Boundary Skills

Maplewood Dog

Place targets, body targets, waiting at doors, and loose leash walking are all versions of boundary skills. All are very valuable in helping our dogs understand and succeed in our human world of fences, leashes, gates and endless number of other boundaries.

When you live with a herding breed dog, who happens to adore both creating boundaries and pushing other’s established boundaries, aka Zora the corgi, training boundary skills has become a life necessity.

For the first year or so that we lived with Zora, the rule in our house was if a human was cooking or eating at the table, Zora was reinforced for quietly being either on the living room carpet or lying on the living room dog bed. Then as she aged and generally didn’t attempt to beg or steal food, that rule was slacked and eventually forgotten.

yellow lab chews a stuffed carrot, corgi sits in front of a stuffed pizza slice toy, other toys surround them
Zora will have you know, toy pizza is NOT the same!

Well now 5.5 year old Zora seems to have trained the toddlers in my life to drop food for her to eat (she heard a pretzel hit the floor and was there in a flash). And the other day that progressed to Zora feeling she could entice the food drop to occur (she is a smart Wiley one that corgi). Yea, no little dog. Did I mention she loves pushing boundaries?

So, we are back to reinforcing Zora for staying silently on the living room carpet or dog bed whenever someone is cooking or eating at the table.

Thankfully it has been a fairly easy one to retrain, mostly due to that long reinforcement history of the behavior 4 or so years ago.  At first she was very hopeful that she could win both carpet treats and under table treats (as my niece declared during one meal where Zora was adamant she should be permitted to do both, “Zora is being very naughty right now!”), but that behavior quickly extinguished.  Now she happily races to the living room and sticks to the boundary of the carpet for the random doggie snack tossed to her.

So just goes to remind, that foundation behaviors are there so that even when you let them slack for years, you can return to them, refresh them, and when necessary, reinstate them as the norm.

black and white corgi staring intently at the camera, standing on a blue pattern rug
I am being good, quiet and on the carpet, where’s my snack!?

 

1 thought on “Boundary Skills

  1. Interesting. Our 6 month old puppy does not bother with us when we are eating. If she is sitting on the couch and I sit down with a cookie or some other snack food she will show interest but if I give her a nudge away from me she gives up. The idea of boundaries when on the leash however…..that needs some work especially if a squirrel has been spotted!

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