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Meeting Your Dog's Needs. Pt 3. Structure

In a world of no rules, expectations, guidance, or accountability, life would be total chaos. We would be stressed, anxious and defensive, plus we would develop disorderly behaviors. At first, it might seem great, but after some time we wouldn't be happy. As a society, we thrive and need structure in our lives. The same goes for our dogs. Providing structure for our dogs is our way of helping dogs live happily, peacefully, and balanced in our homes and community. In reality, dogs want to know their expectations. Of course, dogs' like ourselves, are opportunists and push rules and boundaries, however, at the end of the day, they too thrive on structure and clarity. After fulfilling the first two needs for your dog of physical exercise and mental stimulation, adding structure will help your dog live harmoniously.

You need to be a pack leader for your dog. Stop being a roommate. Let's break down the concept of being a pack leader with the concept of structure. Dog packs, whether it be in the wild or in the home, over time a leader will develop. This leader decides what is allowed and what is not. In the wild, they are the dogs in charge to help the pack survive and become united. Every dog in the pack then has its own rank, but there is only 1 in charge. If that leader is weak and can't ensure the pack's security, a new leader will be formed. Dogs in our home require us to become that pack leader, even if is a 1 dog home. Someone in charge who is providing information to our dogs, deciding the rules, and enforcing the rules. Leadership is allowing the dogs to rely on you for safety, security, and survival. A very small percentage of dogs, actually want to be in charge. If you're thinking your dog is wanting to be in charge, chances are, you're not a reliable and strong leader so your dog is looking to rely elsewhere for structure.

Owners are very inconsistent. This is with communication, rules, consequences, rewards, etc. Some owners are great during training sessions, but when it is back to their normal daily routine, training rules and methods go out the window. Some owners are great for the first week or two but then fall back into their habits quickly. When you start consistently applying clear and unbreakable rules with your dogs, you can work through quite a few unwanted behaviors including:

  • Separation anxiety

  • Daily anxiousness/stress

  • Fear

  • Destructive behavior

  • Reactivity/Aggression

  • Jumping on people

  • Resource guarding

  • Pushiness

  • Door Dashing

Your dog will begin to feel secure in their daily routine, trust you as their leader of the pack, become confident in meeting your expectations, and develop into a well-rounded dog with structure. But remember, this is a lifestyle and daily commitment with your dog. At first, your dog is going to push back! They just had complete freedom and could do whatever they wanted. Be consistent and don't budge. Your dog will then begin to understand your role as the leader and will then reap the benefits of the structure you're providing. Below are some ways to add structure to your dog's life:

  • Using a place bed while you cook and eat dinner

  • Having your dog wait before allowing to eat

  • You go first through the door. Not them.

  • Only allowing your dog to be released from their crate on command

  • Relaxation time (place bed!)

  • Alone time even when you are home(crate or designated area, especially puppies!)

  • Having your dog in place 30-60 mins after their walk

  • Working for their food

  • Obedience during playtime (work for that toy!)

  • Earning affection and attention (a very hard one for owners!)

  • Having them move out of your way. You don't need to go around them.

  • Training sessions

  • Using a leash when guests come over

  • Crate when you leave

  • Door manners (not dashing out when it opens)

  • Not allowing neighborhood watch out the front window

  • Not allowed on the furniture unless invited up and is required to get down when told

Adding structure should start day 1 of bringing your dog/puppy home, but it's never too late to start! Start simple and small until they become daily habits. Pick 1 from the list until it's a regular routine, then start another one. Be sure the entire family is on the same level when it comes to rules and boundaries. Every family member must be a leader to your dog including kids.

If you're wanting to help your dog be happier and have better behaviors, then be sure to fulfill each need for your dog. 3 basic needs. Don't complicate it.

Physical Exercise

Mental Stimulation


Are you meeting your dog's needs?

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