When I meet with clients for behavior consultations and private training, I start by sitting down and asking lots of questions. One of those questions is often: “What are the rules of your household?” Sometimes I get immediate answers, but often I stump people with this question. What do you mean, they ask. Can you give me an example?

In some cases, when dogs are misbehaving (in our eyes, not in theirs!) at least part of the problem is that the dogs do not have clear household rules or boundaries. Sometimes it is because people have not set them. Other times, it is because people are not clearly conveying what those rules are to their dogs.

Have you determined yet what your household rules are? Before you read any further, see how many household rules you can list. How many do you have?

For those who are stumped, I will share a few of my household rules:

  1. Dogs must always move politely through exterior doorways. Charging through doors or shoving past others is not allowed. When heading out the front door, dogs must always wait for permission to exit.
  2. Dogs must share toys. If anyone decides to guard or fight over toys, everyone loses access to that toy.
  3. Dogs are only allowed to chew on the bully stick I specifically gave to them. They are never allowed to take someone else’s chew, even if the other dog has walked away from it.
  4. My dogs are allowed to snuggle on the couch with me. However, when I say “off” dogs must get off immediately. When I say “move” dogs must move so I can sit down and then they are allowed to snuggle back in with me.
  5. Dogs are only allowed to snuggle on the couch. Couches/chairs are not for playing or chewing. If a dog wants to chew on a bully stick or roughhouse with another dog, he must get off the couch.
  6. Dogs are never allowed on the bed. I need a good night’s sleep in order to be my patient loving self with dogs during the day, so it is in everyone’s best interest to give me some space when I go to sleep!

Dogs do best when they have clear consistent rules or boundaries at home. Do you have clear consistent boundaries for your dogs?


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