Every day I receive many phone calls and emails from frustrated dog owners with a common theme – “My dog is out of control, I don’t even know where to start”. The issues of concern range from housebreaking issues, excitability, nipping, jumping on people, dog reactivity, destruction/chewing, fence fighting, barking out the windows at everything, stranger aggression/reactivity, dog-vs-dog aggression inside the home, leash pulling, etc. Many of these households are chaotic at best, due to the out of control dog(s).
Dogs that are out of control in the home are typically even worse out in the “Real World”. Many dogs have developed such bad habits (think leash pulling, reactivity, leash aggression, etc.) that the owners rarely (if ever) take them anywhere. The easiest place to take control and deal with most behavioral issues is right in your own home.
The range of situations and personalities (dog and human) involved make a “One Size Fits All” approach difficult, but here are some very simple, nearly free and effective tips that can make a huge difference right away. Start working on these at home, where the environment is familiar and distractions are low:
Why Keep Your Dog On-Leash?
Having your dog tethered to you with a leash (often referred to as the Umbilical Cord Method) will instantly limit his options and allow you to give him feedback (information) to guide his choices. When your dog is not on leash, he should be crated or kenneled; this is a proactive approach (preventing undesireable behaviors and creating a learning environment). Allowing an untrained or poorly behaved dog too much freedom in the house, or even in your fenced yard, is a sure-fire recipe for chaos in your home, requiring you to have to take a reactive approach (chasing him down, yelling at him, punishing him out of frustration, etc).
When I am working with a new Board & Train dog, they are on leash with me or crated/kenneled, until they prove to me that they can be trusted to follow the rules. We don’t go out to train in public or distracting environments until we have the basics covered. Having the dog tethered to me has a lot of learning benefits for the dog, as well as being a preventive measure against potential problem behaviors during the training process. Corrections are minimal and learning is optimal.
Benefits of Tethering:
How Long Should Your Dog Be On-Leash?
You won’t need to have your dog tethered to you forever, but if you are bringing a new dog or puppy into your home, or are looking to end the chaos your dog is currently creating in your home, these tips are a great place to start.
Once your dog starts to understand the rules of your house and learns to be calm, attentive and obedient, you can drop the leash and let him drag it (this is the testing period where he can show you that he can behave appropriately when not under your direct control). After the dog shows you that he can consistently behave while dragging the leash, you are probably ready to remove the leash altogether.
I have had dogs “get it” as soon as only a few days, and others that required months of tethering before they could be trusted off-leash inside the home.
Follow these tips religiously, and you will quickly be on your way to a calm and relaxed home where you can actually enjoy spending time with your dog(s). Setting clear boundaries and having higher expectations for your dog's behavior is up to you, the pack leader.
Remember: The more your show your dog what TO do, the less you will need to tell him what NOT to do. ~ Happy Training!