Teaching Good House Behaviors: 2-3 Months
Even if a dog is well socialized and has wonderful obedience they cannot become a guide dog with poor house manners. If a dog has poor or unacceptable house manners they cannot become a guide dog because they will be unsafe or destructive in the home. Guide dogs have to be trustworthy when left alone in all situations: their handler’s home, hotels, office settings, and other people’s homes.
A puppy raiser’s most important job creating boundaries in the home and teaching excellent house manners. Even if a dog is well socialized and obedient they cannot become a guide dog with unacceptable house manners. A dog with poor house manners is unsafe and unreliable and therefore unsuitable to become a guide dog for someone with visual impairments or blind.
It is harder to rectify poor house manners than it is to prevent them from happening. So, it’s our job to reinforce appropriate habits abundantly.
Guide dogs must be must be trustworthy in all settings including their partner’s home, hotels, office settings, and other people’s homes.
Our job is to teach the puppy safe and acceptable house behavior and then test their skills only as they mature and prove reliable. In order to do so, a solid foundation must be given to the puppy at a young age in the home.
Set up for success
When you first get your puppy, they should always be tethered to your person, on a tie down in a clear area while you’re in the room or nearby, or in their crate.
By limiting your puppy’s access to the home, you can reward the puppy’s good behavior and prevent what is undesirable. Then, as the puppy matures and proves to be trustworthy tethered they can be given independence in small, monitored steps.
Independence in the house is earned with consistent and reliable behavior. It is not automatically given because the dog seems old enough or good. Independence should be given in small increments and by following the age appropriate parameters.
By following the guidelines below, you will teach your puppy appropriate house behaviors and your puppy will be trustworthy in the home when they are with their partner.
Goal: All guide dogs must be well behaved and trustworthy in-home environments. Get SMART! Is an exercise that helps you, the puppy raiser, recognize when to offer food reward. It reinforces good behaviors. Delivering food reward in this exercise establishes the pup's understanding of positive reinforcement and good house behaviors.
We will be using Get SMART! In your home for the first six months of puppy raising in the home.
So, what is Get SMART? It's a simple concept that reinforces the pup's understanding of desirable behaviors. We will be using Get SMART for teaching good house behaviors.
Get SMART stands for
You will be "capitalizing on the numerous desirable behaviors the dog performs over the course of an average day by:
- noticing the desirable behavior
- pointing the behavior out to the animal (“mark” with "nice")
- then giving the animal a reward in order to increase the strength of those behaviors”
This is a simple way to get started noticing the behaviors the pup already does that you want to see more of. This exercise helps us develop good behaviors that the pup is already displaying. By telling the dog "good job!" over and over with marker training, we are encouraging the pup to be cooperative, calm, and relaxed in the home. The more we reinforce the actions and behaviors we like to see displayed by the pup, the more the pup will offer that behavior and it will become consistent and reliable.
Get SMART! Behaviors
With this exercise, you want to reward the behaviors you want to see more of. The behaviors should be easy to see and mark because at a young age, the pup should be supervised at all times. Below are some ideas to get you started:
- Walking on a loose leash when tethered
- Chewing on a toy or resting quietly while on the tie down
- Not jumping on people
- Making eye contact when you say their name
- Not investigating tempting items on low tables
- Walking instead of running through the house
- Resting quietly next to you
- Staying quiet in the crate while you're walking by
- Not picking up a dropped item on the floor
- Walking by tempting items like kid's toys, dropped food, shoes, etc.
- Sitting politely to be pet
- Not jumping on furniture
- Waiting politely to be fed mealtimes
This is a short list to get started, we'd love to hear your suggestions that can be added to the list!
How to Get SMART!
Okay, here's the fun part!
- Every day, count out 50 pieces of kibble from one of the pup's meals.
- Set the food out on a table or counter for an easy reminder if they are not in your treat pouch.
- When you see the pup on their best behavior, mark the behavior with "NICE".
- Follow "NICE" with the food reward.
If you aren't home often, work in an office environment, or you're in class most of the day you can practice Get SMART there too!
You can customize Get SMART to fit your needs and the pup's behavior. You can Get SMART with lots of different good behaviors that the pup is doing, or you can focus on one or two things like settling on tie down and not jumping on people.
By six months, the pup should have an excellent understanding of good behavior in the home because of the Get SMART exercises.
If you need support with this exercise, please contact your advisor or area coordinator.
We are using Get SMART for our puppy raising program with permission from Kathy Sdao. If you would like to learn more about Get SMART, please refer to her book "Plenty in Life is Free"
Three to four months:
This time period is the most important time to teach appropriate house behaviors. A pup is still learning and inquisitive. The puppy will often try to jump, scavenge, and pick up objects to explore their environment. Because of their naturally inquisitive mindset a young pup must be with their raiser at all times or in their crate.
- The puppy must be tethered to your person, on a tie down in a clear area while you’re in the room or nearby, or in their crate.
- The puppy should never be unsupervised for any amount of time. If you are not capable of rewarding and redirecting behaviors attentively the puppy needs to be in their crate.
- The pup’s leash should be attached to their collar and attached to you in some way.
- When you’re walking around the house the leash can be tethered to your belt, treat pouch, or in your hand.
- When you’re in a stationary position the pup can be on tie down nearby or the leash attached to you in some way.
- The crate should be used as a tool to keep your home and the puppy safe. If you don’t have time to monitor the pup’s behavior they need to be in the crate.
- Crate time gives the puppy an opportunity to rest and recharge alone.
- Reward desired behaviors throughout the day to establish boundaries and instill positive habits.
- Because the puppy is attached to you on leash you can catch all good behavior and praise it quickly!
- Verbal praise and food reward can be given when the puppy settles quietly, ignores an object on the floor, doesn’t jump on the furniture, etc.
- An effective leader establishes boundaries by acknowledging and praising and good behavior from the puppy.
- Praise your puppy frequently when they are doing the correct behavior without your guidance such as lying down calmly, walking through the house calmly, settling after playtime, chewing on an appropriate toy, etc.
- Anticipate puppy behaviors such as chewing, jumping on furniture, and picking up objects.
- Prevent these behaviors by rewarding good behavior.
- Remove tempting objects from the environment. Objects like rugs with fringe, items on low shelves, trash cans with open lids, or clothes on the floor.
- The puppy can be easily redirected because they are on leash attached to you.
- Always redirect unacceptable behavior in this age period.
- Good house manners are established by reward and redirection.
- Young puppies don’t know what they are doing is wrong or unacceptable so it’s our job to redirect them.
- Here are some examples on how to redirect a puppy’s poor behavior:
- Your puppy picks up an object and starts chewing on it. Replace the object with a Nylabone instead.
- Your puppy likes to jump on people when they enter the house. Place your puppy in a sit position when people come to the door and praise their sit position instead of jumping.
- Your puppy hovers and likes to beg while you’re eating dinner. Instead, place the puppy on a tie down or short leash in a down position and praise their down position instead of begging.
- Tie down introduction can begin to teach settling
- The tie down, like the crate, is an opportunity for the puppy to recharge and rest.
- At this age the tie down should only be used when the raiser is in the same room or nearby to observe the pup’s behavior.
- Make sure the area is clear and free of objects the pup can pull down, chew on, or ingest.