When people think of boundaries with regards to their dogs, they often think of what their dog should not be doing. Don’t beg while we are eating, don’t get off the weighing scale at the vets, don’t be too close to the children while they play, don’t react to that other dog, don’t jump on my lap during my important zoom meeting… you get the picture. However, these are all do nots, and as we know, as people we don’t like being told what not to do. Our dogs are the same. This is why all of these things are so difficult to achieve with your dog when you are thinking in “do nots”.
It is far easier for our dogs to learn by teaching them to perform something they truly want to do. This can be as simple as building value to their bed, basket or crate. Building this value makes this their safe and calm area, an area that they truly enjoy being in. If we do this, all of the "don'ts", become one "do" to achieve the same result.
Setting the boundary is a very important aspect of both managing and training reactive dogs. To set the boundary, we turn the training into a game. This game is where your dog has to stay in a designated area until released. This doesn’t need to be their bed; it can be a mat, a crate, a tent, a platform, or anything you want. And, if you and your dog have worked on this successfully, it can change from the bed, to a mat, to a park bench.
Setting boundaries through this game has a lot more benefits than just controlling your dog when you are doing other things. It promotes impulse control, reducing jumping, counter surfing, begging and what we may see as random barking at things. It is a key aspect of reducing and working with reactive dogs, whether it be dog to dog, dog to person, food, or any other type of reactivity. Calming and building your dog’s ability to deal with excitement around them while they remain calm is paramount to reducing and eventually eliminating reactivity. It can both increase your dog’s energy and motivation, as well as decrease over-excitability. It can also make your life and relationship with your dog a far happier and stronger one.
So what is a boundary game? It is your dog remaining in the designated boundary calmly. It teaches them that the designated area is a place of calmness and not one of excitement. They are not to move from this spot till you have given them the release cue (command). And the release cue means that your dog is able to come off of the boundary and interact with you.
This teaches a number of important concepts to your dog:
When your dog leaves an area, they orient to you and work with you.
Your dog can switch off (lower arousal level/ increase calm) and then switch back on (high arousal/ more energy) when signalled
Some areas and distractions are sometimes out of bounds and that’s a good thing
Your dog’s release cue means they can interact with something fun (and that fun thing is YOU most of the time unless signalled otherwise)
The rest of the world is not going to enter your dog’s boundary, so there is no need for them to be worried!
Through this, it can become clear to us, that a simple game, or training exercise, is way more than just teaching your dog to stay on a bed. It teaches them real life concepts that help in many more situations than just being on a bed.
Gamification of training is something far more special than many people realise. It can help our dogs become more calm, have the ability to think in exciting or worrying situations and learn training aspects at the same time. All though having fun and building a stronger bond with their human: you.
If you are interested in learning more about implementing these training methods or setting boundaries for your own dog, do not hesitate to reach out to Noble Canine via our website at: www.noble-canine.com