It’s happened to all of us: we meet a new friend and we like them so much we tell them to call us anytime. When they do, we get flustered because we’re busy and have other things going on in our life. I see this all the time, people getting annoyed at one another for doing exactly what they’ve encouraged, tolerated and even rewarded (picking up a call in the middle of a meeting).
Goodness! No wonder we have such a hard time setting boundaries for our dogs! Dogs, just like humans, require clear and concise parameters to help them understand their relationship with us. These “guidelines” help our relationships continue down a positive and loving path where both individual’s needs are met.
Now, while I do not claim to be a psychologist nor an expert on the human mind, I can tell you that I have learned a few things to help me develop friendly boundaries with dogs that may just be applicable to humans as well:
Be present whenever you are with your friend. When you walk your dog, walk your dog. If you chat on your cell phone the entire time, you miss a great opportunity to reinforce good leash walking behavior and eye contact which goes a long way to prevent unwanted behavior. Plus, you miss important bonding time with your pooch; another great tool in preventing naughtiness.
Say goodbye to guilt! You have to go to work, run errands, and leave your dog alone for life’s necessities. If you give your dog appropriate mental, physical and social stimulation when you are home, you have no need to worry all day about whether or not your dog is happy.
Set and stick to expectations. It is super confusing to allow your dog to jump on you when you walk in the door from work but then get angry when your dog does the same to your guests. Again, don’t feel guilty. By teaching your dog a simple “sit” when you spot any human walking towards you, you will aid in the development of good social behaviors and further reinforce what is acceptable behavior. Over time and with consistency, you will eventually see a lovely doggie smile as a result of all that great attention he or she gets for “sitting pretty.”
All good behavior should be rewarded. The whole concept of training is to work with our dogs so they naturally and freely behave in a manner which is appropriate. Unfortunately, many people only look for the negative behavior and respond strictly to that, often finding their interactions with their dog peppered with “No’s” and ”Stop that’s.” Try changing your point of view: if your dog is good when you watch a movie, sits at a street corner without being asked, or goes to “bed” during meals, make sure to communicate that by providing praise. Your dog will learn that getting attention for good, calm behavior results in love and rewards instead of sock stealing, barking, and grabbing your shirt to get attention in a busy home.