Too much freedom too fast.
I’m often faced with new doggy owners who are struggling with their pup inside the home, whether it’s housebreaking, destruction, or being plan obnoxious. My destressed owners are often at their wits end with their furry friend. I often find in these scenarios that it’s rarely the dog that is the problem. It’s actually the human and their unrealistic expectation of the dog’s behavior when they first bring them home. Unfortunately and fortunately, our dogs do not come preprogrammed of what’s expected of them in a household. I say unfortunately, because man what a world it would be if we never had to housebreak a dog again. On the flip side, how boring would a dog be if they followed all of our unnecessary rules? Anyways, we must understand that our dog doesn’t know anything about our household, so therefore we must assume the role of teacher.
When I first bring a dog home, I have already preplanned an area that allows the dog to decompress and relax. Meaning I find a low trafficked room and set up either a crate with a sheet to go over or a pen or even a baby gate to block free access. This is what I will from now on introduce my dog to as the safe area. This is where meals happen and where high value treats and toys are given. I want the dog to understand that they do not have to engage with everything going on in the home and teaches them that space is not a bad thing. This area will also help me introduce a housebreaking schedule curtailed to my pup’s needs. So again, safe area is a must when you first bring a dog into your home.
Now when my dog is out of their safe area and is in the home best believe they are tethered to me or are dragging their leash around. Far too often I see owners just turn their dog loose into a home and allow them free access to the entire house. This is a no go and probably one of the worst things you can do when you’re bring a new dog into your home. My recommendation is until your dog knows the rules of your home they must be watched and the easiest way to watch them is to tether them to you or baby gates. Management is key to long term success with your dog. Not saying your dog will always be strictly managed, but in the beginning my dog will earn their freedom as they demonstrate understanding of the house rules and trust is built between us. Until then, my dog will be guided as I set them up for success and reward all the good behaviors that they provide.
Now for the final part, realize that there is no time limit on the above steps. It’s dependent of the dog in front of you and how consistent you are on your part. Remember it’s our job to teach and guide our dogs in a way they understand. If they screw up it’s more than likely your fault in the beginning. So make sure you’re meeting your dog’s needs and setting them up to ultimately have freedom in your home. Don’t let your unrealistic expectations get in the way and give your dog too much too fast. Slow and steady wins the race.