• Richard Chan

Why no free roaming

Structure is not about locking a dog up all day long. It is about teaching a dog how to properly behave without being told what to do constantly so we can share our lives and live in harmony with our dogs. A lot of dogs are allowed to just free roam in the house all day long. Many of them will develop lots of bad habits, for example, they will look out the window and bark at people who walk by the house, go crazy at door bells... Our human world is very different from the dog world. Our value can be very confusing for a dog to understand (e.g. what is wrong with running to the door barking at the postman? Why can’t l chew that flip flop?) When we allow a dog to free roam before he is ready, we are asking, and even encouraging, this dog to make many decisions on his own simply by following his instinct - without providing the dog with the required information to make an educated decision. When a dog is free roaming, he will naturally make lots of inappropriate decisions and many of these decisions will become hard-to-break habits. Also, the dog will learn to believe that it is up to the dog to decide what to do, and the humans instruction is not really a priority in the dog’s decision making thought process (e.g. l want to charge at the door whenever l hear the door bell even though my human is yelling at me to stop.) This mindset about following one’s instinct to do whatever he likes will be manifested in other behaviours (e.g. l like to pull towards that person. l feel like jumping on that child. I must lunge at that dog. I love to chew that shoe...). This will become the dog’s decision making habit. We all know that bad habits are hard to break and it is much easier to stop such habits from forming in the first place. That is why l do not recommend free roaming in the house for dogs who are not ready for it. When l am doing “stuff” in my house, l can still have my dogs out with me. But l will give them some instructions - so they don’t just go about making their own decisions based on their instinct. By listening to my instructions, they will learn what the proper behaviour l am looking for are in these situations. In this case, l asked Juneau to lay down and enjoy the sun in my sun room. He was to stay there even when l got up and moved away. There is a big difference between letting a dog choose to do what he likes versus telling a dog to do what we want. Structure is about the latter. It can be something the dog really enjoys doing. The difference is that the dog knows he is doing what is asked rather than following his instinct without thinking about what his human wants. That is the difference between a dog who is attentive and respectful versus one who does not care. We want to nurture the former mindset in our dogs, which is why daily structure is so important.


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