Most of us have at least one place in our house that we wish our dogs wouldn’t disturb. Whether it’s a room, the cat box or the couch, training your dog to stay away from something is easier than you think.
This type of training is called boundary training and when done properly can be used not only indoors, but outdoors as well.
Although boundary training is relatively easy, it should be done only when your dog knows and readily obeys basic obedience commands such as come, sit, stay, and leave it. Your dog should also respect your role as a fair leader. These basic commands are tools that will lead your dog to success when boundary training.
Ideally, you should set boundaries before your dog is settled into a particular home. For example, a great time to create “off limit” areas is when you’re moving into a new home and basic training has already taken place before you move. The dog is less likely to challenge your authority, and it reduces confusion. Despite it being easier to boundary train in a new environment, you can also have success in your current home, though it will typically take consistent reinforcement and a little more work.
Before you start training, you want to ensure that your dog doesn’t have access to the “off limits” area(s) of the house when you are not home. You can use baby gates, chairs, or plywood to barricade off the area. If you eliminate the possibility of the dog choosing to enter the forbidden area, you will have a greater chance of success.
To train the dog to stay away from the desired space, put your dog on a leash. You need to make sure the dog is under control, you should give the dog the “heel” command if he knows it. Remove the barriers and praise your dog for staying away from the “off limits” location.
Offering verbal praise, petting and treats are all great ways of showing your dog that you like what he is doing. You can slowly offer the dog more freedom after about of week of showing your dog that staying away from the location is a good thing and gets him rewards.
If the dog wanders into the forbidden area, use the method of correction that you have used in previous training to show him that he is doing the wrong thing. It may help to create a literal line with a piece of tape to make a clear boundary in the beginning of training.
This video shows Harvey the dog practicing his boundary training:
Correction and Reinforcement
When allowing your dog the freedom to make his own decisions, you need to ensure that the correction is timed well and positive reinforcement for making the correct decision is consistent. If you allow the dog to cross the boundary even once, you could be setting the dog up to test his limits and see what he can get away with.
Convincing your dog that you know when he crosses the boundary can be tough if you aren’t watching your dog like a hawk. A static stimulation mat can be a useful tool if you don’t always catch the dog crossing the line. These mats deliver a very mild stimulation when touched. If you set up the mat in the “off limit” zone, the dog will immediately get a small correction that will reinforce your training.
When done correctly, boundary training can be very useful and successful. You should take your time to show the dog what is desired and not suddenly enforce new rules. Consistency is the ultimate key in any type of training but is especially important when boundary training.