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Level 2

Training the Family Dog


Boundary Training




Confidence, Focus, Engagement

(Introducing the boundary)


Confidence, Focus, Engagement

(Getting on and off the boundary)

Shaping (if needed)

Confidence, Focus, Engagement, Tolerance of Frustration

(Details on getting a dog to get on the boundary without cues or luring. This is shaping and a powerful and best way to teach navigation to the boundary)


Release the Beast

Confidence, Focus, Calmness, Arousal Up/Down, Engagement, Impulse Control

(Introduce the release off the boundary)

Pair with Premack 1

and Premack 2

Confidence, Focus, Arousal Up, Engagement, Impulse Control, Tolerance of Frustration, Flexibility, Thinking in Arousal (Recall, Walking with Manners, Relationship)

Invest in the Release

Confidence, Calmness, Focus, Arousal Up/Down, Engagement, Impulse Control, Thinking in Arousal

(All interactioins with the dog on the boundary now require a release)


Growing Calmness

Confidence, Calmness, Focus, Arousal Down, Impulse Control

(Grow calmness and create a strong association of calmness with the boudary. almness is the default - automatic - behavior for the boundary)

Value Building

Confidence, Optimism, Calmness, Focus, Arousal Down, Engagement, Impulse Control

(Build a lot of value in the boundary. Wonderful things happen and the boundary is the best place to be)

The Why and When to Boundary Train

Boundary training is a strategy for a number of behaviors required for good manners, as well as working through problem behaviors. It supports your efforts in growing calmness and is an intrical part of teaching the off-switch. It also supports recall, and can be an alternative or another version of a recall for specific situations. And it provides safety for your dog, both inside and outside, emotionally and physically.

When you should start training boundaries is up to you, but the sooner is easier than later or waiting until you have problems and then have to back-train and work with a possible difiant dog. I highly recommend teaching Premack and boundaries together. The reliability of boundary training is due largely to the reliability of the release, and Premack is the pathway to that. I typically start formal boundary training about week 6, but you can start when you are ready.

Forward Thinking - Boundaries for Outside

Safety is one of your top priorities. You always want to keep your pup safe. One of the hardest things to deal with is accidents. But accidents can happen. This is a reality that we have to think about. We need to plan for the future as best we can. Things can happen - your dog could wander or run off, chase something off the property, run out into the street, get hit by a car...

This is one of the reasons why you work so hard with training. And having multiple ways of gaining control and teaching impulse-control gives you options. This gives you a multi-layered approach to training to ingrain the needed concepts to attain reliability, or as much reliability as possible.

I highly recommend that you boundary train, and once you get a handle on it inside, to also do so outside. My dogs are boundary trained to my front porch. This gives them a safe place to go when needed. It gives a fun alternative to the Come cue. The value in the porch anchors them to my property so they don't run off. And, if someone drives down our drive while I'm out with my pups, they go to the porch so they are out of the way and won't possibly get run over.

So as you work through your training package, think about what you want, what life with your dog will look like in the future. Plan for the future and train for it. It will save time, and possibly lives, down the road.

Getting Started with Boundary Training

When you decide to boundary train, you first have to decide on what you are going to use for a boundary. I highly recommend a raised bed, or dog cot. Dogs are less tempted to chew them, like soft plush beds or mats and towels that you have to watch and be on top of to redirect any chewing. Plus, a raised bed makes it very clear when the dog in on and off the boundary. I have experiemented with a few brands, and like K&H Pet Products the best for an inexpensive and functional raised bed with lots of options, and K9 Ballistics for a more expensive but very durable brand. Both are available through Amazon. You can also look into Collaroo I have this one too, but the legs expend past the bed and I have tripped over them a few times) and Kuranda.

Once you've got your boundary, you are ready to begin. You can place the bed anywhere to start. The bed can move with you, because the training is about the bed, not the location.

So, begin your journey in Boundary Training with your pup. And keep it going! There are so many uses for boundary training - it truly is amazing!

First Games in Boundary Training

Boundary Games - Introductions


Boundaries can be handy for a variety of situations:

  • When someone comes to the door
  • When guests come over
  • While eating dinner
  • If your dog goes to work with you
  • When you eat at and outside cafe or go for coffee
  • Working distractions
  • Teaching impulse-control
  • While vacuuming, sweeping or mopping, or basic house cleaning
  • Promotes calmness and bringing arousal down

It can also stop or prevent unwanted behavior:

  • Prevents door dashing
  • Prevents counter surfing
  • Stops barking (alert barking, threshold [door or window] barking)
  • Prevents jumping on guests

The list goes on and on...

It also:

  • Teaches impulse-Control
  • Lowers arousal levels
  • Raises arousal (yes it can do both depending on training)
  • Reinforces Premack
  • Promotes calmness
  • Works listening skills
  • Focus

A boundary can be a variety of things - crate, ex-pen, dog bed, raised bed or dog cot, mat, under a desk, under a chair, between your legs, a porch or patio, etc.

The two focal points of boundary training - value in the boundary and value in the release (Premack). You can easily use an entire meal with boundary games to build value with the boundary, Premack and calmness rather than in a bowl; "breakfast (or dinner) in bed" so to speak.

Here are your games, in order, to begin teaching boundaries... Make sure to have consistency before moving on to the next game.

First step is to choose a boundary. You can add other boundaries later, but in the beginning stick to one. Your boundary can move with you where you train, since it is about the boundary and not a room or location.

Here is how you introduce your dog to the boundary.

Boundary Game - Navigation


The next step in the basics of boundary training is playing "on and off" the boundary. This is to get your dog to easily get on the boundary on his/her own. to create "wanting" to get on the boundary. And to be able to do that from any direction. Both of these first two steps can progress fairly quickly.

You will also begin to utilize strategies for building value in the boundary. Every time your pup puts himself on the boundary, you can reward it. Give your pup a toy, or some affection and praise.

Discourage any chewing on the boundary. You might need to redirect, or remove the boundary until more appropriate association aremade with the spot.

Additionally, DO NOT CUE your dog onto the boundary! I know you are going to want to, but don't! Do not lure your dog there either. You want your dog to CHOOSE the boundary and then berewarded for that choice. So be patient and wait your dog out. In the beginning stages of boundary training, you build value first in choosing the boundary and reward well so you create the feeling that the boundary is the best place to be, so your dog will want to go there more often and want to stay there.

Teach your dog that the boundary is not a gianttoy. This is especially true of soft plush dog beds. Redirect and idscourage chewing of any kind. If your pup keeps going back to chew on thebed, remove it. Bring it back out when you are going to play boundary games again. Over time, you should be able to leave it out for longer and longer until you dog understands what the bed is for - calmness.

Shaping a Boundary - Navigation in Detail


I find it best to use the technique of shaping to teach a dog to go to a particular spot (bed, mat, etc.). This helps to keep you out of the equation and have the focus of the behavior solely on the spot. If you have built value in a spot and worked on duration, you have a head start in working to shape the behavior of having your dog go to the spot, and then putting it on cue.

There are a few tricks with shaping a behavior:

  1. Have a Strong RM - whether you clicker train or use a verbal reward marker, make sure that your dog knows it well.
  2. Getting Started - from the beginning to the end goal, you have to set steps of behavior along the way. Make sure to start with something super simple to get momentum going with throwing behaviors. Some dogs, who have not been shaped, don't know how to automatically do this. Once they start knowing to Do something, you can then begin setting.
  3. Setting Criteria - make sure that you have consistency in a behavior before you change the requirement for the RM and treat. Also, take small steps towards your end goal so that your dog can be successful and keep momentum going. 
  4. Be Patient - you may not get to the end goal in one session, and that's perfectly fine. Practice as many times as you need to, keeping your dog from getting overly frustrated to get to the end behavior (lying on the spot). Additionally, don't lead or cue. This is so important! A big part of the exercise is to allow your dog to make a choice, and then reward the choice you want (your criteria). This is good practice for good decision making for your dog.

In this video, Goldie is being "shaped" to lie down on a crate mat. This is a raw boundary, meaning that it is totally new and she has zero value or association with the met. The whole process took about 25 minutes, butshe has some familiarity with shaping, so she figures out to throw behaviors until she gets it right. Your dog, if there is already value with the boundary because you've had it sitting out and have rewarded your dog for going and lying down on it on his/her own, might not take as long. Or, depending on the situation, it might take a few sessions. Just stick with it - don't give up and use luring - this is a much more powerful way of learning.

Boundary Games - Release the Beast


Once your dog is gravitating to the boundary and gets on it easily, now it is time to introduce Premack and begin using your release cue. This is the part where you begin to build impulse-control. Your Premack game pairs beautifully with this - it's all the same concept... remain here until I say you can go.

This game is perfect for pairing with both Premack games (Basics and Duration and ConceptualUnderstanding). I highly recommend working these together, for they go hand in hand.

Invest in the Release


New Rule: Once you are at this stage, you need to begin investing in the release. The release is a crucial element for reliability with boundaries. So, now when your dog goes on the boundary and you engage, meaning you give you dog attention in any way, you must now release your dog! If your dog goes to the boundary on his/her own and you don't engage, your dog can leavethe boundary on his/her own.

Boundary Games - Growing Calmness


Your goal with boundaries is to establish them as a place for calmness. That is the default behavior; what your dog is to automatically do when getting on the boundary. This is a crucial concept to teach. You will then have your boundary as a safe place for your dog to go to and to help with calming and the off-switch. This will also help to make your boundary training more reliable. It can also, in the future, become an appropriate alternate behavior to certain bad habits that could surface (counter surfing, jumping on guests, or barking).

Boundary Games - Building Value


If your boundary has a ton of value for your dog, your dog will choose to go there. Your dog will love being there and be happy and content. Your dog will be more likely to remain there and add to the reliability of the behavior. So build lots of value with your boundary. It is a privilege to be on the boundary because all sorts of wonderful things happen for the dog on the boundary!!!