The Secret to a Well Behaved Dog: Lock the Liquor Cabinet!

by Camilla Gray-Nelson

zoey corgy puppyThink of all the “naughty” things your puppy or dog has done over the years.  Were you watching when he did it?  Probably not.  Did you blame the puppy?  Probably.  Hmmm. I’d like to come to your dog’s defense, with a different perspective on on to have a well behaved dog.

Did you know that dogs were not designed to make independent, responsible choices?  They are pack animals. A well behaved dog depends on boundaries and limits being set 24-7 by their pack mates.  Nature never planned on the rest of the pack going to work or out to lunch with a girlfriend!  With this perspective, you can start to understand how unrealistic it is to leave our puppies or young dogs alone and expect them to follow our “rules” while we are gone. What rules? Young dogs, especially, are programmed to experiment with their environment until they find a boundary.  They are like teenagers at a party with the parents gone and the liquor cabinet unlocked.  Never a good idea.

Dogs by nature do whatever they want, whenever they want, until they get bored or somebody stops them.  That’s just a fact.  If you are gone, how can you stop them from doing anything?  Instead if getting angry and punitive with a dog that eats the sofa while you are gone, work with his natural instincts, not against them.  Learn to divide your dog’s time between supervised living and comfortable confinement.

When you are home with your dog, keep an eye on him.  If he has been untrustworthy in the past, make sure he does not scamper off out of your sight!  I’ve never known a dog mishap to occur while the owner was actually watching.  It always occurs when the owner is gone or distracted and the dog is out of their sight.  He ate your shoes because he snuck into your bedroom closet while you were doing yard work.  He raided the kitchen garbage because you were on the computer answering emails.  He pooped behind the sofa in the formal living room while you were on the phone in the kitchen.  LOCK THE LIQUOR CABINET!

When you are home, keep the dog in the same room with you.  If you do not have voice control to prevent him wandering off, try leashing him to you or to something close by. When I work in my home office, my puppy is tethered to my desk and resting in her bed near my feet.  I can concentrate on the work at hand, and not be distracted wondering where she’s run off to and what she’s doing.  When you go outside, let your dog run and play in the yard for a while as you water the plants, and make sure he doesn’t eat the hose.  Have good fun.  Take nice walks together for exercise and bonding.  Throw the Frisbee at the dog park.

When you cannot watch or supervise, either because you must leave the house, take a shower or be otherwise occupied, confine your dog to an area in which he has no access to “liquor” (anything that you don’t’ want him to destroy or soil). You can do this any number of ways:

  • Doggie daycare at a facility that will supervise your dog for you
  • A crate (if 4 hours or less)
  • A dog run (if more than 4 hours) with shade, food, water and a place to do his “business”
  • An X-pen in the garage, laundry room or kitchen.  (X-pens are those foldable, wire enclosures that they sell at most pet stores).

When you begin dividing your dog’s life into just 2 categories, “supervised or confined”, you will be amazed at how well behaved your dog becomes.  Try it!


About Camilla Gray-Nelson

When I started training dogs professionally, it was women who sought out my help. Responsibility for the family dog typically falls to them, after all. Their homes were in chaos; they were yelling at their dogs – and their kids – and couldn’t control either one. The life skills of personal power that I learned as a child (and assumed everyone else had, too), turned out to be rare among my clients. Since that time, it has been my personal goal to share Nature’s message of quiet power with women (and men) everywhere to help them become more effective not only with their dogs, but in their greater lives as well.

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