House Rules

It’s a great idea to sit down with your family and come up with house rules for your new pup. If you already have a dog you probably have a good idea what these might be, but regardless it is a good time to think about it.

Setting consistent house rules will make it easier for your new pup to learn what behaviours are acceptable and which are not; it will also help you stay consistent as a family in what you are teaching your new puppy. These rules may change as your puppy gets older, so you may want rules that your puppy has to abide by, but which may become relaxed as your pup matures into a wonderful adult dog (kenneling your dog while you are out of the house is a good example). Your family might have special rules that apply to your situation, but here are a couple ideas to get you started:

Where is the puppy restroom?

Is this the backyard, dog run, specific spot in the yard, or on a walk?

For my dogs this is either a grass patch on my patio, or on a walk.

Where in the house is the puppy allowed?

When Tess was a puppy I blocked off the hallway leading to the bathroom and bedroom, she was only allowed in the family room and kitchen. Now she has full run of the condo when I’m home, but not allowed in the bedroom at night. Adding the pup to the mix, I don’t think I will be able to keep this blocked off and still give Tess the access she is used to. So I don’t plan to block this off, however, I will keep the door to the bathroom and bedroom closed to help prevent housetraining and chewing mistakes. Growing up our little dog was allowed free roam of the main floor and basement (when the door was open), but not allowed on the second floor where the bedrooms were. This is a personal choice and what works for your family; if someone in your home has pet allergies you likely don’t want the dog in the bedrooms. Some people don’t allow dogs in the kitchen. Try to determine what will work for everyone in your family.

Will the puppy be allowed on furniture? Which furniture?

Will the puppy be allowed on couches, on the bed, etc? Do they have to ask permission (sit) before being invited up? Some people have different rules for different dogs, and that is ok. You might not mind a 10 lb lap dog on the couch but find the 130 lb Great Dane a little much. As long as you are consistent it’s ok that the rules aren’t the same for each dog.

Tess is allowed on one couch in the family room, but not the other. I like having one off limits so if guests come over that do not like 60lb dogs sitting in their lap they have a place they can sit unmolested. She is also not allowed on the bed. I know I would never be consistent in asking her to sit to be invited up on the couch, so I have never tried to enforce that rule, but I can understand why some people implement it. I can’t see any of these rules changing when puppy arrives.

Will the puppy be allowed table scraps?

I’m terrible for this, so the answer for me is yes! However, she has to lay down in the kitchen when I’m cooking, or on her dog bed when I’m eating at the table. Again I can’t see this changing when the puppy arrives.

Will there be any rules for going through doors or gates?

Right now I don’t have any in the house, if we are going into a busy store or training center I try to get her to sit first, especially if the door can be difficult to navigate, but this is more of a check in than a “rule” for me, so I would say I don’t. However, she does have to sit and wait before getting out of the car, and at the door to leave the condo building.

With the puppy coming the car rule will definitely stay the same, that’s very important to me. I will have to introduce some sort of name call for each dog so they know who is allowed out. I think I will also implement a “wait” and “release” at the door leaving the condo when both dogs are going for a walk together so it is a little more orderly and calm.

What will be the puppy’s signal that it needs to go to the bathroom?

Some people find this isn’t necessary if they have a doggie door, some use a bell and teach the dog to ring it. Our dog growing up would scratch the door or sneeze. Having the dog sit to go out is pretty common.

I use the sit method with Tess mainly, I also walk her twice a day for her bathroom breaks, so often she doesn’t have to tell me at all. I will have the same rule once the puppy arrives, but of course when the puppy has to go, the puppy has to go! So there won’t be waiting or training then, we will practice sitting at the door to go out onto the patio just to see the world outside, but housetraining will come before politeness!

What training commands are you going to use?

This is especially important if there are multiple people in your household that will be training the dog, or requesting behaviours. Much of this will be covered in your puppy class, but everyone in the house needs to be as consistent as possible in order for the puppy to learn what you are asking him to do. Some common examples that tend to get mixed up would be: down vs. off, leave it vs drop it, come vs. the dog’s name. If you haven’t trained a puppy before I wouldn’t worry too much about this one until you attend puppy class, but once you start teaching a certain command stick with it.

Where will the dog sleep during the day and at night?

Will the dog sleep in its kennel, the bedroom, in the bed with you, on the couch, with one of your children? This one tends to be a very personal choice and can cause some family dispute! For most people this is one rule that will tend to change overtime, puppies aren’t often allowed run of the house right away; so are often kenneled or tied to a dog bed near you until house training is more consistent. Then as they are more reliable they gain new found freedom and more run of the house.

Tess was kenneled for what felt like a long time, but she found her way into trouble when left out alone. However, ultimately I wanted her to be able to sleep wherever in the house she wanted to (except the bedroom – I need my beauty sleep!). I gradually started leaving her out at night – when she was more likely to be sedate and ready to sleep – and she built her way up to being out during the day as well. This is going to change for a while when the puppy comes home, both dogs will be crated at night.  Fostering definitely let me know Tess would pester her new roommate if left to her own devices which could lead to some barrier reactivity on her part. So they will be kenneled until I am sure that Tess will leave him alone. If that never happens they will both stay kenneled; their safety is much more important than my guilt at not being able to let them have free range of the house. Since I feed stuffed Kongs and toys when I leave, this will also prevent any fights over food.


Some additional Resources:

Set House Rules for your Dog or Puppy Before Getting Them Home – Labrador Training HQ

How to Create House Rules for Your New Puppy – Jan Reisen (AKC)

Setting the House Rules for Your Dog – Rebecca Setler

10 House Rules to Consider Before Training Your Dog – Katie Morton

New Puppy? How to Prepare – Jade Zwingli, Where’s Your Sit?


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