It’s easy to make these five mistakes with your dog:
1. Not training your dog. Dogs need training and boundaries in order to be polite and well behaved. Be clear on how you want your dog to behave and the household rules. Think of these common training issues: jumping up to greet people, getting on furniture, stealing food from counters, unruly when walking on a leash, not coming when called, bolting outdoors, etc. These are common problems that can be addressed with training and behavior modification. You don’t have to be frustrated with your dog.
2. Giving your dog too much freedom. A dog’s freedom should be proportionate to his behavior. Common issues that can arise when a dog has too much freedom include eliminating indoors, marking, chewing, stealing, digging, etc. If your dog is doing these things when you aren’t around to consequence or train him, he has too much freedom. While confinement or restriction alone won’t alleviate these issues entirely, it will make the treatment program work much more quickly and effectively.
3. Not understanding your dog’s personality and preferences. Dogs, like people, have preferences. Not all dogs like other dogs, or children, or strangers. Some dogs are environmentally focused by breed and instinct and will, therefore, be limited in the attention or command compliance they give you while they are engaged in their interests. Training may be limited by their breed, personalities, preferences, experiences, etc.
4. Not giving your dog adequate exercise or outlets for enrichment. Dogs were not intended to live a sedentary life in the confines of our homes. Like us, they can get cabin fever and become restless when they haven’t had an outlet or exercise. Restlessness usually manifests itself in nuisance behavior problems such as digging, chewing, barking, pestering, and other unruly behaviors. Dogs need to get exercise as well as negotiate things and problem solve. In other words, they need to think as well as work out. Adequate enrichment and exercise decreases or eliminates many behavior problems.
5. Giving your dog everything he wants at will. In our crazy, hectic lives, we generally try to do things to make dog ownership easier on our schedules. We have tons of toys available, give them dog doors, and have food available for them at all times. While this makes it much easier for us and convenient for our dogs, it isn’t the best situation. Dogs should learn to do something to get something as a part of their training. They should learn to do what we ask in exchange for a desired resource.
Dogs that never have to ask for anything can be difficult to train. While they can learn to sit for treats, if the training isn’t incorporated into their routine, it will have little impact. Dogs should learn to sit or down in order to get access to or freedom from things. They should learn to sit and down for dinner, doors to open, access to certain furniture if allowed, access to certain rooms, etc. If your dog is asked to sit before being allowed outside and he doesn’t sit, then the door doesn’t open, which is a consequence for not complying.
Dogs that have all of their resources freely available at all times don’t need to do something to get something and, therefore, will likely not be as well trained.
• Sam Kabbel, CPDT-KA, is owner and president of Valley-based Pet Behavior Solutions, serving the Phoenix area. For more information, visit www.petbehaviorsolutions.com.