Third Way Canine House Rules

The below "House Rules" are the rules for living with your dog that we send to all new clients.  Almost every unwanted or dangerous behaviour we see in the dog starts in the home - usually as the result of the best of intentions.  By implementing a few simple ground rules for how you live and interact with your dog, and being consistent with those rules, you should start to see an immediate change in your dog's mindset and behaviour.  How you live with your dog not only sets the tone for your relationship with them going forward, but forms the very cornerstone of your training.

House Rules

  1. DO have clear structure and boundaries in the home. Collar and leash on at all times when the dog is not crated, so that you can reinforce commands and provide directional guidance. Your puppy/dog should either be tethered to you where possible until s/he understands the house rules, or in his/her crate when you are not around to supervise. Remember to remove all leashes and collars before crating your dog.  Check your dog’s equipment every day: until and unless the dog is 100% reliable off leash, a frayed, poorly-fitted, or broken collar can result in heartbreak.

  2. DON’T let your puppy or dog free roam.  What we as humans see as “freedom” equals “territory” - territory to be patrolled and controlled - to a dog. This is how reactivity and barking start, because the dog does not feel safe.  S/he thinks your house is his/her house.  Territorial behaviours are not your dog “being protective”.  Don’t allow exceptions, because dogs do not understand exceptions. For example, the dog doesn’t understand, “You’re allowed on the sofa, but only when I say so.”

  3. DO be clear in your communication with the dog. Use set commands and praise words, and be aware of your body language. Dogs use non-verbal communication and therefore understand it and read it far better than humans do. Learn to communicate like a dog!

  4. DON’T chit-chat, cajole, beg, or use baby talk with your dog. Human words are just sounds to the dog, and mean nothing unless a clear association has been made with a particular sound. Constant chatter is white noise to a dog, and can confuse it or over-excite it.

  5. DO praise and reward judiciously and appropriately. Remember: “maximums for minimums”. The dog should be in a service mindset, where s/he is doing the work – not you!  This is what dogs were bred for, and what keeps them contented and calm: it's in their genetics!  Always be aware of what you are rewarding the dog for. If you reward your dog for sitting very nicely, when he is in fact sitting and targeting a prey item or eyeballing another dog, you are actually rewarding the targeting behaviour (prey drive).  What we reinforce, we build, so it's important to be aware of what drive you may unintentionally be building (food, sex, pack, social, prey, or defence).

  6. DON’T over-praise, or fuss unnecessarily. To a dog, praise = permission. Don’t keep repeating, “Good dog! Good dog!”.

  7. DO set a limit on feeding time (unless you are using all existential food to train with). When the food has been put down, allow 10-15 minutes max for the dog to eat it. Anything unfinished should be disposed of or, if dried kibble and safe, put back in the container to be used at the next meal.

  8. DON’T leave food down all day, and don’t feed before a training session. Aside from the hygiene aspect, food is of far higher value to a dog if it is earned. Never allow a dog to pick up food from the floor.  All food comes from your hand, or the dog’s bowl. If you allow a dog to scavenge, it will always scavenge. What happens when it finds discarded food on your walk or outdoor training session?  What happens if that food is poisoned?

  9. DO have your dog sit and wait at every threshold.  This is an exercise in subtle dominance and, more importantly, it will keep your dog safe. Dogs with manners and well-trained impulse control do not bolt out of the front door and get hit by cars.

  10. DON’T allow your dog to bust out of its crate when you open the door, push through doorways ahead of you, or step off kerbs in front of you.

  11. DO teach your dog that other people, things, and dogs are things to be ignored. If the dog receives unearned praise in the form of affection (or worse, food) from someone else, s/he will continue to seek affection/food from strangers. If the dog sees other things as higher value than you, you will sacrifice obedience and, as a consequence, safety.  If someone can entice your dog, they can steal your dog.  Environmental and social neutrality is one of the greatest gifts you can give a dog.

  12. DON’T be afraid to tell other people, “No.” Nobody has the right to interact with or touch your dog. Learn to be assertive and politely say, “No, I’m sorry, you can’t pet him/her; we are training,” with a smile, and move on.

  13. DO be the leader and advocate your dog needs you to be. Your dog will follow your example. If you fuss and worry over things, so will your dog.  Incremental stress builds confidence – both yours and your dog’s.

  14. DON’T throw away the time, money, and effort you have invested in training by sending your dog to “doggie daycare”, or on “play dates”. Dogs are instinctual, domesticated, opportunistic predators descended from wolves, not tiny infant humans in fur coats. Your dog will learn nothing good from the chaos that is daycare / play dates.

  15. DO socialize your dog properly and in a species-appropriate way.  Not by teaching them "how to greet other doggies nicely", or by having them "Say hi!" to other people and children, but by exposing them to the environment, people, and other animals around them with neutrality and calmness.  NOTHING should be of greater value to the dog than you!

Training is an ongoing process throughout the life of the dog.  If the dog’s eyes are open, it’s learning – so what are you teaching it? Investing time and effort without trying to take short-cuts or use quick fixes will pay dividends in the long run, and you will have something that the majority of dog owners (and many dog trainers!) will never experience.