They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I imagine this video is worth a bit more…
Looks like Versace, Armani and Coco had a very good time! And all that mess could have easily been avoided if their Dad had restricted their access to just a room or two while he was at work. Using crates and safe zones to keep your dog confined when you’re not at home or while you’re sleeping will save you this kind of ruin.
I show you how to teach your dog to love crates and safe zones in my book Dog Care And Training For a The GENIUS to be published very soon!
Has your little fur kid created a big mess when for you when left alone?
Have you ever seen a dog freak out at something new in it’s environment? Sometimes introducing new items can be stressful. While we want to minimize stress in our animals, it’s unrealistic to expect to eliminate it all the time. It’s important to teach them to handle stress – so they don’t freak out at the least little thing. Teach a dog to handle stress and you’ll have a dog that will learn to be calm and resilient and look to you for guidance and support.
“Sure, easier said than done!” I hear you…believe me. It’s not like we can tell our dogs “Relax, it’s okay. See? It’s nothing to worry about.”
Except, you can. In fact, you should if you want to have a happy, well-adjusted furry companion. As a good, responsible dog parent you should know your dog well enough to anticipate something that might scare him and take steps to help him.
I decided to decorate my house this year for the holidays. I’ve felt a bit Scroog-y the last couple years and haven’t done anything. Well, this year, I’m changing that! Scrooginess just doesn’t feel good. So off to the store I went for some Halloween fun to make my living room a little more festive…
But this guy has never seen Halloween decorations. And knowing Xander’s temperament I knew he’d need some help to not fear the Grim Reaper-ish baubles I brought home.
The new Halloween decoration elements included draping a table and some boxes with a black sheet, pumpkins, skeletal props, tinsel garland and lights. Oh yeah, and a giant, pose-able spider.
You can see he looks less than thrilled to be there. When he first saw just the draped table he growled at it. From his perspective, a giant black blob was suddenly sitting next to the bed he likes to sleep on. I might feel a little growly too. He paced back and forth eyeing it suspiciously.
Have you ever seen your dog do this? With or without the growling?
I called Xander to me, away from what was scaring him. He has a soft temperament, and is the least confident dog I’ve ever owned. But, he knows that I will take care of him, and will not ask him to do anything that is dangerous to him. He also knows I will ask him to face his fears and work through them. Together we are slowly building his confidence. But it does take work, and a certain amount of forethought on my part.
I first had to get him to realize the big black form was not going to morph into a table demon and eat us. So I went and sat next to it. I didn’t call him, I didn’t require he come over to me, I just sat there and talked to him in a soft voice. I specifically avoided the words “Good dog” and “It’s okay”. Instead I just sort of babbled: “You’re not afraid of this are you? It’s just the table. It’s nothing.”
He quickly got up the courage to approach me, although at first he carefully did not look at the table and positioned so my body was between him and it. I suppose he figured a table demon would take me first and give him time to make his escape. I reassured him by gently rubbing his face and ears, and when he actually relaxed and looked at the table normally – without giving it the side eye, or growling – I told him he was good and popped a treat in his mouth.
With some verbal encouragement and a few more treats he was soon sniffing the draped table like it was an old friend. He wandered away and came back later when I had added things! Oh no!
Teaching Xander that the table and it’s goodies won’t hurt him took me less than a day, but I did it in tiny little bits, like maybe a minute at the most each time. I’d use treats to encourage him to sniff the different items, ask him to sit or lay down and release him before he had a chance to feel too uncomfortable. Yes, I asked him to push past his comfort barriers as you can see in the pictures, but I didn’t ask him to stay there very long. Instead, he learned that small amounts of stress are manageable.
How do you know Xander is not entirely happy in these pictures? Look at his face – tight, tense lips, folded back ears, and his muscles and body are tense and poised to spring up as soon as I say he can.
I used “successive approximations” to teach Xander the confidence that he could see new things that made him uneasy and learn that just because it’s scary at first doesn’t mean it has to stay scary forever. By the time I was done decorating he was calm and relaxed around everything. Even meeting my centerpiece was no big deal, check it out:
Now look at how calm he is:
In my book Dog Care And Training For The GENIUS I teach you how to devise a training plan to help your dog through tense or stressful situations. Look for it to be published next month!
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It happens. You forget, you overlook, or you just plain ignore it, and next thing you know you’re cleaning up a mess.
“It” being a potential issue – an object or situation – that causes your dog to act in an undesirable way. Did your darling steal food? Dash out the door? Lunge and bark at a passing person or dog? Chew up something?
That is a very expensive walking boot.
Is an even more expensive custom orthotic insert. You’ll notice they both have tell-tale teeth marks on them. I’m going to let you in on a training secret. Trainers make mistakes too. *gasp*
In my day job, I’m a nurse. Two careers and over 20 years of being on my feet all day (or night) on concrete floors has taken its toll on my feet and the boot is just the latest round in my on-going bout with plantar fasciitis. The new boot was literally just a day old when I forgot and left it in the kitchen overnight. Where this guy sleeps.
Xander at just over a year and a half old is still very much a puppy in his head. While he is very good about not doing the destructo-puppy chewing thing he is not 100% reliable when he is not supervised. This is normal; teenage dogs, like teenage kids will want to test their limits, explore their boundaries and push limits. It’s up to you and me as dog parents to establish clear boundaries and maintain them. It’s also on us to ensure the dog is able to understand and follow the rules.
So the first place to look for what went wrong if your dog is misbehaving is at yourself. Because what likely happened is you made a mistake. Trainer error is one of the most common reasons for poorly trained dogs.
My mistake was that I tucked my boot out of sight so I wouldn’t trip over it as I was working in the kitchen last night. I forgot I left it there and didn’t see it when I went to bed and gated Xander in the kitchen for the night. The kitchen is Xander’s safe zone; it functions like a giant crate, keeping him safely contained so he can’t get to things that are easily destroyed, like couches or pillows. In his safe zone he can move, stretch and sleep. He knows that if it’s on the floor in the kitchen he can chew it. So he figured I’d just left him a brand new chew toy.
No one to blame but myself. I was just very very lucky he wasn’t too excited by it and gave up after just a little mouthing, both are still fully functional. He could have completely destroyed both.
What did I do when I saw the damage? Nothing. He would not have connected any scolding or punishment with the act of chewing up the boot because too much time had already passed. Xander did nothing wrong. I did.
Too often owners blame the dog for bad behavior that is entirely preventable. As responsible dog parents we need to think ahead of our dogs and set them up to succeed. In Xander’s case, he simply needs a little more time, and a little more maturity to be able to direct his chewing behavior on appropriate toys at all times. I knew I should have moved the darn boot. But it was out of sight, out of mind. If you’re going to have a dog, you have to take responsibility for the dog’s behavior, good and bad.
Trainer error is going to happen. So you need to be present and pay attention to your dog and your surroundings so you can minimize the times your dog presents inappropriate behaviors. Think ahead of your dog. Pick up, put away, or remove tempting objects your dog could chew. Restrict your dog’s access to just one or two rooms to prevent chewing or eliminating behaviors that happen out of your direct line of sight.
I cover this and more training techniques in my book Dog Care and Training For The GENIUS. In it I’ll show you how to teach your dog your rules and your boundaries. Look for it to be released in the next month or so.
Has your dog chewed or destroyed something he wasn’t supposed to? How did you react? What could you have done to prevent it?