The Complete, Unabridged Set of Dog Rules

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

“Is it okay that my dog is on the couch?”

“Can we play tug with a rope toy? Or is that wrong?”

“We’re using puppy pads.  Is that bad?”

Questions like these from my clients make me crazy.  No, not because they are asking me questions, but because somehow they got it in their head that there are hard and fast rules to “dogging”.  They get a dog, and the first thing they want to know is what the rules are.  All. The. Rules.

winterBecause obviously, if something isn’t complicated and supremely structured, it doesn’t work.  The more rules, the better you’re doing, right?  After all, t’s been working for the DMV.

We must be cautious.

We must be cautious.

So obviously, rules suck.  Unless you’re a dog owner, and then you want the rules.  All the rules.  Well, you want ‘em?  You got ‘em.

Before I tell you the rules, let’s review the steps to working with a dog, in any capacity.  Whether stopping the barking, teaching them to sit, or maybe something a little more intricate.

Everything starts with these steps:

1) Control Yourself. 

Controlling yourself means you are calm (even if only on the outside).  You are using confident body language (stand up straight!).  You are not yelling, or even talking.  In other words, you are NOT Corky Romano.

Don’t be a Corky.

2) Control the Situation.

Meaning if you can’t stuff 10 pounds of dirt in a 5 pound bag, why are you trying to stuff 15?  Stop, take a look at the current situation.  For example, if someone is at the door, but your dog is there barking, jumping, and, well, being Corky Romano, do you have control of the situation?  No!  Then don’t add any stimulation (such as opening the door) until you have control. Answer your dog’s question about the door, and then move forward when you have control. Reboot if necessary.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Okay, now that you know the playing field (controlling yourself and controlling the situation), now for the rules.

I use a mix of negative and positive.  The same way you do throughout your life.  I asked my husband it was raining outside  He said “no”.  That’s a negative  My daughter asked if she could go to a friends house. I said “yes”.  That’s a positive.  Think of it as a game of “hot or cold”. We call this Piloting your dog.

Rules of When to Use Negatives

1) When you don’t like what your dog is doing.  Yes, seriously…it’s that easy.  Ask yourself if you like the behavior your dog is giving (barking, jumping, or just laying against the fridge that you are trying to open), and if you don’t like it, give them a negative.  Remember your dog isn’t bad.  Dogs are incapable of being bad.  They are perfect… for a dog.  They just happen to suck at being human.

And guess what?  You probably don’t make a very good dog.

So let’s jettison the whole “Good/Bad” thing…and the gun.  You’re answering questions for your dog, not deciding if the questions make your dog “good” or “bad”.

2) When your dog is “yo-bitching” you.  Now there’s an interesting term:  ”yo-bitching“.  What does that mean?  It’s when a dog slaps you with their paw.  Or jumps on you.  Or pushes you out of the way.  It’s the human equivalent of saying, “Yo, Bitch, gimme a cookie.” Or “Yo, Bitch, that’s my chair”.  Vulgar?  Absolutely.  Acceptable?  Never.  You wouldn’t accept a human addressing you like that, so don’t accept that from a dog.  Dog’s are perfectly capable of using polite, “May-I-Please” body language.  Start to demand and expect it at all times.

On to the positives!

1) The come command/recall.  Positive, people.  Give your dog a good reason to come when you call.

2) When you are asking your dog to be human.  Think about what one dog will tell another dog.  Things like, “Go away”, or “Let’s play” or even “That’s mine”.  But dogs don’t teach each other English (“Sit”, for example). They don’t housebreak each other.  So if one dog can’t teach it to another dog, and you’re asking your dog to be a little bit human, you must use positives.

3) Calm.  This is the most important, most overlook opportunity for positives.  I want calm to be a like a lottery ticket:  You have to play to win (you’re probably not going to win), but unless you have a ticket, you definitely aren’t going to win.  That ticket is calm.  The more your dog has the “calm ticket” the more likely he is to win.  So if he’s calm, give him a gentle positive.  Anything from chilling out on the floor, to trying his best to be calm at the vet.  Reward the effort.  Progress, not perfection.

So there you have it.  That’s all the rules.  When to give positive and when to give negative.  Everything you ever needed to know about how to work with your dog.

But I didn’t address your questions from earlier?

“Is it okay that my dog is on the couch?”

“Can we play tug with a rope toy? Or is that wrong?”

“We’re using puppy pads.  Is that bad?”

Yes, I did!  About the couch, think about the negatives.  Do you like what your dog is doing on the couch?  No?  Then give him a negative.  Don’t care that he’s on the couch?  Well, then, neither do I, as long as he isn’t “yo bitching” you.

Playing tug with a rope toy?  Cool!  I love a good, rough game of tug.  My husband doesn’t.  I encourage it.  My husband negates it.  Remember, ask yourself if you like the behavior, and if the answer is “yes”, go for it.  If the answer is “no”, then negate it.  Just make sure that you have your limits adhered to.  My Sparta is allowed to really go at it with me when we wrestle…until she isn’t  When I feel things have escalated too much, I simply give her a negative, and she stops.

Puppy pads?  If it works for you, it works for me.

In short, nobody should be telling you how to enjoy your dog.  My dogs are allowed to beg from the table, as I frequently give them a small amount of table scraps.  But once I’m done with them, they are given a negative, and they know to stop begging and stay away from me while I eat.

My dogs, like yours, are only here for my enjoyment.  They make life easier, and so much sunnier!  Don’t let a book full of rules tell you how you should be enjoying their company.  Make sure you are indeed enjoying your dog, and not merely tolerating their behavior.  If you don’t like their behavior (say, getting up on the couch), it’s up to you to answer your dog’s question (“Can I sleep up here?”), and set your own rules of how to enjoy your dog.  The rules will differ from house to house, but the enjoyment will be constant.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to snuggle in bed with my dogs while I share my snack of cheese and crackers with them. I’m tired from all that rope-tug I played with Sparta.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

5 Suggestions to Make Boarding Easy

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

The scariest thing about distance is that you don’t know whether they’ll miss you or forget you - Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

 

For some owners, leaving your dog’s care in someone else’s hands can be nerve racking. I mean you spend most of your day caring for your pup and now you’re expecting someone else to do just as good of a job. But hey! We all need to go on vacations. It doesn’t make you a bad owner! Here are a few steps to making your dog’s boarding experience a little bit easier for the both of you.

1. Vaccines!

To avoid any extra stress, make sure your dog is up to date on all of his vaccines and fecal samples. Wherever you are leaving your dog SHOULD have guidelines on what vaccines are needed and how recent they should have had a fecal sample tested. If you’re planning on boarding your dog in the future, most places require a Bordatella shot. Have all this taken care of ahead of time so there’s no surprises the day of.

2. Pack the Necessities

Talk to your boarding place and see what items you can bring for your dog. Now, remember you don’t need to bring the whole house in order for him to feel comfortable. If you’re allowed, bring 1 or 2 of his favorite toys and a blanket or towel that smells like him or you. The smell will make him feel more comfortable immediately and the toys will make him feel like he’s at home as well. Keep it simple. You don’t need to bring anything. And make sure you’re not giving Fido you’re $200 blanket from your bed. Any cheap blanket that smells like your household will be just fine.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

 3. Get some Exercise

Before leaving for “sleep away camp”, take your dog for a walk. Make it a little bit longer than it usually is if you can. When your dog gets to his new home for the week, he will be a little excited and anxious as it is a new place. Any extra energy you can get out of him before hand is helpful. Even when you get to your destination if you feel like Fido is a little too wound up, take him for a walk. Never underestimate the power of getting out any excess energy.

 4. Don’t Make it a Production

When you’re leaving your dog, don’t make it this dramatic affair. The more normal you act, the more normal your dog will act. If you make a huge scene, your dog is going to feed off of that energy and become very anxious. We don’t want that. We want this to be a seamless transition. To just a quick pat goodbye and you’re out the door. Your dog knows you love him. It’s going to be okay.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

 5. Don’t Make it a Production

Nope, not a typo. I just mean don’t make it a production when you come back for your dog either. When you pick your dog up, if you act like you just got back from climbing Everest or your dog just survived months of hiking the Appalachian Trail, your dog is going to start to become anxious, hyper and worried again. We want the boarding place to be a place where your dog has fun and enjoys going. So don’t make it a huge deal. It’s not. Your dog had fun, you had fun just in separate places.

Make sure you do your research on boarding places. Ask for suggestions from friends, other dog owners or your vet. Read reviews and even take some time to visit the place before you send your dog. But trust me, most of these places keep your dog so busy they won’t even notice you’re gone. And when you’re dog comes back, he’ll be so exhausted he’ll sleep for days straight.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH