Because of their nature as social pack animals, dogs want us to tell them what they’re supposed to do. Their goal is to help the pack survive, and they do it by following the pack leader. It’s the job of the pack leaders to provide protection and direction. Establishing and enforcing rules, boundaries, and limitations is how they provide direction to the pack.
‘ Rules refer to what a dog is and isn’t allowed to do: Stay off of my bed but sleep on yours; don’t jump on people; don’t pull on the walk.
‘ Boundaries control where a dog can and can’t go: The baby’s room is off-limits; don’t go out the door until I say so; you can only enter my personal space when I invite you. Boundaries are about claiming territory, and they teach your dog what is and isn’t his.
‘ Limitations control the length or intensity of an activity: We stop playing fetch when I say so; you’re too excited, so it’s time to return to a calm and submissive state with a timeout.
Rules, boundaries and limitations can keep a dog from misbehaving because they give her something else to do. For example, if your dog has separation anxiety, create a rule that she has to lie on her bed when you’re getting ready to leave. This will keep her from becoming excited because she associates the bed with being calm and submissive. She will stay in this frame of mind when you leave. If your dog is an obsessive beggar, create a boundary around the table, constraining the dog from approaching while humans are eating.
Because our dogs want to please us, their Pack Leaders, our approval becomes the positive reinforcement they need. We just have to be clear and consistent with what we want. Creating rules, boundaries, and limitations and enforcing them provides that clarity and consistency for our dogs.