Dog Behaviour

Dog Sitting on Snow
Does your dog now have a ‘new trick’ to show you? Is he trying to get your attention with demand barking or whining? This can be very annoying. Unfortunately this is something we have nurtured and shaped inadvertently by rewarding this behaviour.

Here are some tips for curbing these behaviours.

Ignore Bad Ones

This is difficult, but ignoring an unwanted behaviour is one way to fix it. It’s important to realize that barking or whining at you is demanding attention. So even if you correct him, this is attention. Saying “shhhhh” is attention, giving eye contact is attention, laying your hand on him is attention. Talking to him in a sweet voice is attention and worst of all giving what they want is attention while reinforcing the bark or whine. Anything you do that makes the dog think you are communicating with them when they bark is attention.

Reward Positively

If he’s barking, immediately turn away from the dog and walk away. This is puzzling to the dog when you bail on him, but it works. It doesn’t have to be walking away to the other side of the house, room, or yard but walking away 5 or 10 feet is enough. As soon as the dog is quiet give him positive verbal reinforcement and treat him.

Have Patience

Let’s say the dog’s toy rolled under the couch out of reach and it barks. Walk away, reward silence, as above. Then retrieve the toy, have the dog do something like sit. When he sits, reward him with the toy. You will need patience for this as barking has worked for the dog in the past and when you undo a behaviour it can get worse before it gets better.

Stick to It

Here is the list of the reframed behaviours and their rewards:
Sit = toy retrieval
Sit = opening the door to go
Sit = a treat, verbal praise or touch
Sit = a greetings from you

Undoing undesirable behaviours is hard work. So also make sure you nurture and reward the behaviours you like with praise, touch, or treats.

Article submitted by Moira Wegner, Autism Program Instructor, Dogs with Wings Edmonton.

Keeping Chewing in Check

Dog Chew Staulk
Chewing is a perfectly normal behaviour for puppies and adult dogs, but it can become a major problem if you can’t find a suitable way of keeping the habit under control. Puppies and dogs chew for all kinds of reasons, such as boredom relief, teething, and gaining information from the environment. Puppies in particular can chew through things at an alarming rate. Before you can address your pet’s chewing habits, it’s a good idea to understand how a dog’s mind works. Most importantly the fact that dogs don’t think the same way as humans do.

Understanding their Need to Chew

Puppies are inquisitive and may engage in some investigative chewing if they hear any unusual or high pitched sounds from unforeseen areas. They may also chew when they are hungry, especially if their regular feeding time has been delayed, or if they smell spilled food. It is therefore important to give your dog plenty of suitable chewing material and mental stimulation. Once again, one of the best overall things you can do for your dog is get him his exercise and social interaction.

Set Boundaries

If you give your dog an old pair of shoes to chew, it is not going to know the difference between an old pair of shoes and your brand new pair by the door. Stuffed toys will also look the same as the corner of your sofa as far as your dog is concerned. To ensure that your puppy understands what it can and can’t chew in your home, you will need to be prepared to set out some important guidelines for it to follow. A second dog won’t necessarily keep him busy and not chewing. If boundaries haven’t been set, you may end up having two dogs that chew everything in sight instead of one.

Specific Areas

Make sure that your dog is never left unattended until it has learnt to follow certain household rules. You may need to initially house your dog in a safe room, travel crate, or other segregated area when you are unable to watch it carefully or need to leave it alone in the house.

When setting boundaries for your dog, it is important to remember that you should never smack or shout at it for chewing. Your dog may then grow up to be shy and fearful of people. It may even encourage your pet to chew even more in an attempt to calm itself down.

Gently correct your dog’s behaviour by trying to get its attention away from the object it is chewing by offering it a more suitable alternative. Never be tempted to wrestle with your dog over a particular object, as this will only end up turning the situation into a game. If possible, take the offending object away and put it out of sight so that your companion is no longer tempted to chew it.

You could try spraying the areas you don’t want your dog to chew with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. This can also be sprayed onto items of old clothing to direct your puppy’s attention away from areas like your sofa and chairs, but do so at your own risk.

Choose the Right Toys

Always make sure that any toys you purchase for your dog are safe and non-toxic. Your dog may prefer one particular type of toy over another, so it may be a case of trial and error until you find the most suitable toys. Once you find a particular type of toy that appeals to your dog, buy more of the same type.

Hollow rubber toys are often a good idea for dogs, as you can hide treats inside that will help to keep them occupied and as cited in a previous article, ‘work’ for their food. Teaching your dog to fetch toys is also a good way of encouraging it to play with the toys you provide for it.

Remember that it is necessary to spend as much time as possible playing with your dog, as this will help to keep it happy, occupied, and eventually too tired to engage in any more unwanted chewing.

Reduce Your Dog’s Barking

Puppies
Whether you live in a house, condominium, or a homeowner’s association, a dog’s barking is seldom welcomed by the neighbors. Solving a barking problem usually isn’t that difficult. Unfortunately, many of the methods of resolving a barking issue isn’t intuitive to pet owners because they don’t understand how dogs think or why the problem even exists at all. By identifying the root cause of barking and reacting accordingly, most pet owners can resolve their barking problems to their owner’s satisfaction.

Show Your Dog You Care

If your dog is barking, it’s usually to show you something. Your dog may believe there’s an intruder on the prowl, or may believe that something suspicious is going on outside. Sometimes just checking on the problem can be enough to show your dog that you’re taking their alert seriously and that nothing is wrong. Dogs, for the large part, are very intelligent and compassionate animals. Your dog just wants to know that you’re aware there could be a problem.

Correct Your Dog Gently

Screaming at your dog is the best way to get your dog to bark even louder, as your dog will take it as a sign that something is wrong. Your dog is barking because it’s worried, which means the fastest way to calm your dog down is to show it that there is nothing to worry about. Command your dog to stop barking quietly but firmly, check out the source of its concern and then proceed to act as though everything is normal. If you become agitated or frustrated, your dog will be even more convinced that something is wrong.

Exhaust Your Dog

Dogs require both physical and mental attention, and this is especially true of many working breeds.

Dogs that bark when left alone or bark for reasons other than suspicious activity and external stimulus are usually just bored.

If your dog is barking a lot, it’s very likely you haven’t been able to give it the attention that it craves and deserves. Taking your dog out a little more often or taking it to the dog park to burn off some excess energy may be an excellent way to resolve the issue for good.

Dogs rarely ever bark unless there is something wrong. If you currently have a barking problem, the first step to resolving it will be to recognize that it’s actually symptomatic of a different issue. Once you resolve this other issue for your dog, you’ll find that your dog will be calmer, happier and quieter.

Stress and Your Dog

Dog Named Daisy
Experts tell us that dogs are sensitive creatures that pick up on signals both spoken and unspoken in the people around them. Whenever a new stress comes into your household, you can bet that your dog is feeling it as much as you do. However, dogs may show their signs of stress differently than humans. Here are some situations that cause stress in dogs and how you can minimize the tension in the home.

Sickness, Emotion, or Family Events

When a family member is ill or going through hard times, the dog will notice change in family tempo and will pick up on any sadness or worry that occurs in these situations. Again, exercise is the best way to work off his tensions. If possible, allow him to spend time with the relevant family members so that he knows he has not been excluded from this important time in his family group. Having other family members engage in playtime with him will help to allay his fears about changes going on in the household. Imagine yourself being excluded from these family times.

Moving

Moving creates stresses of its own with a complete upheaval of the home environment and a variety of new situations. Your dog will feel the move particularly strongly because your dog depends on the smells in his environment to tell him so much. When the environment changes he has fewer signals to rely on, which can leave him feeling disoriented and unhappy. He may express his feelings with a poor appetite, a short temper or a general air of restlessness.

Make finding a comfortable place for his bed, toys, feeding bowl and other familiar object one of the first actions you take in your new location. Knowing he can rely on these essential items can help to make him feel more at home. Also, spend time acquainting him with the smells, sights and sounds of the neighborhood. This time will help him find his olfactory “home base” so that he can relax and make himself more comfortable in the new setting.

New Animal or New Person Stress

A new animal or person in the household can throw things into turmoil. When a new cat is introduced to a dog, you may have to take special care to separate the two behind a door or gate and gradually accustom the two to living together. For small mammals like hamsters or guinea pigs, you may never be able to have them meet face to face. For some dogs, the presence of a small animal brings out their hunting/killing instincts. Be aware of this engrained instinct to avoid tragedy.

When new people enter the family picture, especially a baby, everything seems to change. Daily rhythms change and different people may visit. Your dog notices all these changes and may feel some of the stress of these changes. He may have accidents in the house, bark excessively at passers by or find a place to hide – especially if a baby is crying. Finding ways to show your dog he is not displaced and that his welfare is still important to you can help to reduce his tension. For new babies, invite him to sit with you during 2 am feeding times to show he is still part of the family group. Make sure his feeding times are on time and take him for an additional walk during the day. Even if you have to call a dog-walker or have neighbor help with walking, it will help him to run off the stress of his nervous energy.

Keep in mind that stress can often be felt, so when there is stress in the air, odds are it is affecting your dog as well. Help you both by staying in touch with your dog and keeping him at your side as a loyal dog owner. He will appreciate it, and so will you.