Many dog trainers use the term, management, to describe ways in which we can change the environment and structure while living with our dog’s different personalities. Rather than trying to change the dog’s behavior sometimes the best solution is to find a ways to manage the problem. Management refers to looking at the situation and finding ways to change it.
For example, if your dog is always jumping on guests, you can anticipate this behavior and prevent it by crating the dog before guests arrive or by having your dog on a leash and standing on the leash about halfway down so that the dog can sit or stand, but cannot jump on guests. You haven’t changed the dog’s behavior, but you have controlled the situation.
Crating: Crates are a wonderful management tool. A crated dog cannot chew up your furniture or dig holes in your carpet. Rather than complaining about your dog’s destructive behavior, or punishing him after the fact (which is not fair or effective), use the crate when you cannot supervise your dog.
If you crate your dog it is important to make crating a pleasant experience. You can start by feeding your dog in his crate while leaving the door open. Put a soft towel or mat in the crate (if your dog won’t chew on it). Give him a favorite safe toy to chew on while crated. Provide access to fresh water (many dogs enjoy ice cubes when crated). Think of the crate as a puppy playpen. It’s a safe place to confine your dog.
Exercise: Many behavior problems’ are simply the result of too little exercise. Dogs who are constantly in motion, who chew, bark, jump, or dig excessively may be helped by providing more exercise. Many dogs need much more exercise than they are getting. Certain breeds (especially Sporting or Herding dogs) require a large amount of exercise daily. Be aware of your dog’s exercise needs. We always say that, “A tired dog is a good dog.”
Walking is a great exercise for most dogs. Be careful with your puppies and larger breeds that you don’t over-exercise them on hard surfaces such as roads or sidewalks. This can put too much stress on the joints. Walking in grass is much better. Many dogs love to run or jog, but need to build up to more vigorous exercise over time.
Play sessions with other nice dogs are a wonderful way to exercise your dog. Check with your friends and neighbors to set up ‘play dates.’ This also has the added bonus of helping your dog learn how to get along well with other canines. However, be careful that you watch for warning signs of growling or snapping. While play can sometimes be quite rough and physical, none of the dogs should seem unhappy or upset by the activity.
Many dogs learn how to play ‘fetch’ very quickly. This is a great way to wear out the dog without much effort on the owner’s part. Try tennis balls, Kong toys, canvas or plastic bumpers, or rubber balls. If your dog chases the toy but doesn’t bring it back or give it up, have two identical toys. Once he picks up one you can show him the other and throw it in a different direction. He’ll usually drop the first to chase the second. You can hit tennis balls with a tennis racket across your yard to give your dog a good workout. Some dogs love to chase a large, hard soccer ball. These types of balls are usually sold under the name of Boomer Balls.
Mental stimulation: In addition to physical exercise, dogs need mental exercise as well. Dogs are very curious and intelligent creatures, and they can get bored by an unchanging routine or a lack of excitement. A bored dog will usually try to make his own fun and you may not like the results!
There are a few toys available that make your dog work for his food. One is called a Buster Cube. It is a hard plastic cube that has an opening in which you load your dog’s dry food. Once you shake the cube the food is distributed inside into a number of different compartments. Your dog can only get the food by rolling the cube around on the ground. The food comes out randomly. Many dogs love this toy and will become quite excited about using it. The Buster Cube should only be used by one dog at a time to avoid skirmishes, and is safest if used outside in a fenced yard.
A Kong toy is a hard rubber toy that is hollow in the center. You can stuff the Kong with peanut butter, cheese, and dry food. Most dogs love trying to get all the goodies out of the Kong, and will chew on it for hours. You can also fill the Kong with canned dog food or other yummy treats, then freeze it. Your dog will love his ‘pup-sickle,’ especially on hot summer days.
For a fun summer exercise, you might consider buying a kiddie pool and filling it with water so your dog can ‘swim.’ Toss favorite toys and treats in the pool and encourage your dog to go after them. Don’t force your dog into the water if he’s unsure, give him some time to discover and explore it on his own.
Some dogs, especially diggers, appreciate a sandbox. Bury goodies, toys, and sterilized bones for your dog to find. This will also encourage him to direct his digging urges to an appropriate place.
You can keep your dog busy and active by taking him with you on short errands. Be sure that the weather is not too hot. Short trips are usually interesting and enjoyable for your dog. You can combine your errands with quick walks or training sessions in different locations. A change of scenery is as interesting for a dog as it is for a person.
With a little bit of creative thought, you can probably come up with lots of ways to keep your dog busy and happy. JUST HAVE FUN WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND!!!