Changing Problem Behaviour In DogsMany dog owners seek help with their pet for ‘behavioural problems’ such as digging in the garden, barking and destructive chewing. Yet in reality, all of these are normal behaviours for dogs. Barking is communication and digging, chewing, even raiding the bin, are all a result of the dog’s inbuilt instinct to hunt, scavenge and chew. Many pet dogs hang out in a backyard all day and they are often just plain bored and need something to occupy them.
To help alleviate these problems, owners must provide suitable ways for their dogs to satisfy their basics needs.
Firstly, look at the amount of daily exercise that your dog is receiving, because a well-exercised dog is less likely to be active at home. Dogs need the physical and mental stimulation of the great outdoors, so try to provide your dog with at least two thirty-minute walks each day, ideally with some off leash running. Exercising your dog before your leave the house in the morning can really help. If you don’t have time to exercise your dog yourself, consider hiring a dog walker to take your dog out during the day. This greatly reduces problem behaviours that result from boredom. Be sure to check the credentials of any potential dog walker first though.
These days, many trainers are no longer putting their dogs’ meals into a food bowl. Instead, they are placing the food inside a toy, such a rubber ‘Kong’. Presenting a meal this way makes a dog work for its food, giving it something to do and helping to alleviate boredom. By feeding your dog’s daily food allowance in a few toys spread out over the whole day, you can give your dog hours of work to enjoy rather than it finding other things to do that may not be to your liking, such as barking, digging and chewing.
If you have time you can make a treasure hunt for your dog by placing dry kibble around the garden or house for it to sniff out during the day. Just like kids, dogs love treasure hunts. This feeding routine can also help alleviate the anxiety that some dogs feel when their family or owner leaves them. By providing your dog with something tasty to enjoy as you leave, the dog will start to see you leaving as a good thing rather than a bad thing. Severe cases of separation anxiety may also need the professional help of a suitably qualified dog trainer or veterinary behaviourist.
If you have a dog who likes to dig and do the gardening for you, then provide a kids sandpit and encourage digging there – this will spare the garden and give your dog an outlet for all that energy,
Giving your dog something to do during the day can have a huge impact on your dog’s happiness and this means happy owners – and happy neighbours too!