On Good Behavior LLC

That’s Enough: Teaching Your Exuberant Canine When Enough is Enough!

I love it when my dogs bring me their toys, lick my face, put their heads in my lap and in other ways express their affection and zest for life. However, there are times when I’ve had enough!

So how can I communicate that their attentions are appreciated but that I’d like them to stop now? This is where I use “That’s Enough”. I find many of my clients will tell their dogs “No” in this situation, but that will make your dog less likely to take your “No” seriously in other situations. If you tell your dog “No” some of the time when he brings you a ball but other times you throw it, then why isn’t it OK for your dog to get up on the kitchen counter some of the time?

Instead, it’s helpful to have a word that means: This behavior is allowed, but not right now.  I use “That’s Enough” because it feels natural and because it comes out in the right tone of voice: Matter of fact, rather than excited or yelling.

So how can you teach this concept? Start by using “That’s Enough” in situations where you can easily end the behavior. For example, say “That’s Enough” when you end a training session by putting the leash and treats away or when you end a game of fetch by putting the ball back in the closet. To begin with, avoid using it in situations where you can’t easily end the interaction yourself.

Once you see that your dog disengages when he hears that phrase, then you can start using it in more difficult situations such as nudging for attention, barking out the window or rough housing with your other dog; just be prepared to put him on time out (on leash at your feet while you step on the leash, tether, crate, outdoors, another room, on his bed, down stay at your feet etc) if he doesn’t listen right away.

Once you have put your dog on time out, watch for him to settle down. This should take anywhere from fifteen seconds to three minutes—please don’t leave him on time out longer than this! As soon as he settles down, release him from time out with your release cue (Free! or OK!) and let him go. He will likely return to whatever he was doing and you have to be prepared to once again tell him “That’s Enough” and put him back on time out. You will be repeating this a lot at first, but after a month it will get much easier.

The key to successfully teaching your dog “That’s Enough” is to never, ever, say that phrase unless you are prepared to implement a time out if he doesn’t comply. When you are on a conference call and can’t step away from the phone, yelling “That’s Enough” to your barking dog is a sure fire way to teach him to ignore you.

Please be sure to have reasonable expectations of your dog. You need to make sure his basic needs (exercise, mental stimulation, attention and opportunities to chew) have been met before you can expect him to settle down in the house.

Here’s a handy flowchart on how to use That’s Enough correctly. If you’d like a copy to print out and put on your bulletin board, send me an email!

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