Do you dread coming home to discover your dog’s latest destructive efforts?
Has your dog been excavating the garden, digging holes in your lawn, biting the furniture, chewing your shoes, pulling the washing off the line, barking at the neighbors or ripping the doggy bed to shreds?
These behaviours are all signs of a bored dog. Once these behaviours become habits, they can be very hard to break. Can you imagine spending 8 or more hours during daylight hours locked in your bedroom? You would feel cooped up, lonely and bored, and could even become depressed.
Zoo keepers spend hours of their time coming up with ways to provide both physical and mental stimulation for their animals. Your dog also needs this type of stimulation.
There are many ways to achieve this:
Daily walk or run (30- 60 minutes per day)
Almost all dogs enjoy going out for a walk or run - they enjoy the physical exercise and the mental stimulation of new smells, sights and sounds. Sniffing around and scent marking are the best part of a walk for many dogs. Changing your route will keep the walk interesting for your dog. A daily walk is also a great time to train your dog, you can do this by teaching your dog to sit before crossing the road, asking your dog to heel for short periods, teaching your dog to stop on command (which comes in handy if you ever lose your grip on the lead).
TIP: A good sturdy collar and lead are important - extension leads have some benefits, but can cause accidents and injuries to both humans and their canine companions.
Off leash (2-3 times per week)
Designated off lead areas are a great place to let your dog really burn up energy –many dogs love to chase the ball. However, your dog must be well socialized, and be accustomed to both large and small dogs in the same area. If your dog doesn’t always come when you call, or gets carried away when playing or running, you may prefer to find a fully fenced park for your dog’s off leash experience.
TIP: always supervise your dog - don’t get distracted talking on the phone or to other people while your dog is off lead.
Games and toys (great for rainy days or evenings)
Rainy days can be great for bonding with your dog. Have a good game of tug or fetch with your dog, or even just give your dog a good tummy rub and a cuddle. Interactive toys are also great (Nina Ottoson has a great range of interactive dog and cat toys, or you can make your own).
TIP: If you struggle to find enough hours in your day to give your dog enough exercise, you could consider hiring a dog walker. A dog walker can help break up your dog’s day while you are at work, and expend that excess energy so that they are more manageable when you get home.
If your dog’s bad habits are becoming entrenched, you may need help from a dog trainer or animal behaviourist. A dog walker who is also a qualified dog trainer understands canine behavior, and can help you to enrich not only your dog’s life, but yours as well!