Have you ever come home to a puddle of pee on the floor, or worse, a ripped up pair of shoes? When that happens, as much as you probably want to discipline your dog right then, you should know that it will do more harm than good.
Patrolia told me in our interview, “We as pet owners can assume the dog “knows” what they did and that is why they are hiding when we come home. In reality, they are hiding due to the response the owner had to the circumstance.”
Unlike us, she said, “Dogs live in the present, which means discipline and praise must be given exactly when the behavior occurs. If you come home to find the dog has chewed the couch, but they are now sleeping on the floor, you will not be successful in teaching the dog that chewing the couch was unacceptable.”
She continued, “If you yell, it will frighten the dog because he was sleeping. He doesn’t make the connection that chewing the couch was wrong. This can teach him to hide when you return because the last time he was in the room with a chewed couch, he got frightened from the owner yelling.”
Patrolia added, “As pet owners, the way we respond and communicate definitely shapes the bond with our dogs. We have to remember that they are not little people in dog costumes and respect they have certain communication, mental and lifestyle needs.”
Not giving your dog enough mental stimulation
Dogs get bored just like humans do. And your dog’s destructive behavior might be a result of boredom. Make sure that you give them enough mental stimulation that they don’t resort to destroying things.
Patrolia told me, “Sometimes dogs can be destructive, not only due to lack of boundaries and discipline, but also lack of mental stimulation. Some owners complain that they take their dog outside and let him run and run, yet the dog continues to be destructive and they don’t know why. They think he has had plenty of exercise.”
However, just as a workout doesn’t provide the mental stimulation you need, running around doesn’t keep your dog from getting bored. Patrolia continued, “The running may burn energy, but their dog is not getting exhausted due to lack of mental stimulation. Their dog could benefit from hide-and-seek with treats or toys, puzzle games, or enriching their environment by hiking (to navigate different terrain and sights) in lieu of just running.”
She shared this good news: “Once your dog is mentally satisfied, he will be more open to less destruction due to being mentally satisfied. Plus mental stimulation such as hiking creates a bond between pet owner and dog, and is fun.”
Not using teachable moments with your dog
Just as you can use teachable moments to teach your kids throughout the day, teachable moments will help your dog learn, as well. Patrolia told me, “Teachable moments are used all during the day with your dog. ‘Training’ doesn’t just occur 5-10 minutes a day. You are teaching your dog every moment, and believe me, they are learning every moment (good and bad).”
She added, “When your dog is with you, you can use those moments to correct the inappropriate actions and encourage the positive actions. As pet owners, we focus on a lot of the negative behaviors, which do need to be handled, but focusing on the positive behaviors will encourage those.”
For example, Patrolia said, “If you are hiking with your dog, have them practice sit each time you stop…, practice stay and incorporate training in your hiking sessions. Training in different locations also provides a well-rounded dog.”
Neglecting oral hygiene
Do you brush your dog’s teeth or give them treats to strengthen their gums? If not, start today. Dr. Richter told me, “One of the most important but often overlooked daily routines for your dog is caring for his teeth. Roughly 85 percent of dogs will develop dental disease in their lifetime, most before they are three years old.”
You may think dental disease isn’t a big deal. Not so. Dr. Richter told me, “Dental disease can be debilitating — even deadly — as bacteria in the gums gets into the bloodstream. To avoid this, you should (ideally) brush his teeth every day. It takes 48 hours for plaque to mineralize into tartar and if you brush every day, tartar won’t have the chance to form.”
You brush your teeth twice a day as part of your daily routine. Add a doggie tooth brushing to your routine as well, and your dog will have happy, healthy teeth and gums.
Choosing the wrong pet food
How much thought do you put into choosing your dog’s food brand? Just as your diet makes a big difference in your quality of life, your dog’s food has a big impact on how they feel.
Dr. Richter told me, “Without a doubt, the single biggest thing you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is provide them with optimal nutrition. This means a fresh, whole food diet such as a balanced diet of fresh raw or cooked food. Freeze dried or dehydrated fresh foods can work well also.”
He added, “I recommend my patients stay away from kibble or canned foods. The first step with pet foods is to keep the ingredients natural. No artificial ingredients or preservatives should ever be used. Dogs are somewhat omnivorous, so their food does not need to be 100 percent meat-based. That said, the protein source in the food should be 100 percent meat-based.”
In addition, he said, “While dogs are equipped to handle a certain amount of carbohydrates in their diet, they should not be a majority ingredient (such as is found in kibble). Inexpensive and filler ingredients such as meal, corn, wheat, etc. are best avoided.”
Many dog food brands now offer a “grain free” option. If you don’t want to to cook your dog a hot meal every night or feed them fresh food, at least check the ingredients before you buy your next bag of dog food.
Overfeeding your dog
The amount of food you feed your dog is just as important as the type. I would know — I adopted an obese sheltie when she was five and a half years old. Unfortunately, even when I was able to bring her weight down, she still suffered from many health issues due to having been obese in the past.
To make sure your dog is a healthy weight, carefully measure the amount of food you give them. Dr. Barrack told me, “Obesity is an epidemic in pets. Overfeeding can cause many health issues (including arthritis and diabetes) that are largely preventable with an appropriate diet. Consult with your veterinarian about which food (and how much of that food) is right for your pet.”
COMMENTS FROM LOVINMYPUP.COM:
This article speaks of several things that were incorporated in Bella’s service dog training. First, disciplining the dog after the fact is useless. Your pup lives in real time and will not know what they did wrong. Our dialogue with our dogs will shape your bond with each other. Boredom can cause destruction. Once in awhile Bella stays home when I go out. This usually causes a negative reaction in Bella. If there is paper laying around , it will result in shredded papers all over the rug. She gets her mental stimulation from working. When she doesn’t work – she gets very bored. And it shows!
The article goes on to talk about choosing a diet and canine obesity. All excellent suggestions!
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