Buster – Setting up for success in the home

Buster is at an age where he thinks he is pretty important, and the next few months he is going to push boundaries.

Wait there quietly, I just need to pop in to the bakery.

It is NOT personal!

It is just what dogs do.

Up to now everyone adores him and caters to his every whim. When he jumps up or nips “he is just being a puppy”. The adult dog ( 12 years old and with epilepsy) in the home as well as the family forgive him for almost anything. However at about five and a half months this stops being cute and starts being a royal pain in the a***. People often become increasingly frustrated as the dog gets bigger and “he’s not just a puppy, he’s a big dog now”.

A lot of dogs don’t make it to their first birthday before they end up in the shelter.

So if you have a dog from a shelter who is, shall we say, between nine months old and eighteen months old then there is a good chance the owners gave up on him for one or more of the behaviors I mentioned in my last post (Buster goes to school).

Just being a dog.

First Things First

The first thing I will do when he arrives in my home is restrict his access to things that might get him into trouble.

So whatever the problem:

Management prevents accidents

“Use management to prevent repetition of the unwanted behavior”

This does not mean that you have to restrict him for life! It means that in order to prevent the behavior becoming a lifetime habit, he has to stop practicing! Then you find a way of training an alternative.

So here is an example:

A pug that I know loves to go into the bathroom whenever the door is inadvertently left ajar and take the tissues out of the waste basket. I will call them tissues because this is a family show, but use your imagination. The owners wanted to know if I would just train him not to do that. Sure, we can do that. But, here’s a thought, why not pop down to Target and get a waste bin with a closing lid on it? Alternatively how about putting self closing hinges on the bathroom door so it always closes automatically. Or a door frame gate? That is management. Set him up for success. That way instead of being rewarded by your attention when he pulls out the tissues and shreds them around the house and you chase after him barking (you know you sound as if you are barking right?) you get to praise and reward him for lazing on his dog bed chewing on an appropriate chew toy.

Safety First

So before Buster arrived I installed a couple of Dog Gates across the doorways into the kitchen, separating the home into smaller manageable areas where he can be closely supervised. For smaller puppies it is really worth setting up a large wire crate and a den style crate inside, because it has a tray style floor and keeps the puppies safe and the mess somewhat contained.

Magic and Grk in the kitchen. A large pen with a roof keeps them safe if I want to go to the grocery store. The smaller crate inside gives them a snuggly space where they feel protected if they are anxious or feeling overwhelmed by the family and the family room or just want to sleep. Their hidey-hole. The door on the small crate is open during the day. The door on the large pen is open while I am present and supervising. They have free run of the kitchen while I am present so that I can praise and reward appropriate behavior and alert them to inappropriate behavior. (Counter-surfing or chewing the linoleum, for example)

The position of the crates in the photograph is deliberate, the dogs feel more content in a corner of a room in preference to an open space or the center of the room.

The goal is total freedom, the fastest and most effective way to get there is carefully structured supervision, education and attention.

Do not give the new dog the run of the house. It is a recipe for disaster!

It is impossible to supervise the dog when you can’t see him so you will spend your time “finding evidence” which is very frustrating and impossible to go back and correct or educate.

Slow is Fast

Introduce him slowly, when he is successful in the first area, gradually expand his area of freedom and his responsibility. The key word is gradually!  The goal is to set him up for success so that you can catch him doing right and praise and reward the behavior.

The purpose is not isolation or separation, that would be punishment. The purpose is for me to spend significant periods of time around Buster, but he is not the center of my attention 100% of the time. For example when I am writing this blog I want him present in the room so that he does not get into trouble out of my sight. He also learns that he can be calm as I am calm. He has structured time when he can play and have fun at my instigation and it is a good idea to do that before I ask for a calm “downtime”.

Dog Gates

There are a number Dog Gates available from pet stores but the most effective, strongest and least ugly I have found are at http://www.orvis.com. They have a wooden one which is wonderful:

Wood Door Frame Gate

My favorite doorway gate!


However if you have rabid chewers they also have a wrought iron one:

Wrought Iron Door Frame Gate

Alternative door frame gate


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