Introducing Rules and Boundaries to Help a Wild Pack Calm Down

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 10, 2014

Lili and GraciLili is a one-year-old yellow lab, pictured here on the left with her room mate Graci, a one-year-old Boxer mix. Their owner called me for help frustrated that they didn’t listen very well, got over excited and pulled quite a bit on the leash.

When I arrived for the session both dogs were bounding around the room, barking, wrestling, jumping up on the humans – basically showing no manners or respect for our personal space.

Usually I like to sit down and discuss the situation with a dog’s owners a bit before getting to work but it was obvious where I should start so I got right to it.

I started out with my own method of disagreeing a dog from jumping up on me. Neither dog cared much for the technique and quickly got the message. After correcting Lili once and Graci twice, the jumping up stopped completely.

Next I suggested that their owner incorporate some rules and boundaries for the dogs to follow; keeping them off the furniture, making ten sit before getting to go in or out a door, waiting for permission to eat and limiting how rough they were allowed to play with each other in the house. By interceding and disagreeing with the dogs when they break the rules, we can help them see and identify the humans as being in a leadership position.

I showed their owners a few leadership exercises to practice with each dog individually to help them learn to focus, respect the authority of their humans and wait for permission before reacting on instinct. It took a little practice before the dogs and humans mastered the exercises, but once they did you could see a sense of pride coming out of both camps.

By the end of the session, both dogs were laying calmly on the floor and the humans were enjoying having the couch to themselves. It will take a week or two of regular practice before the leadership exercises really transform the dogs, but the considerable progress in getting them to calm down and respect the new rules and boundaries proved that they can behave when we ask them the right way.

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