Teaching a Yellow Lab Puppy to Respect New Rules and Boundaries

StellaStella is a five-month-old yellow lab who gets over excited often, doesn’t listen to her owners commands or corrections, snatching food, counter surfing and playing too rough with her roommate, a four-year-old male lab.

When I first met Stella, she urinated out of the excitement of meeting someone new, then proceeded to jump up on me as well. I used the technique I developed to communicate that when a dog jumps up, the human gets to decide when they dog gets back down. Stella protested at the correction, but came back around a second time for another jump. But after my second correction, her jumping up on me stopped for good.

As I sat down with her owners to discuss the situation and what they wanted to accomplish, Stella immediately jumped up on the couch next to her owner. This happened with such frequency that her owner had taken to covering he couch with a drop cloth of sorts to keep it clean. I asked what rules Stella was supposed to respect which stumped her owner for a bit. After listing a number of things that Stella did that she didn’t like, she was able to identify only one rule, no eliminating in the house.

I have found young dogs or puppies with no rules or boundaries generally get into the most trouble. They often feel that they have the same rank and authority as their owners and as a result, the dogs do what they want. I suggested that her owners about a few basic rules (not being allowed on the furniture, having to sit before being let in or outside, having to sit 10 feet away from their filled food dish until receiving permission to eat, etc) and showed her a few techniques to disagree with some of her most unruly behaviors.

Next I showed her owner how to establish a boundary by placing a high value treat on the floor then communicating to Stella that I wanted her to respect a three foot boundary from it. At first she ignored me completely and attempted to go through and around me to get it. Because dogs are much better athletes than humans, I always try to incorporate the smallest possible movements when a dog it trying to outflank me. I stood nearly on top of the treat and kept Stella in front of me at all times turning from side to side.

This went on for a few moments before she paused for a second. As soon as she did I took the opportunity to take one step backwards so the treat was laying on the floor between us. Stella looked up at me for a second then started to move towards the treat. I took a sudden step forward so that I was standing over the treat again. This caused Stella to stop, but now she was only a half foot away from the treat. To get her to back up, I took a few sudden or lurching steps towards her.

This sudden movement caused Stella to back away from me and the treat. As son as she was three feet away I stopped moving forward. I waited for her to stop, then I took another deliberate step backwards. This time Stella started to move forward, but then she stopped herself. This was exactly what I was looking for so as soon as she stopped, I took another deliberate step back to communicate that. I repeated this process until I was a few feet away from Stella with the treat between us but much closer to the dog. She was looking at it intently, but she continued to restrain herself. After a minute of starring, she sat, then laid down on the floor.

As soon as Stella laid down, I took a few steps toward the treat, turned to the side and kneeled down so I could pat the floor behind it to let her know she could have the treat. I wanted her to understand that stopping following my lead got her a reward. By doing this as soon as she laid down, I was able to help communicate that her surrender is what I wanted. I repeated the exercise a few times then coached her owner through it until she got the same results.

It will be important for Stella’s owner to practice this exercise a few times a day for the next week or two so that she gets to practice following the lead of her owner while also respecting the boundary they want. This exercise, along with enforcing the new rules will help the dog learn to respect the authority of her owners. Their new communication methods will help Stella better understand what behavior they want, and don’t want from her.

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