Rules, Boundaries, and Limitations

Overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, Jagger mouths my arm. (Fortunately, he has a very soft mouth or I wouldn’t be foolish enough to wait him out. Or photograph him doing it.)

Jagger is a dog who lived the first years of his life by his own rules. His mantra is “If it feels good, do it!” No one ever effectively told him he couldn’t do something. And, if you tried, boy would he throw a tantrum. That’s how he was when he came to stay with me. He did what he wanted and, if I told him “No,” he pitched a fit. Jumping up, zooming around the room, mouthing me, pulling on my clothes. He simply did not know what to do when he didn’t get his way.

I was not forceful in setting up the rules. I simply waited him out. Blasting out of the kennel when I opened it was not permitted. If he tried, I closed the door on him, waited, then tried again. If he jumped on me, I turned into a statue and waited for him to calm down before returning my attention to him. When he mouthed me, I stood completely still and was no fun at all (I would never recommend doing this with a dog who didn’t have a soft mouth and, even then, this is probably a wee bit foolish but it worked!). I think everyone, human or canine, needs rules in their lives. We all benefit from knowing what is expected of us.

Jagger has been doing better with the limitations placed on him in the month he’s been here. I’ve noticed he’s much calmer and less frantic though there are still times he will throw a temper tantrum when I ask him not to do something. For example, I got a new couch and have decided he is not allowed up on it. He jumped on it last night and I stood up and used a bit of body pressure to move him off. He got back up. I used my hand to cue/lure him off and he started zipping around and mouthing my foot. I waited him out but he did not stop so I put him back in the x-pen for a time out. I told him “No.” He didn’t like it. He acted out. He did not get what he wanted. 😉 In fact, the fun stopped completely.

Risa tells Jagger to “Back off” as she guards a possession from him.

What I find extremely humorous is that he not only throws temper tantrums in regards to humans setting the rules but with dogs as well! Risa is a dog who sets very clear rules regarding how you interact with her. She has never liked very rough play nor being jumped on. She also guards toys and me from other dogs especially when she’s still uncomfortable around them. When she does play with other dogs, she sets clear boundaries. If another dog doesn’t follow her rules, she will not play with them.

Yesterday, I had both Risa and Jagger out in the yard to play. I feel comfortable enough with the two of them outside together that I have been playing fetch with them both. (Not sure it’s really fetch considering neither dog will actually bring a toy back to me. But I’m throwing toys nonetheless.) Risa is still guarding the toys from Jagger but it has not escalated so I’ve felt comfortable letting her tell him to back away. The thing is, when she tells him he cannot access the toys, his response is very similar to the ones he gives to me. He gets crazed zoomies, tries to engage her in play, and gets overly aroused (hackles up). He’s so used to doing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted that he simply doesn’t know how to handle being told “No” by anyone!

Unfortunately for him, the world is full of rules. And if he wants to get adopted he’ll need to learn to follow the rules of human society. I have no doubts he’ll embrace the rules and be a wonderful companion. He’s already made amazing strides in that respect. And, given that this household is run by two beings who have distinctive boundaries, he couldn’t be in a better place to learn.

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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