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When we brought home our first baby (human), Emma, we had a lot of questions about how she and the dogs would interact.
Boundary training for dogs was not on our radar because our solution was to use barriers and fences to keep dogs and babies separated, while not being 100% able to monitor dog-baby interactions.
However, Kevin and Rachael worked with Harley and Charlie to set boundaries. Boundary training for dogs was important in their home as they set boundaries for their dogs.
Read on to learn more about dog boundary training and how to set and ban an area for your dog.
UPDATE: This post was originally published on MyDogLikes on June 20, 2017. We recently updated and republished here on PuppyInTraining.com.
As soon as we brought our (human) baby home, we knew that setting clear rules with the dogs would be very important.
Just as we are going to teach our child that the dogs have certain places (like their beds and food bowls) that are safe spaces where they should not be disturbed, we wanted Harley and Charlie to understand that the new baby has a few places that should not be disturbed become. also off-limits.
Chief among these would be his play mat, where he spends time each day stretching, playing and learning.
As much as the dogs would love to lie on the floor next to our baby, they simply aren’t aware enough of their bodies to trust that close!
Full Moon is sponsoring this training series and we will be using their new Training Treats to reward the boys for their attention and hard work! We encourage you to read our latest review and find one for yourself!
What is dog boundary training?
Most dogs have one place command – where they go to a certain place and lie down when ordered to do so.
Think of boundary training as the opposite: you teach them areas that are off-limits.
This is usually taught to dogs by showing them the size of their property.
In our case, we wanted to teach Harley and Charlie that our baby’s mat was one of these forbidden places.
They are used to being able to move freely around the house (even the furniture), so this would take some work!
How to teach your dog boundaries
Having some sort of visual barrier helps make boundary training significantly easier.
If you are trying to teach your dog to stay out of a room, or part of a room where there is no barrier, setting up temporary markers is crucial through the initial stages.
The basics of this type of training are very well explained in this video – in which the trainer teaches the dog to stay behind an (ultimately) invisible boundary.
Apply this technique
As we mentioned above, we would set up a play mat as our ‘forbidden zone’.
While it has clearly defined boundaries, it also has four sides, which adds an extra twist to the example above.
However, the principles remain the same and it serves as a good starting point for modeling our training…
Keeping your dog off a mat or blanket
Step 1: Charge your Clicker
If you’re not familiar with this term, it means clicking the clicker and rewarding with treats. If you are new to using a clicker, spend some time charging the clicker.
Do this until your dog consistently responds to the sound of the click and waits/expects a treat to be delivered.
Although our boys have been clicker training for years, we start all our training by doing this a few times.
This reminds the dogs of the purpose of the device, and that it is not something to be afraid or worried about.
Step 2: Restrain your dog
Put your dog on a leash and let him walk next to you. (If they don’t know that command, a suit of armor or double handle belt would also work.)
You want them walking beside you for this next step.
Step 3: Defining the boundaries
Walk them around the boundaries of the area you want to keep them away from – making sure you stay between the boundary and your dog.
In this case, you provide an additional obstacle between them and the object to emphasize that it is a barrier.
Click and treat as you walk through this area several times.
Step 4: Approaching the Borders
Then you want to make it clear to them that they are not allowed to cross these boundaries.
Place a few feet between you and your dog and the boundary.
When you are ready, walk your dog to the boundary stop just before the leash, clicking and treating when your dog stops and does not go any further.
Make sure you release the treat on the side you want your dog to stay on. This will help them understand that this is their favorite place to be!
Now quickly walk away (with your dog) before approaching him and repeat this process of clicking and dropping a treat just before you reach the boundary.
If at any time they step on or over the boundary, simply move them a few yards away and try to approach again.
Continue this process until they understand that the click and the boundary mean stop!
After they’ve mastered this, it’s time to practice without a leash!
Step 5: Crossing the boundaries
Next we’re going to add a level of difficulty, by crossing the border ourselves, but expecting our dogs to stay behind!
Approach the boundary with your dog as before, clicking and dropping a treat when you reach the leash, but this time step over yourself.
Does your dog stay behind the border? click and reward repeatedly while they stay there!
If they follow you instead, move closer to them to see if they step back and correct themselves.
If they move or sit behind the line, click and treat. If not, move them away from the border and try this step again.
Step 6: Increasing the distance/time
After your dog has mastered stopping at your boundary, move a little further past it.
You want them to understand that this rule applies no matter how close you are to the border.
If they step on the line or into the prohibited area, step toward them until they back away. Once they get back behind the border, click and treat before they move back again.
During this step you will also want to work on increasing the time between rewards.
Maintain eye contact so your dog knows you are watching him. Return to the border at regular intervals to click and reward for reinforcement!
Step 7: Adding Sides
If you have a multi-sided border (like our playmat), you’ll want to approach it from different sides and angles to reinforce this command.
They may conclude that the rule applies no matter which side they approach it from, or you may need to start at the beginning to emphasize this point.
You will also want to move the mat to different areas of your home for further practice and generalization.
Over time, they will understand that this mat is off-limits and can even apply the training to other blankets or mats!
Final thoughts on training
As with most training, some dogs will master the essentials of the skill right away, while others will require regular practice.
Remember to stop if your dog seems to be getting frustrated or angry. You can always start working on it again tomorrow!
We must also keep in mind that no matter how well trained your dog is, he should NEVER be left alone with a baby or small child.
Despite training and temperament, dogs are still animals and can react unexpectedly, especially to something as unpredictable as a child!
Last but not least, one of the keys to a successful workout is a high-quality treat.
We love Full moon training treats because they are the perfect size for regular treats and come in 2 flavors that our dogs love: Organic Chicken and Cage Free Duck!
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Top picks for our puppies
- BEST PUPPY TOYS
We love: Calmeroos puppy toy with heart rate and heat packs – Perfect for new puppies. Helps reduce anxiety in their new home.
- BEST DOG CHEW
We love: Mighty Paw Naturals bully sticks – All our puppies love to bite, nibble and chew. We like to use Bully Sticks to avert this unwanted behavior.
- BEST DOG TRANSFERS
We love: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats – We use these as our high-quality treats for our guide dog puppies.
- BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
We love: The Farmer’s Dog -A few months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Receive 50% off your first order from The Farmer’s Dog.
Check out more of our favorites on our new puppy checklist.