Digging - how to stop Part II

Aside from giving your dog sufficient exercise and interestingthings to do in the yard, make sure your dog is on a high-quality premium hard kibble. Stay away from foods that are often loaded with hidden sugars, chemicals and preservatives (hidden sugars in the form of beet pulp, sucrose, fructose, etc., can exacerbate the dog’s energy levels and lead to digging), such as semi-moist dog foods.

If your dog considers the backyard (or wherever he digs) to be a place of banishment, it is more likely digging will occur there. I am suggesting that your dog should think of the backyard as more than just a place of banishment.

Are you like millions of people who put your dog out in the backyard every day you go to work? Many dogs will feel a certain level of anxiety if the backyard is the place where they’re always left alone. For many owners, this can’t be helped. It is important that you give your dog other, more positive experiences in the yard, as well.

For example, play with the dog in the backyard regularly. You can also feed the dog in the backyard and obedience train your dog in the backyard. Help the dog to associate positive things with the yard and you will be eliminating one of the major causes of digging.

Digging - how to stop Part I

Digging is a common and very normal behavior for dogs. As with all problems, it is important tounderstand the reasons behind the behavior. With digging there are many motives. Dogs dig because they are bored. They dig when it is hot because they like to lie in holes to get cooler. They dig to escape. They bury objects. Sometimes dogs simply dig because they like to.

In dealing with a digging problem, first understand that every dog has a certain amount of energy to expend each day. Sufficient exercise is often an excellent way to burn off excess energy and frequently helpsin curtailing digging behavior.

You must remember, exercise programs will vary from breed to breed and dog to dog, so check with your veterinarian. Also remember that simply leaving your dog alone in the yard does not count as exercise. You must exercise the dog!

You need to giveyour dog things to do that are more interesting to him than digging holes.

Tere are a number of creative toys that can keep most dogs occupied and interested. Consider toys like a Buster Cube or Boomer Ball.

The Buster Cube is a plastic square that you can put small pieces of food in. The dog can get the food, but only after shaking and moving the cube around. This will keep many dogs focused for

Boomer Balls are hard plastic balls that some dogs love to chase around. They are generally too large for most dogs to fit in their mouths, although many dogs will certainly try. Some dogs will bat at the ball with their paws, push it around the yard with their chests and have a great time playing ball and not digging holes.

Make it a point to play with your dog and these toys in the yard.

Doing this will get the dog interested in the toys and teach him there are other fun activities in the yard besides digging. Nylabones, Kongs, and Rhino toys will also focus your dog on something other than digging.

Playing with your dog (part II)

Another good idea is to combine training and playing.
Example: If you take your dog for a walk in open space, like a park, the mountain, a beach etc, and your dog starts walking away from you. Then a good thing to do is not to call him/her back, you can turn and start walking to the opposite direction. As soon as your dog understands that you are not close s/he will come back to you. As soon as s/he does that you can praise and pet him/her. This is a very good exercise in order to make your dog follow you when s/he is unleashed and also a great way to show him/her who the leader is in a very nice and effective way.

Examples of unacceptable ways of playing with your dog include:
Teasing, slapping, wrestling, chasing, allowing him/her to bark at you. You should not allow your dog to demand that you play with him/her. Also you should not use your hands as a toy, allowing him to nip, and tug-of-war.

Playing with your dog

The first step is to find the appropriate play and chew toys for your puppy. Some examples are:

  • Kong or Rhino toys
  • Nylabones
  • Hard rubber balls large enough so they don’t get stuck in your dog’s throat
  • Soft flying disks
  • Interactive play toys like Buster cube (a square box where you can put food in)

Some examples of unacceptable toys are:

  • Tennis balls and stuffed toys
  • Ropes and similar, as such toys can lead some dogs to become aggressive
  • Rubber toys that can be chewed into little pieces, as these can be threatening to your dog’s health

In order to make the desired toys attractive to your dog, they must become a main source of interaction between you and your dog. Play with your dog and his/her toys. If you also appraise the dog when playing with the toys, you will make him/her seek them out on their own. When s/he seeks them out you should praise this behavior.

A great game to play with your dog is fetch using a toy that you are holding. You throw the toy and give the “fetch” order to your dog. The desired reaction would be for the dog to bring back the toy and either leaves it in front of your feet or in your hands. This can happen either on its own or after you giving the command. In case the dog doesn’t bring back the toy, s/he runs off, refuses to give it back or just stops playing, then you should stop playing for 10-15 minutes.

Teach your dog proper house behavior

doIf you want to your dog to be able to move around the house, then you must make certain that s/he is ready to do so. This means that s/he follows the rules you have set, i.e s/he is calm and obedient. If your dog is not properly trained before left unleashed in the house this could create numerous problems. Don’t feel bad for your dog this will only happen for a short period, until s/he learns what you want after consistent and proper training.

In the begging you should leash your puppy and walk him/her around the house in order to teach the appropriated behavior. When your puppy tries to reach for a shoe, or walks towards your bedroom, you can gently pool him/her back and continue your walk around the house.

When you are teaching your puppy proper behavior in the house you must be consistent and have patience.

After you have finished with your walk in the house you should lead the dog to a safe place. You can leash him/her somewhere s/he can see you and teach him/her to stay there and not walk around in the house. Please be careful when you leash your puppy. Avoid places where s/he can climb because it can be dangerous for him/her to hang from the leash!!! You can use a rag, or pillow for your puppy to stay on, or give him/her a toy, in order to make your puppy enjoy staying in the safe spot you have chosen.

If you use a crate, you can make it really enjoyable to your dog by putting all his/her toys and give him/her some food treats while in there. Then the dog will associate positively and s/he will want to stay there.

If your puppy starts doing "crazy" things when in the house, like running around or grabbing items,don't worry, this is normal and shows energy. What you can do is take him/her outside to play and exercise.

Clear roles for you and your dog

Your role as the “boss” must be clear to your dog. Also his or her role must also be clear. Some basic tips:

  • You can give him/her food, after you have finished yours.
  • Before s/he is aloud to eat you need to say it is OK.
  • If s/he doesn’t finish the whole meal at once then the food must be taken away until the next meal.
  • Don’t allow your dog to sleep on your bed, or other furniture that you use.
  • The dog should not be allowed into your bedroom, or even your kitchen.

Use the things your dog likes to teach her/him obedience

A very important rule to follow is to use the things your dog likes in order to teach her/him obedience. If you give your dog things s/he likes for free, then there is no reason to be obedient. S/he needs to understand that you have a "give and take" relationship. S/he has to “give” something (obedience) in order to gain what s/he likes (food treat).

In order to encourage a behavior you should use reinforcers. These reinforcers vary. They can be something your dog really enjoys for example: food treats, rubbing behind her/his ears, playing with a favorite toy or it can be a verbal appraisal like “Good”. The above mentioned reinforcers can be combined.
For example: you can say “Good” and also give a food treat in order to increase your dogs awareness of the situation. This combination can stop when your dog responds to what you want 9 out of 10 times.

Considering the above mentioned practices we conclude that: If you give your dog the things s/he enjoys only after s/he has obeyed, s/he will anticipate obedience, because s/he knows that it only leads to the things s/he really enjoys!

Keep your dog healthy

Anti flea and tick protection. There are various products/meds that are appropriate depending on the age of your dog, the environment where s/he lives in and various other factors. You can use collars, pills, sprays and other special products.

There are also products that help promote healthy skin and hair coat, reduce unwanted shedding and come in various kinds so you can even use them as a food treat. Also a good shampoo is essential when you give your dog a bath.

You must give to your dog protection against worms on a regular basis. Your vet will advise you on which pills must be given.

You can also give to your pet vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, always in agreement with your vet; all these can help your dog live a healthy and extended life.

Especially for dogs we must be very careful of their weight. An overweight dog is an ill dog, vulnerable to many diseases and dangers. SO, BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR TREATS! If needed there are special food products, diet products that can help maintain or reduce your dog’s weight. The best natural thing you can do to keep your dog in good health is to give her/him exercise on a regular basis.

Another important point that needs to be made concerns your dog’s dental health! Teeth should be in good health because they are really important to your dog. You can choose chewing bones or other chewable products / food treats in order to help your dog keep his/her teeth clean.
Don’t forget to keep your dog’s eyes and ears clean!

Health & Pet Meds

I would like to make some observations concerning your dog’s health. It is really important for all pet owners to monitor their pets’ behavior. As our beloved dogs, cats or other, are unable to take care of themselves and go to the doctor for their check-up we have to do it for them. We need to be in contact with a vet in order to have all necessary information on what vaccines need to be made or what actions need to be performed in different occasions. Don’t forget that our pets are like us, they might get sick; they may suffer from various problems / diseases, like arthritis, heart problems and other health issues. We need to take really good care of them, monitor their behavior and when we notice any changes, unusual behavior, go to the doctor for advice. NEVER act on your own, always consult your pet’s doctor for the right medication. There are many pet meds and the only person authorized to prescribe them is the veterinary.

Importance of appraisal & rewarding - Part II

It is also important to make your dog desire to execute a specific command. If for example you administer a physical correction during the acquisition phase of a particular command, it may decrease the dog’s desire to perform the command at all. That is why it is usually recommended to avoid physical corrections until your dog clearly understands and obeys to your commands.
Example:If you are trying to teach your dog the command “down” and what you do is pull her with the leash or you push her down with your hand, it is likely that the dog will react by moving away from your hand or resisting from being pushed. A good alternative would be to use a cookie or any food treat to lure her and increase her desire to sit down. So FOCUS ON REWARDING your dog instead of correcting her.
If the dog is being asked to perform a difficult exercise and she makes a mistake even after you try to correct her, then you should not repeat the exercise in the same way as it caused the dog to fail. Keep in mind that any corrections should not be given often, the correct timing is very important.
Example: if you are working with a dog on a long leash to develop a dependable recall (“come” - command), the timing of the correction and what you do after it will dictate what the dog learns. When you give the “come” command, if you correct the dog too early and not give her enough time to respond, she may not feel comfortable leaving your side. If you correct her after she has turned toward you or for not coming fast enough, she may learn that coming is not a rewarding behavior. This is why it is so important for your dog to understand what you want before you use corrections.

Importance of appraisal & rewarding - Part I

Your dog should learn to associate different kinds of rewards or appraisal with certain behaviors that you want her to repeat. It is important that you repeat any action so as the dog associates a behavior with a reward at all times.

Example: Take a cookie in your hand hold it in front of the dog and start moving it up and behind her face until you lead her to sit down as she cannot follow the cookie anymore. As soon as the dog sits you say sit and appraise her, Good Dog, and then give her the cookie. The dog will associate the appraisal and the cookie with sitting. The desired result would be after a lot of repetition; the dog connects the above mentioned actions with sitting and reaches a point where she reacts only to the word sit, thinking that the rewarding will follow. After that the dog reaches a point where she can “obey” to the word no matter who gives it. This means that another member of your family can make her sit, just by saying the word wherever the dog is (during her walk, or in the house etc). In order for her to maintain the desired behavior you should repeat it many times, even under various circumstances and in different places, so as the dog performs in the expected way at all times (at least 9 out of 10).

Conditioned & Unconditioned Reinforcement

Another important thing you must understand in order to effectively train your dog is conditioned and unconditioned reinforcement.
An unconditioned reinforcement would be for example to give food or water to your dog, because these are basic needs that need to be satisfied and should be given to your dog with no special conditions required . This kind of reinforces may vary depending on your dog’s preferences. For example some dogs may prefer food over playing, while others would enjoy playing and do not need any special conditions under which this reinforcement will take place. You should know your dog very well in order to understand what should be given for free.
A conditioned reinforcement would be for example a positive word like Good or Bravo when your dog does something you want her to repeat. Then the dog will associate the appraisal with a certain doing that you want. You can use an additional reinforcer like a treat or patting along with the verbal appraisal in order to enhance a behavior.

What kind of punishment and when?

Some mild punishment (that does not involve any harm done to the dog mentally or physically) is in some cases recommended. It is very important to choose the right timing. This means that you can raise the tone of your voice say NO and maybe also move your finger in a strict way, or take away her favorite toy when you catch her doing something wrong.
The same actions would not be effective if they take effect after the wrong has been done without you being present and the punishment takes place on the wrong timing.

Positive & Negative Motivation

- In order to start up the training you must treat your dog in a motivational way. For example you can offer your dog a food treat, or rub her or anything you think she would enjoy in order to give her a positive motive to do something you want.

- Another way to prevent your dog from doing something you don’t want is to use a negative motivation, like taking his toys, or ignore her.

Example: In order to support/reinforce a behavior you should for example rub her tummy when she sits beside your bed, or you can spray water on her face when she climbs on your bed and stop as soon as she gets off.

When you realise that "screaming" doesn't work

When I first got my puppy I left her in my apartment and she started sniffing around my room in order to get familiar with her new surroundings. She thought that my new leather boots were really interesting and started smelling and playing with one of them. I thought she was funny and went to get my camera. As soon as I got back she had put it in her mouth and started chewing it. I went close to her and yelled at her NO, STOP, DON’T DO THAT, NO!!! I grabbed the boot and saw her reaching for the second one. I thought that my screaming at her was not very effective after all. This is a common situation that I suppose most dog “owners” have come up against with.

I then decided that I should find a more effective way to deal with my dog’s inappropriate behavior in order to prevent things from happening rather than react in a “hysterical” way after the damage has been done.

Make sure what the problem is, in order to “fight” the cause and not just react to the problem itself.

Getting Started

The first question that came to my mind and I know that most people ask, is what is the right age for a dog to start training. The answer from most trainers is As Soon As Possible. It is best that you start training your puppy as soon as you get one even if it is only 2 – 3 months old. It is important that you know that any behavior on your part is a lesson to your dog no matter how young she may be. The only thing that you must do is consult with your veterinary as when your puppy is ready (all necessary vaccines have been made) to go out and interact with other dogs without being in danger of catching any disease.

Your Dog is totally dependant on you!

Unfortunately there are many people who think of a dog as another “game” and do not think twice before getting one. It is a great responsibility and no one should get involved in such a situation without considering all the pros and cons. When you become a dog owner you must be sure that your life will not be the same as long as you two live together. It is the same as when you become a parent only even more difficult because as people say “a dog is a child that never grows up”. You are responsible for your dog’s life as it cannot take care of itself. Your dog is totally dependant on you! Never forget that!

So, after being absolutely certain that you can adjust your life in order to get your favorite pet the next step for you and your dog is to get some training. I hope I can help you with some basic ideas. I strongly advise you to do your own reading and maybe also visit an experienced trainer, since what will follow may not be applicable in every situation. These are some general rules that may vary depending on where you live (e.g apartment or country house) or what breed your dog is.