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June 24, 2014

Puppy 101: Rules vs Commands

For every dog, attendance at the School of Puppy Hard Knocks is mandatory. As Penny continues her crash course on how to best navigate this crazy world, I’ve found it helpful to divide her learning into “general rules” and “specific commands.” “If the rule or command is
For every dog, attendance at the School of Puppy Hard Knocks is mandatory. As Penny continues her crash course on how to best navigate this crazy world, I’ve found it helpful to divide her learning into “general rules” and “specific commands.” Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, marking our territory, dog blog, adventure, chicago

“If the rule or command is ‘be cute’, I got it covered!”

Rules are sweeping generalizations that prepare Penny for how to interact with both the familiar and the unfamiliar. I’ve found shaping rules with exclusionary terms to be most helpful. For example:

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, marking our territory, dog blog, adventure, chicago

Rule: Nothing is a toy unless it is explicitly identified as a toy

Penny’s food bowl has many of the same qualities as her toys do, so she understandably treated it like one. When I see Penny playing with something that’s not a toy I immediately redirect her to a familiar toy. I help her identify those acceptable toys with verbal encouragement.

Penny is beginning to catch on as to what she is allowed to play with. By using exclusionary framing for the rule, no matter what new items are introduced to the apartment Penny will learn to leave them alone.

Eko helps with a few dog rules of his own.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, marking our territory, dog blog, adventure, chicago

Rule: Never bite a dog with force anywhere (ear, tail, etc) 

General rules dovetail nicely into specific commands. One of my favorite terms is a blended rule/command. When I say “gentle” Eko knows I’m not asking for a specific behavior, but a calm demeanor. We’re working on this calming technique with Penny as well.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, marking our territory, dog blog, adventure, chicago

When excited, a ‘gentle’ reminder lets Penny know to eat her treat with lady manners

As if all that wasn’t enough for Penny to study, she needs to learn her obedience commands AND learn that commands always trump rules.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, marking our territory, dog blog, adventure, chicago

Commands also help teach rules. Penny knows the rule she cannot bite skin, clothing or shoes, but no one ever said anything about bracelets! With enough “leave it” commands Penny will learn the exclusionary rule, “Never bite anything attached to a human.”

But wait, there’s more! *Cue groaning classroom of puppies* Dogs also must learn the only command that matters is the most recent one given. Penny is not always a fan of that rule of command. Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, marking our territory, dog blog, adventure, chicago

I identified the stick as a toy and gave Penny the “take it” command. She was incredulous when I then gave the “leave it” command

Rules, commands, rules of commands – I’ll admit, it’s not the most fun stuff. BUT, it’s exactly what allows you the ability to safely and responsibly do the fun stuff. I don’t have to tell you I have plenty on my Fun-Stuff-To-Do-List for Miss Penny.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, marking our territory, dog blog, adventure, chicago

FUN STUFF!!!

Class is always in session, so if you have any rules or commands you find particularly helpful with your pets be sure to let me know.

Comments for Puppy 101: Rules vs Commands

  1. I sure wish I had known you when we first got Dakota. Fabulous!

  2. I found LEAVE IT to be one the best commands we ever accomplished because it can apply to so much that can otherwise end up being dangerous, whether it be something they could ingest or an animal could bite back (snakes and possums in particular!). I also like the FREEZE command, which we have yet to accomplish, which is obviously meant to stop the dog in their tracks…great for when you live in an area with dangerous places like roads or ponds.

    Also, such cute pictures! 🙂

  3. amy says:

    Things to teach dog…
    Stay close. Good to teach on lead when she is off lead
    Get off
    Inside voice. No bark but moan or growl okay
    Read book called Chase by Pilley. Great fun informative read.

  4. Victoria says:

    i am sure she will be just as good a student (maybe not as attentive) as Eko was – and once she learns you guys will have even more fun- my favorite command (not always followed depends on what it is) is leave it – its one we use in the country and the woods more than you would think – dead bird -LEAVE IT. Snake – LEAVE IT. katy-dids and skinks – always say LEAVE IT but Muffin just refuses as she likes to put these in her mouth where i don’t see that she has them and carry them in the house where she lets them loose and plays with them.

  5. Kyla says:

    Obedience school? Bwahahaha. We terriers are notorious for flunking. Why did humans breed us to work independently from them and then send us to obedience school?

  6. Gabi says:

    That’s a very complicated way to think of it! It makes a lot of sense though, but when I’m raising a puppy I kind of just “do” and don’t think about what I’m doing. You have a really good plan, Penny is going to grow up to be a very well mannered dog!

  7. Emmadog says:

    Dogs are happier with rules and commands even when it seems harsh at times. I know I have been working more with Mom lately for a test I have coming up and I feel better because I know I can’t let things slide anymore. Bailie, on the other hand, feels rules and stuff are made to be tested and she is determined to break as many as she can!

  8. Misaki says:

    Penny is coming along leaps and bounds xx

  9. pawedblog says:

    You make this training stuff look so easy!!… A credit to you!
    Don’t know if you take part or not Will, but we have an award for you over here: http://pawedblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/yay-we-got-a-liebster-award/
    Hugs, Carrie and pups x

  10. Penny is so adorable – such an expressive face……and the photos of her capture the joy of puppyhood so well.

    Pam

  11. I think dogs like it to have something to do :o) we tried to teach Easy that he can bring special things on command… ok, we nailed it, he takes the things but for himself. ( that’s a success of 50%, not bad lol )

  12. Wow Penny is growing so much

  13. Rules are meant to be broken, lol

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