After almost 20 years of being a dog rescue volunteer, I decided to study what I call “Science and the Art of Dog Behavior”. My goal is to decrease the number of dogs being surrendered to shelters or just plain abandoned. There are many reasons why dogs are given up; cost, relocation, human family additions, owners not anticipating the work or time involved to train a dog, training issues and behavior issues. One common reason we see on relinquishment forms is destructive behavior.
Destructive behavior sometimes manifests as destroying, chewing or eating of domestic items or inappropriate defecation and/or urination in the house. Many dogs that engage in destructive behavior also bark excessively as well. The expensive and inconvenience of cleaning up and replacing items, the nuisance and risk of reports of excessive barking to people that live in apartment buildings can be overwhelming. The good news is that destructive behavior can be managed and even resolved if you are willing to invest some time into your furry friend.
Step 1: More Exercise
Most dogs, with exception of some of the smaller breeds, were bred to be working dogs. This meant assisting their people throughout the day as they tended to their farms, traded goods or hunted for game. That work meant the majority of the day consisted of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Since the Industrial Revolution dogs are not used with the same frequency in those capacities, they have turned into pets. A lot of dogs spend their days crated while we’re at work and because we humans are tired from our work day, they end up getting snuggled on the couch when we get home.
If a dog doesn’t get the exercise commensurate with their breed they can become frustrated with pent up energy. Most times a single 30 minute walk isn’t enough. We have to get inventive in finding ways to burn off that steam. Taking your dog for a jog is a great thing if you’re a jogger, but I am not a jogger so the chances of this happening are zero. So, we enjoy group play sessions with dogs well matched to personalities, play styles and size. We also play tug, fetch, go on a hike, and go swimming. Dogs can be trained to run alongside a bicycle, roller skates, or a skate board. You can get your dog involved in agility, parkour, barn hunt, or tracking classes at your local positive reinforcement training center. Animal Zen on Mayfield Rd in Cleveland Hts even has drop in classes on Sunday and Mondays, so you don’t have to commit to a 6 week class.
There are many activities that can provide the physical exercise a dog needs. We also offer group walks as the weather allows at the Acacia Reservation, follow our Facebook page for details!
Step 2: More mental stimulation
We talked last month about some different low cost ways to give your dog something to do over the winter and you can do those plus many more.
Mental stimulation can be just as tiring for a dog as physical activity is. Remember how tiring studying can be? It’s just like when we’re going through training classes at work because we’re using our brains so hard we are tired afterwards. Thinking burns calories too! Working dogs were not only being physically active but mentally active as well.
Enrichment toys like those we talked out in our blog titled Winter Pet Enrichment Options are a huge help in this area. Work on teaching your dog commands and tricks such as sit, down, stay, paw, roll over, etc. Taking training classes is always an option, from the basics to advanced training. Scent work classes are some of our favorites.
Below are great places to take some fun classes:
Step 3: Crate training
Some people are against crate training because they feel it’s cruel, but dogs can learn to love the crate with the proper motivation and training. We opt for crating while we are away for a variety of reasons but mostly for the safety of our dogs. Our latest foster, Josie, LOVES to chew hard plastic. She will find it anywhere and lay into it. If she managed to get her paws on something inedible she could risk choking on it.If your dog is displaying destructive behaviors while you are away it’s possible that they might try to eat anything out of boredom, like my editor.
Positive Reinforcement YouTuber “Kikopup” has a wonderful video on how to properly crate train.
Step 4: Supplements
Science has found that some supplements can help dogs relax. Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP), Rescue Remedy, Zlykene, and Canna-Pet offer some dog specific options. Such things as melatonin, kava root, and chamomile has similar effects on dogs as they do on humans. Many pet supply stores also carry options for cats as well.
Before starting your pet on supplements, especially if your pet is already taking medications, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian.
TO BE CONTINUED….