WHAT IS STRUCTURE?
I often talk about how structure can be a major game changer for dog owners with their pet’s behaviour, but what does it mean?
Structure is an umbrella term for boundaries and rules given to your dog. This includes crating your dog when you’re not home or at night when you’re sleeping, a non-negotiable place command, keeping them in a structured heel on the walk, respecting thresholds (any entrance or exit to the home…the front door, for example), waiting for food, and no free feeding.
- Crating your dog not only keeps them safe and prevents them from eating things they shouldn’t, it teaches your dog how to have down time and just relax. It also prevents them from roaming the house when you’re not home and barking at people passing by through the window. By keeping them calm, you will face much less of a battle accomplishing a more balanced state of mind. This works similar magic as the place command does, which is used more for when you’re home. By controlling where the dog is and not allowing them to whine their way out of it, you make this command non-negotiable and the dog will learn to further relax and ignore what is going on around them. Based on what I have seen, dog that is allowed to do what it wants, when it wants will often become either anxious, or at the other end of the spectrum, pushy and entitled.
- Having your dog wait at thresholds such as the front or back door to your home is a matter of respect. By training and reinforcing the rule that the dog does not barge out of the door as soon as it’s open, you now have a more polite and respectful animal who looks to you for guidance and permission.
- A dog that waits for it’s food is a respectful dog. You gain this respect by teaching the dog that YOU control the food and he does not get to eat until he is in a calm state of mind. Along with this is the topic of free-feeding. Dogs are not cows, they do not need to graze on their food all day. This only leads to an “I’ll get to it when I’m good and ready” mentality, which often translates to additional brattiness in other forms. To avoid this, place the dog’s food down and set a timer for 5 minutes. Then, take away whatever the dog has not eaten after that time. Your dog will learn very quickly that he must eat what is put in front of him WHEN it is put in front of him, or he doesn’t eat. It will only take once or twice before Fido gulps it down each and every time. Controlling the food (his source of life) is a major game changer for all of my clients, sometimes even as drastic as seeing major positive changes in behaviour after only one day of implementing this rule.
So, if you find yourself having issues with your dog at home, try implementing some structure into his life. It will change both of yours for the better!