listening to you and on a loose lead, you can then use your release command so that the puppy may greet the other dog or person. This way, from day one, pulling and ignoring you will have achieved nothing.

Bond

In those moments when it is not appropriate to stop and greet a dog or person, the puppy will not be pulling but focusing on you. It will become second nature to engage with and focus on you. By the time the puppy is old enough to start visiting busier, more distracting environments, you already have the start of a lasting bond.

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