Hello dear friends!
You’ve likely heard Brad say “dogs want to work, give them a job” over and over again. Maybe you tried having your dog mop the floor or do the dishes but that didn’t work out so well. We want to create jobs for our dogs, but what does that mean? To help clarify we’d like to talk about what a job means in the human/dog relationship.
In the photo above, our client dog, Remy, learned how to herd sheep at the Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita, CA. It was the best day of his life! He loved every second of it and was actually really good at it (for a Frenchie). However, this job had rules and Paul (the herding expert/handler) enforced the rules to keep the sheep safe and to teach Remy the limitations of being around and herding livestock.
In the past, dogs would do things like hunt, guard livestock, pull things, track, retrieve, or help herd animals on a ranch. That environment is very conducive to a dog’s natural/instinctual needs. They get everything they need to be fulfilled, balanced, and happy in a “traditional” dog job.
But things have changed. Nowadays, most dogs live in cities, far removed from ranches, hunts, and wide-open spaces. The fact is, dogs make lousy accountants, so we’ve got to find some new, city-friendly jobs for our dogs to do. So, what are they?
Well, a job implies a series of tasks, done in a certain way. Dogs thrive within this structure (humans do too). So, we need to give our dogs tasks, and guidelines for those tasks. Our dogs need rules. To put it simply: RULES are JOBS.
And remember – rules should be purposely designed to help modify your dog’s world view, strengthen your relationship, and create healthier behavioral patterns! While some may seem arbitrary to you, when they are all used in conjunction with each other, they all play a part in creating a happy, balanced dog! So, let's set up some house rules. Think of these as the 10 (or 20) commandments of the human/dog relationship.
The house rules as set forth by BDB are:
- No unsupervised free-time (not even a little tiny bit) – for both physical safety and behavioral reasons. If we want to influence our dog’s behavior, then we must be around during those “decision making moments” – tough to do that when you’re not present.
- Do not let your dog claim (or own) resources (food, water, space, time, toys, affection)
- Limit treats for expected behaviors so they have more value when truly needed
- Toys should not be readily available – use them to bond with your dog by introducing them yourself
- Have your dog earn access to your furniture and your intimate space by remaining calm and polite before being invited onto the furniture or into your space (see note below)
- Don’t allow your dog to beg for or dictate food and treats – require a calm mind and spatial politeness before inviting your dog to eat his food
- No attention/affection if the dog is demanding/dictating it – ask for calmness and distance – never reward invasion
- You initiate all fun/rewarding activities, and you decide when they end as well – fetch, tug, exploration, affection, walks, hikes, bike rides, car rides, etc
- When there is food present in the kitchen, ask your dog to wait calmly on her bed away from the kitchen – we want to create calmness and distance around the scent of food
- Use the crate for sleeping at night and quiet/rest time during the day (even when you are home)
- Be sure your dog is totally calm and looking for an invitation when entering and leaving the crate – you decide when they enter and when they come out
- Crate your dog anytime he is unsupervised – but be sure to fulfill the body, mind, and heart prior to asking your dog to rest for long periods of time
- As you ask her not to do the things, show her what she can do - go to her "place”/cot or walk calmly behind you, or sit and wait, etc
- Walk your dog on a loose leash next to or behind you – not because you’re walking faster or restraining him but because he is in a calm, connected, follower state of mind
- Require a calm brain before your dog moves forward or does anything they love – use these moments to reward a calm, connected brain
- Affection: Only give affection to a calm state of mind or a happy-go-lucky state of mind, but please do give affection and praise when he is calm - it's crucial they can substitute what not to do with something they can do
- Affection is most any type of petting, touching, treats, kisses, play, soft voice/energy, etc. A fulfilled/calm dog is a great dog. That state of mind is perfect for affection. But trying to calm an excited mind through affection only perpetuates that state of mind
- Limit talking to your dog unless you are truly asking them to do something – it’s only noise to them and creates unnecessary excitement or worse – you become white noise and your dog will tune out when you need them to tune in
- “BY INVITE ONLY” – your dog can only do what he is invited (by you) to do
These might seem strict, but if you look at it through the right lens, you can see that these rules create a safe “work” environment for your dog. It will help keep them happy and balanced. People often say to us “my dogs are like my kids.” Well, you certainly have rules for your kids, so why would your dog be any different?
Now, these rules are a starting point, but we want you to start with all of them. Some of these rules might be able to change a little over time, or there might be additional rules that you find helpful for your particular situation. For example: pets on furniture. We actually don’t mind if your dog joins you on the couch, but it has to be done in a certain way until your dog is a calm, balanced, respectful member of your family. You have to invite them, and only when they are in a calm, follower state of mind. Fact is, it will take time to develop that relationship with your dog, and until you’re there, it’s best to abstain from letting them on the furniture at all. Rules are a part of life, and as the calm, capable leader it is our job to establish and follow through those rules. Easy enough? High-five.