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  • Writer's pictureJenny Stamm

House Rules for Your Pup

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

* Updated 2/8/23: Removed "ignore fear" and explanation as that does not match what science tells us. *

In order to have a well-behaved dog (whether you're hoping to train your dog to be a service dog or not), it's important to have firm, established house rules that all humans follow. These are also useful for all ages of dogs, not just puppies, though the earlier you start, the better it can be.

3 Key Things:

  • Reward good behaviors (like sitting down).

  • Don’t reward unwanted behaviors (like jumping).

  • Reward bravery.

Rewarding Good Behaviors:

a. Good behaviors include polite things such as sitting, laying down, touching a hand, coming when called, walking nicely on a leash, and more.

b. Make sure to reward good behaviors with things the puppy likes, whether that’s treats, toys, playtime, going for a walk, or anything else within reason.

c. Giving attention to the puppy is a great reward, but make sure it’s given for good and polite behaviors only!

Unwanted Behaviors:

a. This includes jumping, mounting, chewing, biting, play biting, mouthing, barking more than once, and more.

b. Attention is very rewarding! So make sure that you take attention away from a dog who is doing an unwanted behavior.

  • Turn your back, cross your arms, walk away, and use a barrier, as necessary

c. The process is to interrupt (stop the behavior), redirect (get a new, good behavior), and reward the new, good behavior.

  • If the puppy barks and you get them to stop, wait to give a treat or a toy until after the puppy has done something good, like sit or lie down.

  • If the puppy does a good behavior on their own, it doesn’t count. We want to distract them away from the thing they were reacting to and switch them into thinking about training and other things (like a treat or toy or chase game)

Reward Bravery

a. Puppies go through several stages where it’s very easy for them to become more anxious and generally fearful. To prevent that, we must keep working with them to help teach them that the world is a fun, calm place, not a scary place.

b. Never force a puppy closer to something they’re nervous about, whether it’s with a leash or by holding them.

c. If you see or hear the puppy acting nervous or fearful, make sure to let them approach the thing at their own pace. If a puppy is barking, put distance between them and the scary thing and then use interrupt, redirect, and reward and keep working with them until they appear calmer.

d. Reward any bravery they show! You can try luring them with treats along the ground or near the object, you can reward moving towards the object on their own, you can walk them past it and praise them for going past (start at more of a distance before moving closer), and similar activities.

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