Dog’s Eye View: Buddy, I need a sick day!
There’s a commercial on TV about a dad who has the flu and goes into his toddler’s room and says he needs to take a “sick day.” Being a parent, grandparent and dog owner, I really had to laugh at that one. There is no such thing as a “sick” day for parents around the world. And I know I share that reality with a multitude of dedicated families.
Having said that, why do we put off veterinary visits, puppy training, or facing behavior challenges with our canine buddies? Putting off training or modifying bad behavior and thinking it will go away is usually a decision that will come back to bite you in the end, literally!
Yes, an adolescent dog can grow out of certain behaviors. But, for the most part, what you end up with is a much more “mature” version of an adolescent problem. When “letting them grow out of it” works, you already have a good training and management program in place.
If I can only say one thing, it is “Train that puppy and keep that training in place for the foreseeable future.” Take a good hard look at how much free time you have before you decide to bring a puppy or adult dog into your life. Then plan to double that commitment, because no matter how we plan, there are always surprises.
Serious behavior issues rarely fix themselves. And if your dog doesn’t give a lick about how you feel about it, your relationship is doomed. And by the way, the theory about spaying and neutering being the panacea for fixing behavior problems went out with the old rabbit ears antenna.
I do know that sometimes behavior problems can seem overwhelming. He barks, he lunges, and he chews everything in sight. He won’t listen. Where do we start?
Often the best place to start is management. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear this common list of complaints is the dog is experiencing boredom. There is no on or off switch for the dog. We can’t just put him in a kennel crate and take a day off. It doesn’t usually end well. A typical onset of separation anxiety can start with prolonged periods of confinement without proper exercise and mental enrichment.
Turn off the computer or iPad for 20 minutes each day and play with your dog. Train and teach your dog activities that he can do by himself when necessary. Treat-dispensing toys are a great addition to home alone time.
Hide special treats in areas on the floor where he can find them using his nose. You notice I said hide them on the floor? Yep, keep that head down and looking for things he can access without climbing on your furniture or counter tops.
Get down on the floor and give your dog a good old-fashioned rub down. Breathe slowly as you massage his hips and shoulders and take time to relax and feel at ease with him. Quiet time can be taught too. This is a great relaxing activity for both of you.
You don’t need a “sick day.” Take time to relate to your canine companion and be quiet together.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25-plus years of experience who has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.
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