Big Dog Training: The Art of Off Limits

Your new couch, your favorite recliner, your freshly washed duvet or perhaps your blooming flower garden. These are all things that many people hold dear in their hearts. Unfortunately, so do many dogs, and the bigger the dog, the bigger potential turf war between you and your canine companion can become. But fear not - there are big dog training techniques to keep your big dog down without kicking him out.

Don't Go There

Having a big dog is a huge joy, but it also presents a unique set of potential problems. Along with larger space requirements, bigger dogs often shed more hair, and can leave a path of destruction (often unintentional, mind you) that a tornado would be envious of. When it comes to keeping a large dog out of the places he shouldn't be, the first rule is unbendable - be consistent. From your bed to the flower bed, if your dog is not allowed there some of the time, he shouldn't be allowed there any of the time. Making even occasional exceptions will only confuse a dog, and can actually hurt his confidence.

Like children, dogs need to know their boundaries. Most dogs don't mind being banned from something as long as it's enforced consistently. The worst thing you can do is allow your giant teddy bear of a dog to climb up on the couch with you to warm you up on a cold winter night, only to discipline him the next time you walk in the room and find him in the same spot.

Make a Better Offer

Now, you can't blame your dog for wanting to nap with you on your favorite chair. After all - it's probably your favorite because it's so darn comfortable. So if you want to keep your dog and all the fur off your comfy furniture, you should make sure your dog has a cozy place of his own.

Whether it's an oversized pillow, a soft blanket or a specialized doggy bed, make sure your dog has his own haven to "chill" on. During the hot summer months, many dogs enjoy napping on a nice cool tile floor, but there will be times that a nice soft bed to relax on will help keep him off your furniture. Also, remember that the bigger the dog, the more uncomfortable a hard floor will be on their joints and especially hips, and the right dog bed will make your big dog a happy dog. So what do you do when you're not there to keep a watchful eye on your furry friend?

The Run of the House

Now, let's say you've given your dog a bed that he can call his own, and this does the trick when you're at home. But what about when you're away? It's very common for dogs to take advantage of this situation. Many people who are away at work don't want to keep their dog kenneled for many hours at a time. Aside from becoming uncomfortable, having a big dog in your house is a great source of natural protection. Unfortunately, there are plenty of pooches that take full advantage of the furniture and more when they're left alone.

When it comes to deterrents, one possibility is an electrostatic mat to place on a couch or chair that provides a safe but uncomfortable shock to the dog when climbed on. But if you're not willing to go to those lengths, which can be costly and not always effective, it may be time for some good old conditioning training. While it can take a good deal of time and effort, it may be well worth it.

Training Day

Big dog training is intense, so choose a day that you have an ample amount of free time to begin the training. Pretend you have left the house, and stay away for several minutes. Once your dog thinks you're gone and "violates the restricted area," walk in and give a firm "No" or "Get Down." Direct your dog to his bed, and praise him for going to it. Repeat this as many times as necessary. Eventually, most dogs will get the hint. Again, consistency is the key. This training may have to be repeated periodically over several weeks or even months. It's worthwhile though to walk in your house after a long day and not have to clean up a newly formed collection of dog hair off your couch.

Applicable to All

Big dogs can cause big destruction. If you've got a dog that loves uprooting your azaleas or trampling your tomatoes, the same rules apply. Be firm and consistent each time you're outside with your dog, and give him a firm "NO" if he attempts a journey into the forbidden area. Praise him when he avoids the area. Your dog wants your praise and approval - it's your ultimate tool to teach your dog where to go, and where to stay away from.