House rules is an easier way for your puppy to understand what is allowed and what not. Consider it from Fido’s point of view – he is shouted at and pushed off Mom and Dad’s bed when Dad is home but he is allowed to jump up for a quick cuddle if Dad is away. He is also not allowed to sit by the table when the grandparents are over for dinner, but if it’s just the parents and kids they feed him scraps while they are eating. Can you imagine how confusing this is for Fido and how anxious he gets because he never knows what is and isn’t allowed, if he is going to be in trouble or not?
Set the rules
It is vitally important that the whole family agree on the house rules. If he isn’t allowed on Mom and Dad’s bed when Dad is home, he should never be allowed on their bed or any of the other beds in the house – ever. If he isn’t allowed scraps from the table when Granny and Grandpa are there, then he is never given scraps from the table – ever.
The trick with house rules is consistency. Everyone does the same thing and even visitors must be informed what is allowed.
One thing to bear in mind is if he has been doing something successfully for a while, like looking for scraps while you’re eating, and you suddenly change the rules to ‘no scraps’, he is going to be confused. He will wonder why something that he did that worked so well before, like sitting and looking mournful, is now no longer working. That will encourage him to try harder to get you to give him something. He may start pawing your legs, whining, or barking – anything to get you to give him a treat. This is called an extinction burst and it is extremely important that you just ignore what he is doing, even if it is difficult.
He will eventually stop and walk away because dogs only do what works for them – if something is no longer working, they will stop doing it. If you break the rule and slip him a little treat under the table, all you have done is prove to him that if he tries hard enough, he will eventually get what he was looking for. And if he received attention when he barked, he will think that barking works better than just sitting there, meaning he will now bark for scraps.
Where in the house is Fido allowed to go? The main thing to consider with this one is where is he going to sleep as an adult dog. With a puppy it is very hard for those first few days to expect him to sleep on his own in, for example, the kitchen. He has just lost the warmth and comfort of his mother and siblings and he needs a warm body close by. It’s fine to have him sleep beside you in his bed with a hot water bottle and then if he whimpers during the night you can put your hand down so he knows there is someone around.
If you decide to have him in your bed for those first few days that’s fine, but you need to move him to his own bed pretty soon, otherwise you are might have a 45kg dog sleeping beside you for the next 10 years!
Is the kitchen a ‘no dogs’ area? It is much easier for him if you decide on where he can and can’t go and not make it dependent on the time of day. So rather don’t make the rule ‘no dogs allowed in the kitchen at cooking times’ because that is hard for Fido to know exactly when cooking times are. Rather make it ‘no dogs in the kitchen’.
Is he allowed on the furniture? If not, the trick is to never allow him on the furniture from day one. Many owners have a ‘dog chair’ which is the only one Fido is allowed to lie on.
House rules are not hard to apply as long as everyone agrees on them first! House rules need to be agreed on by the whole family, preferably before getting your new puppy or taking home your rescue dog. It is so much easier for Fido if he learns from the very beginning what is allowed and not allowed in the house.