SOLVING DOG BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS
Understanding your dog's behavior is the first step towards communicating with your dog and finding solutions for unacceptable behavior.
Many people purchase a puppy, toss him out in the yard, and expect him to behave...not so! Puppies are like kids - you need to spend time with them, teach them right from wrong, and reinforce good behavior with praise and treats. You should never hit a dog - this will only cause him to dislike you and may cause him to become aggressive. The following page contains information that I have observed living with my dogs and all their quirks (I'm not a vet or animal psychologist) and some possible solutions to the most common behavior issues. Hopefully it will help you to better understand your canine companion!
Why Do Dogs Dig?
There are several different reasons why a dog will dig:
- COMFORT. Dogs will dig to create a cool and comfortable spot to
lay. The ground is cooler a few inches below the surface, so a dog may
dig down to create a place to cool off. Also, if your dog doesn't have
a soft place to lay, he may dig to mold the ground to fit his body, making a
more comfortable resting spot. It's not abnormal for a dog to dig
several different pits around the yard - he'll want to be able to lay in the
shade, so as the sun moves, he'll move to a different spot.
SOLUTION: Provide your dog with soft, cool bedding in a spot that's always shady. Or try making him a digging pit. It's much easier to teach a dog to dig in a certain spot than it is to teach him to stop digging all together.
- CURIOSITY. Dogs will dig if they smell or hear something
underground - they'll want to check it out. Maybe there's a small
animal or insect burrowing, or something is buried underground - either
way, this is simply curious digging. Breeds such as terriers and hounds
that have been bred to hunt, track, and burrow after their prey are
especially prone to this type of digging. It's not your dog's fault!
They were designed to do this.
SOLUTION: Watch your dog when he's out in the yard. If you catch him digging a tunnel to the center of the earth, say "NO" and then give him something else to do. (Playing fetch, chewing on a toy, entering tracking competitions, etc.) Occupying his mind and keeping him busy are the best solutions.
- BOREDOM and loneliness can also cause dogs to dig. If
your dog is left alone for long periods of time, he may be digging because
he has nothing else to do, or he may suffer from separation anxiety.
All dogs are pack animals, living in families. When you are away, they're
lonely and must be provided with plenty of toys to keep them occupied.
SOLUTION: Spend more time with your dog, and give him plenty of things to do while you're away. Giving him a different toy or bone each day when you leave may help. Exercising him regularly, including daily walks, may help tire him out and will allow him to get rid of all that excess energy in an acceptable way. In some cases, having another doggie friend around can help, too. See your vet for more info on separation anxiety.
- GROOMING. Dogs dig as a natural way to keep their nails trim. Make sure you trim your dog's nails weekly. If they start to get too long, he may just take matters into his own paws and file them down with your lawn.
- FUN. Some dogs (like mine) are just sure they really can tunnel their way to the other end of the earth and won't stop until they do. I've given up the battle and they're allowed to keep one hole in the yard. The good side: Having this one hole to dig in seems to keep them happy and they leave the rest of the yard alone. I can even tell them to "go dig in your hole" and they trot right over to it.
Why Do Dogs Chew?
Got Toys? If your dog is chewing up your stuff, get him some toys and teach him to chew on them instead. Check out That Pet Place for discount dog supplies.
- EXPLORATION. Chewing is a dog's way of exploring and playing. They don't have
hands, so they have to use their mouths for pretty much anything a human
would use hands for.
SOLUTION: Watch him constantly! When you see your dog chewing on something he shouldn't, say "NO" and then give him an appropriate toy. In time, he'll learn that he can only play with his toys.
- TEETHING. Puppies will chew while teething. Make sure you give your puppy plenty of different things to chew on to help soothe his sore gums.
- BOREDOM. In some cases dogs chew because they're bored or lonely. If your dog is left alone for long periods of time, he may be chewing because he has nothing else to do, or he may suffer from separation anxiety. SOLUTION: Spend more time with your dog, and give him plenty of things to do while you're away. Giving him a different toy or bone each day when you leave may help. Exercising him regularly may help tire him out and will allow him to get rid of all that excess energy in an acceptable way. In some cases, having another doggie friend around can help, too. See your vet for more info on separation anxiety.
Why Do Dogs Growl?
- WARNING. Growling is a warning. It's a
dog's way of letting you know he doesn't like what's happening and if it
doesn't stop, he's going to bite. Growling is usually induced by fear and can
be provoked by anything; for example, a stranger approaching, a child
running toward a dog, another dog getting too close, a hand raised as if to
hit, a scary stranger getting too close to a loved one, or someone getting to close to a dog's food. The things that
provoke growling depend on the dog's history and past experiences. In
some cases, growling is unacceptable, especially if the dog is growling at a
child. By exposing a puppy to new people and situations (socializing)
while he's young, inappropriate growling can usually be prevented.
SOLUTIONS: If your dog growls at strangers, conditioning may help. If you're expecting guests, meet them outside and give them treats for your dog. Your dog should soon start to associate strangers coming into the house with yummie treats, and he should start to warm up to strangers in no time. Please use caution - if you have an aggressive dog, don't put people in harm's way! See your vet for information on helping your dog become comfortable in uncertain situations if you have a dog that growls.
- PLAY. Dogs will growl when playing simply as a way of communicating. If your dog is happy-and-wagging while growling at a toy or wrestling with a doggie friend, that's just their way of having fun.
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