A House Line is a lightweight lead or line, 2 meters or more in length, which is attached to the dog when it is at home and in the garden.

Ideally, the House Line should be attached to a well fitting harness so that there are no painful sensations around its neck. Another advantage of using a harness is that the line is less likely to impede the dog when it walks, as the clip is on the top of the dog's back (rather than underneath its chin when attached to a collar).

Do not make a loop or handle at the end of the House Line -
it may get caught on some obstruction and trap the dog,
causing it fear and stress.

House Lines are used to interrupt a dog's undesirable behaviour, without the need for confrontation or misunderstanding. They are particularly useful to help train your new puppy (or rehomed dog) during those demanding early days, weeks and months.

Our Chewing web page explains that dogs have far quicker reactions than humans, and that if we try to grab a dog or move them they can easily run away, or if cornered - nip or bite.

This is why House Lines are so effective. You can calmly and quietly remove a dog from a situation without coming too close to it. Just pick up the end of trailing line and move the dog out of the situation. The dog soon learns that there is no reward in repeating what we call "undesirable behaviours" - it is never successful. It stores the triggers of these boring and unrewarding behaviours in its memory and does not repeat them in the future (as long as the early training on the House Line has been consistent).

Do not give your dog eye contact or speak to it when using the House Line to move the dog - these are all life rewards and the dog will repeat the unwanted behaviour in order to get your attention (even if it means being told off!).

Here are some examples of when and how to use a House Line. It stops -

  • Guarding its possessions
  • Destructive Chewing (eg. Carpets, furniture)
    Use the line to gently pull the dog away from the item that it was chewing. Then distract it by offering it something to chew which it is allowed.

    You must understand that this destructive chewing behaviour is a symptom of stress and therefore you need to look at reducing these stress levels as well as managing the situation by using a House Line.

    Do not leave your dog alone and unsupervised in rooms where it can chew destructively - see Home Alone.
  • Jumping up at visitors or family members, when the dog is over excited.
    When the door bell rings and the dog runs to greet the visitors, hold the House Line so that the dog cannot actually touch the humans and jump up at them.

    Ask the visitor to ignore the dog and even turn away if the dog is still over excited (this is a strong Calming Signal).

    The visitor must only look or speak to the dog when it has calmed down and has more self control, approximately quarter of an hour later (eg. When the visitor is sitting down and has been talking to the humans but has ignored the dog).

    Do not let visitors play exciting physical games with the dog, as it will then see visitors as being exciting life rewards and it will be even more determined to get their attention in the future!

    In the early days, it is no use asking the dog to "sit" when it jumps up at humans - it is over excited - it will not be able to hear or understand as its adrenaline levels will be too high. However, if the dog is consistently prevented from jumping up by use of the House Line, it will become calmer and will then be able to do an alternative behaviour (such as "sit", or you can distract it by playing "Nibbles" or "Find It" in another room or its Rest Area).
  • Stealing
    Some dogs have an overwhelming desire to steal, particularly if they were strays and had to scavenge food in order to survive. If a dog has the opportunity to steal food it will retain the memory as it is such a high value motivator. Therefore, it is important to manage the dog's environment so that it does not get the opportunity to learn.

    Do not leave dogs unattended in situations where it can steal - move the food or the dog!

    If the dog tries to steal when you are present, use the House Line to move the dog away (as in Destructive Chewing).
  • Getting on furniture
    Unfortunately this is a typical behaviour brought about by human inconsistency. When puppies are little they are picked up and cuddled while we are on seats or beds, then as the dog grows older (or muddier or wetter after a walk) we suddenly expect the dog to understand that it must NOT go on the furniture. How is a dog supposed to tell the difference? It is up to us to be consistent and either -
    * allow the dog on the furniture whenever it wishes (however dirty it is)
    *only allow the dog on the furniture when it is given a specific command to sit with us
    * never allow the dog to have its paws off the floor. Instead we sit on the floor and cuddle the dog there.
    Decide which of the above is your rule and stick to it.

    If the dog has already learnt to jump on the furniture and you do not want it to, the solution once again, is to manage the situation. If the dog gets on the furniture while you are present, use the House Line to move him off. If you are NOT around close the door so that he does not get the opportunity. If you are consistent with this rule your dog will forget the old behaviour and, as the weeks and months go by, it will be relaxed and happy in the knowledge of what is expected of it.
  • Digging
  • Taking the dog to its Rest Area - not as a punishment but to encourage the dog to relax in a calm quiet location with something nice to chew and lower its long-term stress levels.


This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).


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