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You Set Your Own Boundaries. What Do You Let Your Dog Get Away With?

I’d attended one prior practice when my future flyball teammates invited me to a flyball seminar by Colleen Morita that they were hosting. I eagerly said yes, bringing 8 week old Amidi, who had arrived in Washington the day before, along with me. And that was one of the first questions that she posed us. What do you let your dog get away with?

So very often, I get clients who sheepishly ask me – “I sometimes let my dog ______. Is that okay?” Very occasionally, the answer is that letting them do a particular action can be unsafe for a variety of reasons. But more often my answer is: “If you’re okay with ______ possible side effects from that behavior, then you can set your boundaries wherever you want. Just be consistent.”

What are my boundaries?

  • I don’t let my dogs correct each other.

  • I don’t let them be grumpy about sharing their space.

  • I don’t let them bark at noises at the door. With actual visitors I allow a few barks before sending them to their place or crate.

  • I don’t want them to ask to go out, they’ll go out when I take them out (within reason).

  • My dogs get up when I do, whether that be at 5am or 12pm.

And yes, I very much realize I draw very different boundaries than many other people.

Tabiri loves putting paws on my shoulders

But what are they allowed to get away with?

  • They’re allowed to beg.

  • I don’t bother training them not to counter surf because there’s a baby gate keeping them out of the kitchen.

  • They get mouthy with me in play.

  • They’re allowed to jump up, yes even on strangers.

Again, I know these are very different things than most people allow, but I have my reasons for each of them.

Why are those the lines I draw?

  • I’ve talked about allowing dogs to correct each other all the time can foster stress and resentment.

  • Not being willing to share space (with polite other dogs) can quickly devolve into resource guarding. I’m not going to let another dog pester them, but they need to allow another dog to get on the couch near them.

  • Barking is one of those things that tends to trigger sensory issues for me. I can handle it in the short term, but long term not so much. Yes, dogs bark, but once I’ve acknowledged them and given them a “Thank you, that’s enough” I expect them to settle.

  • I hate pacing. That’s another thing that tends to set off my sensory issues. Dogs that want to go out tend to pace and they tend to be demanding. So we have set times when they go outside every day and then there’s no more conflict for either of us.

  • Unfortunately, my schedule can be pretty varied. Having a dog constantly wake up at 6am every morning, ready for the day can be problematic when I worked till 10pm the night before and need to sleep in. My dogs have learned, as long as the lights are off, they are sleeping.

  • But begging? That’s just not a big deal for me. As long as they aren’t poking me, trying to steal food off my plate and just sitting or standing at a distance, I don’t mind. Is it problematic when we visit my parents (especially because my dad will feed them)? Yes, but that’s also why I can send them to their place or put them in crates.

  • I hate training them to Keep Off counters, so I just don’t. They stay out of the kitchen through easy management.

  • My dogs have soft mouths with they mouth. I subscribe to Ian Dunbar’s bite inhibition training methods, so they learn how to be gentle when playing when they are young so we can continue to rough house as they grow up. With some breeds, this would never be a feasible option.

  • -Amidi is really my only big jumper. And she was allowed to jump on people, I didn’t even teach Keep Off, until she was about 8 months old. She loved people as a puppy (she still often does even as an adult) and I didn’t want to kill any of that drive and friendliness, so we waited to cap her enthusiasm until it was already well instilled.

Note, although I allow behaviors many don’t and discourage other behaviors many don’t mind, I have tangible reasons for each of my boundaries. The rules you set with your own dog are going to vary by your individual needs. So I encourage everyone to actually make a list so everyone in the house is on the same page.

Don’t want to allow your dogs on furniture? Great, make sure your dogs have their own comfortable places instead. Don’t want to allow your dogs on one particular antique? Cool, they can have the rest of the furniture. Want your dog to ask for permission before being allowed up? Good, make sure you are enforcing that behavior every single time until it becomes automatic for your dog. Don’t mind that your dogs are one the furniture? No worries, but make sure you think about other people’s furniture if you ever go visiting.

Essentially, you can set you boundaries wherever you want as long as everyone stays safe, but consistency is going to be the key.

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