By Michelle Mullins, CPDT – KA
One of the most common concerns new dog owners have is how a dog will fit into their busy lives. While it would be great if we could all work from home or take our dogs to work every day, that isn’t the reality for most people. Many dogs are alone for a good portion of the day but this can be managed in a way that works for all. Here are some concerns and tips that can help new owners ensure a happy home.
One of the most common problems is lack of consistent training. By that, I mean training is usually a priority when a puppy or new dog first comes home and then, we as owners don’t stick with it or some family members do and others don’t. This often means the pet isn’t clear on the appropriate behavior and then obviously makes mistakes. I always remind my students that if your pet isn’t responding to a cue or is having trouble with house training, they should examine their training schedule and consistency. The pet may need more time or a refresher of the appropriate behaviors to be successful.
Provide proper socialization. By socialization I mean proper introduction and exposure to a variety of people, objects and environments. Puppies and kittens should be carefully introduced to many of the things and people they will encounter in their lifetimes. This exposure should be conducted so they have a positive experience with these things by associating them with good things, like treats, toys and lots of support from their owner. Along with training, this socialization is invaluable.
Many dogs suffer separation distress /anxiety, which is fear and anxiety due to separation from those to which the dog has an attachment. Separation anxiety is usually characterized by barking, howling, attempting to escape from confinement, destruction and inappropriate elimination. However, many of these symptoms can have other causes, like not enough exercise, excitement, reactivity to noise, play, illness, etc. If you think your dog may have separation anxiety/distress I urge you to have him evaluated by a professional such as a veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist, an applied animal behaviorist, certified behavior consultant or a trainer. Separation anxiety needs treatment with behavior modification and in some cases, may require medication.
Keeping your dog entertained during the day can be easy and there are lots of options. Food dispensing and chew toys are a great option and can be hidden around the house for your dog to find throughout the day. Doggie daycare can work for many dogs. Just make sure your dog enjoys playing with other dogs and take the time to evaluate the daycare facility and staff. A vigorous morning walk can promote downtime during the day for most dogs or employing a professional dog walker to come in can be a great option.
Here is a short list of action items pet owners can use to address behavior:
- Consider an underlying medical cause for the behavior and make a visit to your veterinarian, especially for elimination or aggression issues
- Evaluate the consistency and frequency of your training. Ten or fifteen minutes a day of training can make for a well -mannered pooch.
- Your dog is not trying to be dominant. It is far simpler than that. Dogs repeat behaviors that get rewarded. So ask yourself “What is rewarding this behavior?”
- Be proactive. Train your dog to do the behaviors that you like. If he knows several “good” behaviors like sit, down, stay and come he is more likely to choose the appropriate way to behave.