Believe it or not, but even dog trainer’s dogs get themselves in trouble at home every now and then. Rugby is certainly no exception to that! To be honest, he really doesn’t get into trouble much, and that’s largely because I’m pretty careful about how I choose to live with him.
One of my abiding guidelines that really works, is that Rugby earns everything he gets. I honestly don’t lavish a lot of anything on him, unless he is working, and then I pour it on. He doesn’t expect to get a lot of spoiling from me, because I just don’t do that. As a result, he understands pretty well that he’s a dog, and our pack life is set up in a way that makes sense to him.
Keep in mind that Rugby is a bit of an “edgy” type of dog. He’s reactive, and has a bit of an aggressive bent to him. He’s NOT an aggressive dog, but he can re-direct frustration, over-stimulation, etc. with an excitement nip, which can be a pretty good little bite! As a result, I have to live carefully with him, to keep my family safe, and also to minimize triggers which are likely to create a confrontational situation.
Because Rugby has to earn everything he gets, he earns privileges, like getting on furniture, the big bed for snuggles, people food which might include licking out a yogurt cup, or a bite or two of pizza crust, etc. These are not “rights” at my house, but privileges! They’re very special, and because Rugby earns them, they have a very high value to him. They are things that he’s willing to work for because he doesn’t get them very often!
As a result, if Rugby gets himself into hot water by doing some inappropriate ugly growling, he is immediately scolded when he growls. He is always corrected at the time that he exhibits the inappropriate aggressive behavior! In addition, I yank his privileges, and he does without them for a good little bit. He misses those little privileges, and really shapes up his behavior in a big hurry.
Something else that I do, is I add in additional training. I’ll do a couple of training sessions every day that are 10-15 min long. I might work on skills he already knows, but add in outside distractions, or I might also teach him something new. Keep in mind, that as long as he’s working, he’s getting some little nibbles and he’s also getting lots of pets and hearing all kinds of “Good boys!” He’s working, and I believe in paying dogs well for their work!
How long we follow a stricter guideline varies depending upon his infraction. It could be a couple of days or a few months if he’s really very sassy for an extended amount of time. When I had my Corgi pack, my most dominant Corgi, Schatsi, would get a little big for his britches a couple of times a year. When I took away his furniture privileges and popcorn handouts….well he shaped up in a BIG hurry!! The longest I ever had to put him in the “doghouse” was 2 weeks, and that was long enough to make my point, and he was fine for about another 6 months. He just enjoyed challenging the pack leader to see if he could take over at some point.
I know that this thought hurts dog owners’ feelings, because by and large, dog owners really do enjoy spoiling their dogs. It’s really fun choosing a new toy that we know they will enjoy, or trying a new snack that makes them come alive when they beg for it! However, “spoiling” a dog with everything good and no work to earn it is often is to his detriment, and often results in naughty behavior that can make life with your dog far more difficult. It’s a good idea to have some privileges that you can take away that will have an impact on your dog. The privileges need to be something that your dog is willing to work to earn back, and you need to make them do without that privilege long enough to really see a positive change in your dog’s behavior.
Keep in mind that for many dogs, this guideline is something that you’ll weave in and out of your dog’s life. It’s not necessarily forever, unless the dog needs to have very, very strict rules in order to ensure the safety of everyone in the household. With all of my dogs, I have taken privileges here and there as needed, and given back after the dog’s behavior has changed.