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Dog Training Articles

Doggy Dining Dilemmas…

The average pet owner will surely admit that no one is perfect, including our dogs! When it comes to dog training, each family must decide for themselves which issues are important, and which can be overlooked.

However, some things are easier to ignore when no guests are around… such as begging at the table. The frequently tolerated sad eyes, beseeching stares, whining, or pawing at your lap are bound to lose their charm when company is visiting!

Of course, if you have a puppy you can prevent a begging problem from occurring in the first place by simply not introducing any table scraps into your dog’s life. For adult pets who already have this habit, it can be more of a dog training challenge.

The first step in curtailing this problem is to make your dog think there is no possibility of getting any people food. (Yes "people food givers", it’s time to pay the piper!) Refrain from giving scraps altogether, especially at the table. Remember, you are training your dog, he is not supposed to be training you. Dogs are smart, and even those who get leftovers in their dish are likely to "pressure you" because they know it’s coming.

Next, remember that obedience commands are intended to be used as a way of life for your dog. Practice obedience training with your pooch daily to earn his respect. Then, use the down/stay during every meal so he learns this is the expected position during your dining. In the beginning you may find that as soon as you sit down, your dog gets up. This can be alleviated by using your dog’s leash so you don’t have to get up and catch him every time he breaks the command. Be sure to praise your dog verbally when he settles down and relaxes.

With consistency on your part, you will no longer need the leash and your dog will automatically assume the down/stay position during meals. Practice this exercise at every meal or snack you eat, and your dog will soon have no interest in the human’s eating table!


Benefits of a Dog Toy Box

Dog toys are a very important part of owning a dog or puppy. Since dogs enjoy chewing, the purpose of dog toys is to provide your pet with appropriate items to chew so he doesn’t chew other things around your home. Also important is that dog toys, such as balls, frisbees, sterilized bones, dog stuffed animals, rope toys, etc., are all helpful in staving off boredom in dogs… an important aspect to help prevent mischief.

In addition to making sure your dog has plenty of different types of toys and bones to keep busy with, another aspect is making sure the toys are accessible to him. This may sound simple, but over the course of time the toys often end up under the sofa, out in the yard or otherwise lost around the home. Next thing you know, your dog may be right back to being bored and mischievous, or at the very least, have no toys to play with even though they are “somewhere around here.”

The solution? A dog toy box. It doesn’t need to be fancy at all… a sturdy plastic one will do. It should be low enough for your dog to reach the toys and should be kept in a central location in your home where your dog spends time. Then, you can occasionally go around the house, picking up all the dog toys and returning them to the box so they are easy for your pet to find (and your home stays tidier too).

Another benefit of the dog toy box is that it creates an additional activity for your pet. Now, he can not only have fun playing with the toys, but can also enjoy the additional stimulation of looking through and taking them out of the box.

For puppies, the toy box is also particularly helpful because you can simply pick up the box and bring the toys easily into the room your puppy will be spending time in. Then there will be no excuse for him to be chewing or stealing other things and with the toys at your fingertips, it’s easier to correct and redirect if an inappropriate item is in his mouth.

Another toy tip: rotate the toys occasionally. Instead of keeping the same toys in the box all the time, some of which your pet may have become bored with, you can occasionally go through the toys and put away the ones he hasn’t played with in a while. Replace with a few new toys. Then, when he becomes tired of those toys, pull the old ones out of your cabinet and your dog’s interest will be renewed. This is a great way to keep your dog interested in the toys, while also saving money by not always having to buy new ones all the time.

With a little creativity and effort on your part, your dog will quickly learn to go to the box when he wants to play with something, helping to stave off boredom and discourage mischief!


Stopping Dogs or Puppies From Eating Things Outside

Grass, sticks, dirt and even rocks… these are a few of the things many puppies and some adult dogs will pick up and play with or eat when spending time outside.

While simply chasing a stick and bringing it to you is not harmful to your dog, ingesting a stick can be very dangerous, with the potential for splintered pieces to cause blockages, internal bleeding and more. Obviously, swallowing items such as rocks could cause a serious internal blockage, and eating things such as trash, dirt or grass can cause illness including vomiting or worse.

However, as many puppy owners will attest, for some dogs the picking up of things on the ground can be constant! From hunks of grass to a stray candy wrapper, for some dogs it seems as if this is their goal in life.

In order to protect your dog’s health, (not to mention saving your carpet from dog vomit), it’s important to teach your pet what is or isn’t allowed to be eaten. The best way to do this is through diligent supervision and obedience training.

Clearly, if your dog is a “stuff eater,” he can’t be allowed to spend time outdoors unsupervised. There are several reasons for this, the first being that if he eats things and then gets sick you won’t know what the possible culprit would be, and the second reason is that if you’re not there to teach him it’s wrong, he simply won’t know.

The role of obedience training is paramount in addressing this problem. Your dog will learn the meanings of “no” and “good dog,” and therefore will respond better when you use those phrases to correct grabbing things from the ground. Also, some basic commands will help your dog to mature, will give him other things to think about and will increase the amount of respect he has for you.

Then, when you’re outside with your dog and he grabs something inappropriate, you can tell your dog “no,” and put him in a “sit” or “down” position. Follow with praise. If possible, (such as if you’re in your yard), it’s a good idea to replace the item with an appropriate dog toy to chew on, and then follow with praise.

If your dog eats a lot of grass, keep in mind that he may be doing it because he’s thirsty. Be sure to provide plenty of cold, fresh water for your dog so he’s not eating grass for this reason.

There is also an old wive’s tale that dogs eat grass when they’re already sick because they instinctively know that they need to throw up. While this may be true in an extremely small percentage of cases, the majority of the time they’re just doing it because they’re a silly dog. If the dog were already truly sick, he’d likely vomit anyway without the need for eating grass.

Like most things, by putting in a little effort with obedience training and supervision, your dog can soon learn to keep his mouth to himself when playing outside.


Sock Stealing and Other Canine Crimes

Ask anyone who has ever had a puppy and they will surely tell you that one of a puppy’s favorite activities is mischievously snooping around the house and finding items to “steal,” such as socks, paper towels, Barbies and more. In fact, this is apparently so fun to dogs that without proper training, even many adult dogs continue to do it.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Often, it develops into a game of “catch me if you can,” in which the humans run around trying to get the item while the puppy runs around outsmarting them. Dining room tables are often a favorite tool in the canine sleuth’s caper, as they cut through under the chairs, making their humans literally run in circles after them.

So, what’s a human to do? You can’t simply let the dog chew up the item… to do so would be dangerous for your dog, damaging to your items and certainly not conducive to teaching the dog not to do that anymore.

In desperation, many people resort to the dog treat, used to lure the dog into dropping the item in favor of the snack. However this serves as a reward for stealing stuff and dogs quickly figure out that whenever they want an extra snack, they can simply steal something to end up getting one.

Whether you’re a first time pet owner, a professional dog trainer or anyone in-between, some of this is inevitable. After all, a puppy is a puppy. But by handling the situation properly, you can more quickly teach your dog to play more appropriate games. Following is a 12 step program, designed to help dogs give up a life of crime:

1. Puppy proof- Tidy up so there’s less for your pet to steal.

2. Move slowly- If you chase your dog, you’re in the game. Instead, walk calmly and use assertive body language.

3. Do obedience- Basic commands, such as “sit,” “down” and “stay” can go a long way to earn your dog’s respect.

4. Tell him “no”- Don’t forget to use this phrase consistently, instead of saying “Stop it,” “Get over here,” etc.

5. Provide toys- In a variety of different textures. If he gets bored with them, rotate them once in a while by keeping some available and some in a cabinet to switch up.

6. Make sure the toys are available- If the toys are in the living room but your dog is gated into the kitchen, it’s no wonder he’s stealing the kitchen towel. Bring them into whatever room your pet is spending time in.

7. Correct and replace- When your dog steals something, tell him “No,” remove the item and replace with a dog toy. Praise lavishly when the toy is in his mouth, “Good dog.”

8. Set him up- Actually practice not stealing stuff. With your dog on leash, lay out a bunch of items such as socks, remote controls, etc. When your dog looks like he’s planning on snatching something, say “No, leave it!” with a tug of the leash. If he doesn’t take it, praise lavishly. If he does, use the “No,” replace with a dog toy, then praise.

9. Teach self-discipline- Practice obedience commands, particularly the “down/stay” with the items in easy reach. Praise your dog for coexisting with them but not taking them.

10. Do not give “people items”- Such as old slippers, children’s stuffed animals, etc. To your dog, they smell like “the humans’ stuff,” and it is almost impossible for them to understand that it’s okay to play with the old slippers but not the new.

11. Exercise- A tired dog is a good dog. Be sure to give your pet plenty of exercise: physically, through walks and playing, and mentally through obedience training. This will help reduce the urge to create his own activities due to boredom.

12. Maintain a sense of humor- After all, a puppy is a puppy and their antics can either make you laugh or drive you insane. Try to keep perspective, do what you have to do to work on it and don’t forget to enjoy your dog along the way!


Play Biting

Puppy owners often wonder just how much nipping is normal. With their razor sharp puppy teeth, it can sometimes feel like you’ve got a little baby alligator instead of a dog!

Some amount of nipping is completely normal… although not to be passively accepted. Excessive biting accompanied by growling, can sometimes be a display of dominance or a sign of future aggression problems.

Like babies, puppies tend to explore the world with their mouths. Tasting everything from socks and furniture to people’s hands and feet. While this is normal for a puppy, they still need to be taught right from wrong so it will eventually stop. Ask any parent whose child is standing on top of the couch screaming "Get him away… the puppy is biting me!", and they’ll tell you they’ve quickly had enough of ripped PJ’s and scratched arms. So what’s a dog lover to do?

Begin by making sure your puppy has lots of dog toys. Be sure to select ones with a variety of textures. A good assortment will include a rope toy, vinyl ball, hard bone, gummy bone, and dog stuffed animal. Whenever your puppy has his mouth on your hand, correct with a "No" and remove your hand. Immediately replace with an appropriate dog toy and praise lavishly "Good dog". Never allow your puppy to sometimes play bite. After all, how is he supposed to know the difference between Dad’s tough hands and children’s tender ankles?

Obedience training will play an important role in alleviating the biting as well. By working on some basic dog training commands such as "sit" and "stay", your dog will more quickly learn the meanings of the words "no" and "good dog". Your pet will also respect you more and feel like he actually has to listen!

Another helpful tactic is to rotate the toys so your pup doesn’t become bored with them. And remember…. a tired dog is a good dog. Lots of exercise, obedience, and consistency will soon have your dog keeping his teeth to himself!