Here are two keys to helping your best friend become a well behaved member of the family – Management and Exercise.
Management – One of the most important strategies in training your dog is management. This means setting up the environment to make correct behaviors easy and incorrect behaviors difficult or impossible. Whether as puppies or newly adopted adults, dogs don’t come knowing the rules for living in your house – they need to be gently and carefully taught what’s okay and what’s off limits.
Baby gates, play pens, closed doors, tethers, leashes and harnesses all help to keep your dog where you want her and prevent her from making mistakes. A dog can’t chew, dig, jump on, or eat what she can’t reach. While your dog is safely confined, providing appropriate chewies and food toys helps build and strengthen those behaviors into good habits. While she’s being carefully supervised, play games that reward sitting, coming when called, staying in place and so forth start to build habits out of those behaviors. All the while, your pup is too busy paying attention to you or excavating food from her toys to go off and dig up the carpet or gnaw on your grandmother’s first print edition of “Jane Eyre.”
Exercise – One of my favorite training proverbs says, “A tired dog makes a happy owner.” Another variation says, “A tired dog is a well behaved dog.” Both point to the same truth. Conversely, a dog who’s bored and bustling with pent up energy is a problem waiting to happen. “Ho hum, say – that lamp shade looks like a good chewie!” “Hey! There goes Mephisto, the cat – I’m gonna getcha, kitty!”
A lot of my clients cite walking as the form of exercise they provide for their dogs. But most dogs need something a lot more strenuous and aerobic. Our Yellow Labra-daughter Daisy is almost one year old and has more energy than I can describe. One of the best things I’ve done with her is to give her LOTS of exercise every day. Most mornings she runs alongside my bike for half an hour on a local trail.
I use a special attachment for safety, (see the Bike Tow Leash http://biketowleash.com). When the weather doesn’t accommodate biking, she trots on the treadmill. (Note, I was also very careful to build her activity up gradually to minimize the risk of injuries, and I consulted with our vet before starting.)
Now, she spends the bulk of most days pleasantly tired after her workout, and ready to focus on a good chew or food toy, and training games to practice all the behaviors she needs to be a fun and well-mannered companion. If you don’t own a treadmill and biking with your pup isn’t doable, a vigorous game of fetch a couple times per day might be a good possibility. Chasing up and down the stairs practicing recalls for treats is another. Get a light weight long line (maybe 100 ft) and go to a nearby park where she can run after a Frisbee or tennis ball. You can buy the materials to make your own long line for under $10 at the hardware store – leave me a comment or email me and I’ll tell you how.
Train happy – Bob