How to Boundary Train your Dog
No matter how much you love your dog, there is likely to be a place in your home where you don’t want him to go – whether you want to keep the bedrooms dog-hair free, have the sofa to yourself or keep them off the vegetable patch!
Training your dog to recognise these areas as off-limits may seem a difficult task, but with careful training and consistency – it’s easier than you might think!
Understanding the Basics
Before you begin any training like this, whether it’s recall training, retrieval training or boundary training, it’s essential that your dog already understands and responds well to basic commands. Teaching your dog to sit, stay, heel and leave are the usual starting points and all will prove to be great tools for boundary training.
Your dog also needs to recognise you as the dominant one – if your dog thinks you’re a pushover, they are much less likely to respond to commands.
Boundary training is much easier in a new environment as you can set boundaries straight away, and your dog is less likely to get confused. But it is possible to train your dog to respect your boundaries in their existing home – it will just take longer and you will have to be consistent. If you’ve decided the dog is not allowed on the sofa, don’t make exceptions. Every time you give in and let him up, you’ll be right back to square one!
Ready your home for when your dog is home alone – you don’t want them to be able to break the rules just because you’re not there. Closing doors, using baby gates for stairs and even putting obstacles in their way will reinforce your rules.
To begin your training, you need to have complete control over your dog. If you are confident they will respond to voice commands, you can leave them off-lead, if not, put them on their lead to ensure control.
Remove your usual barriers to off-limits areas, and tell your dog to ‘heel’. If you are in the garden make sure your dog doesn’t go out alone for a while, and stays close by at all times. If you are in the home, whenever you enter the room that has access to the off-limits area keep them to heel. If he stays away from the areas – reward him!
Remember, reward-based training is much more effective and kinder for your pet. Treats are great for rewards, but use low fat treats if you’re training a lot. Praise and petting works just as well for many dogs and communicates that you are happy with their behaviour.
After about a week of staying away from the desired area, you can slowly begin to let your dog explore and enjoy more freedom. But keep an eye on them from the top of the garden or the next room. So long as they continue to stay away from the off-limits area, reward them. They will quickly learn that they get nice treats if they respect the boundaries.
You can slowly offer the dog more freedom after about one week of showing your dog that staying away from the location is a good thing and gets him rewards.
If the dog goes past the boundary you have set, use a method of correction that has worked for you in the past, so he knows that it is unacceptable to enter that space.
Methods of Correction
Boundary training is about letting your dog make his own decisions, and you need to use both positive reinforcement methods (rewards) as well as methods of correction.
Often the commands ‘no’ or ‘leave’ are sufficient, so it is essential that these are taught as part of your initial, basic training.
Correcting behavior is all about timing – too late and your dog will continue to push the boundaries and test your patience. That’s why you need to accompany your pet everytime he has access to the restricted area while you are training him.
A well timed ‘No!’ as he lifts the paw to go up the stairs, should stop your dog in his tracks. If practiced consistently and regularly, most dogs will recognise your boundaries within a few weeks.
The team at Green Lane Farm have years of experience working with dogs, and will be happy to share their tips with you to help you get the most from your training. Simply pop it to speak to us, or enquire the next time you visit for your pet boarding or grooming.