Do you ever wonder why your dog misbehaves sometimes? Peggy Moran, a renowned professional dog behaviorist, has the inside scoop on perplexing doggy dilemmas from chewing and barking, to jumping on strangers and housebreaking.
Doggy Dilemma #1: Chewing
Question: We have a beautiful nine-month-old lab that loves to chew. He has many chew toys, but he still gives us many love bites. What should we do?
Answer: When your puppy playfully nips you, he's trying to get your attention, but these nips are setting the wrong tone for your entire relationship. Reinforce the no-biting rule right away. To do this, put your pooch's collar on and wait until your dog sits before petting him. When your dog does sit, lavish fully focused attention upon him, petting slowly with a firm stroke while speaking in a low, slow voice. As his mouth opens, stop paying attention to your dog but do not move away. If your puppy continues to mouth your hand, apply steady, fixed pressure against its collar while ignoring your pet. Before long, you can all spend time together without the painful love bites.
Doggy Dilemma #2: Jumping on strangers
Q: I have two West Highland Terriers. Every time guests come over, they jump all over them. How can I stop this?
A: First, place your dogs on their leashes. Find a willing helper to play the part of the visiting guest. This will work best if your dog knows the person well. When your friend rings the doorbell, hold onto both leashes. Open the door and greet your guest, keeping the dogs back by applying steady pressure to their collars. Do not look at your dogs. Ask your guest to ignore them as well. Continue to ignore the dogs while they jump. When they settle down, praise them. Then ask your guest to leave and knock on the door again to repeat the exercise.
Doggy Dilemma #3: Barking
Q: My three-year-old Miniature Poodle has always been very friendly. However, if he sees a strange dog, he starts to bark and tries to lunge at it. What has caused this change?
A: These behaviors are usually the result of frustration. My best advice is to redefine the terms for meeting and greeting the people and dogs you encounter. Take the role of leader by being the one who greets, and is greeted first, by the people and the dogs you encounter. For example, when you approach one of your dog's friends on a walk, ignore your dog while it barks. When your dog stops barking, praise him. This will help to reduce its frustration.
Doggy Dilemma #4: Housebreaking
Q: Roxy, our Jack Russell Terrier, is 14 months old now, but she was just a 6-month-old puppy when she joined our family. Before we adopted Roxy, she had been an outside dog and was chained up all day. Roxy is now crated during the day and does not eliminate inside the crate, but I can't figure out when Roxy needs a potty break during the night or on weekends. Any suggestions?
A: A dog that has to spend its days in confinement should not be crated in the evening as well. Letting it run loose, however, will allow it to continue the habit of going whenever and wherever. Take Roxy outside at specific times to eliminate. Do this at regular intervals, such as right when you come home. Feed your dog after the outing and then take her out again. And one more important note: Never scold your dog if she has an accident. Remember that it takes a dog about 30 days to really adapt to a schedule.
As with anything worthwhile, regulating the behavior of your dog takes planning, patience and retraining. But the rewards will far exceed your effort.
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