Does life with your dog feel chaotic and out of control? Does it feel like when you try to take control, you get nowhere and just end up chasing your tail?
What you need is a daily structure in your dog’s life. We’ll discuss what structure is in dog training, why it’s important, and how you can start implementing it.
Idea #1: What is structure in dog training?
Definition: construct or arrange according to a plan; give a pattern or organization to.
In training, our dog’s structure is just the patterns and routines of daily life. Your human day probably goes something like the following: wake up, get ready for the day: by getting dressed, brush your teeth, and eat. Then you get into your car, go to work, work your hours, return home, make dinner, and hopefully, do something fun such as: watching tv, reading, doing activities with your kids, or going shopping. Then as your day winds down, you get ready for bed and then go to sleep.
Think about the above as allotments of activities that you must do to get through your day and accomplish your goals.
Your dog’s day should be no different. Think of your dog's day as allotments of activities. Let’s look at typical dog activities that occur in a day.
Action activities =
Getting into / out of the car
Free “ break” time in the yard, park to run or hang out as they wish.
Calm Activities =
In the crate
On their bed or place
Lying down in a Down Stay command
Down in the car
Structure in our dog’s life is practicing a planned routine of valuable, practical life skills. By implementing the structure, we can obtain the ultimate goal of a calm, well-behaved dog who is enjoyed and included in our life more often.
Idea #2: Why structure is important and why a lack of it is making life with your dog worse
Structure in our life with our dog is important because it limits the choices and activities your dog can do at any given time. It gives them clearly defined rules and boundaries to follow and practice. It makes your dog experience less stress and anxiety because the patterns and routines are predictable. Since your day is predictable, your dog find will find comfort in the structure. A calm state of mind will become the expectation, not the exception. This is why it’s important to practice structure daily in your life with your dog.
Let’s examine how a lack of structure makes life with your dog worse.
1. They’re actively practicing bad behaviors.
Many owners struggle with their dogs because they have given them too much freedom and insufficient structure to their day. When dogs are left to their own choices, they’ll choose to do dog things. Like chewing, barking, digging, eating, jumping, and all sorts of other ornery behaviors. The lack of predictable routines, which our structure gives us, allows your dog to practice all the nonsense.
2. Your dog lacks practical life skills and the knowledge to manage daily life. The lack of these skills limits your life together.
Your dog cannot and should not be expected to just know how to behave calmly in the human world. Just like you when you were growing up, you didn’t just know how to get dressed, brush your teeth, or even eat.
Your dog does not know how to handle life with you until you teach and train them. At its core, this is dog training: Teaching and guiding your dog on how to live in a human world.
Our goal as dog owners should be to give our dogs the fullest life possible. This looks different for every person, family, and dog combination. However, we cannot give them a full life. They lack the skills needed to be part of our life.
3. You’re not taking an active role in training them in those skills. This creates a relationship where your dog chooses when and how they’ll listen.
By providing structure in your dog’s life, you’ll have a better-behaved dog and a better relationship with your dog. Through this structured life together, you’ll build a better bond with your dog, a bond of mutual respect and understanding of each other’s personalities and needs.
Since you’ve trained your dog’s brain to be calmer baseline, you’ll have a calmer dog. More importantly, you’ll have a dog who makes better choices and has better judgment. Meaning when they are presented with new situations in life, they’ll make safer, calmer, and less annoying behaviors.
Idea # 3 - How do you start implementing structure?
Most owners don’t want their dogs to practice chaotic and destructive behaviors, but they don’t know how to stop or prevent them. So the patterns continue, and nothing changes.
Let’s look back at the Action VS Calm chart. At the beginning of a dog’s rehabilitation process, most dogs aren’t practicing many of the Calm activities. Most dogs are living on autopilot and running around practicing chaotic, action-oriented behaviors.
How do we get our dog to practice more Calm activities?
The first thing you must do is YOU MUST TAKE ACTION. You need to interrupt and put a stop to the bad behaviors right now. You must tell your dog “No,” in a meaningful way. A way that stops the nonsense and allows us to implement the next step. This step usually requires a form of punishment to stop the nonsense and allow us to begin teaching the next step.
The second step of you taking action is to teach them what behaviors you want. These behaviors are the practical, life skills that you will use to implement the new structure of your life. This includes but isn’t limited to crate training, and teaching commands such as Down, Sit, and Come. Increasing the duration, distance, and distractions within each command. This gives your dog new practical skills and coping skills that you both can use in your daily life together. This step is where we use heavy rewards and praise to encourage our dog to continue to choose these calming activities.
It’s the human’s LACK of action that allows those bad behaviors to happen. Your dog is running on autopilot and doing what dogs do, and you're allowing it to happen. You need to start implementing a structure to your day that teaches your dog how to be calm.
If you’re ready to take action and begin training, please visit and download your free guide at https://www.acedogacademy.com This guide has 3 things you can start doing right now to help add structure to your day.
What you’ll learn in this episode:
What is structure in dog training?
Why structure is important and why a lack of it is making life with your dog worse
How do you start implementing structure?