If morning walks with Rover are more about dragging than exercise, or if you expect your pal to chew his way through the front door any day now, you may be wishing you'd fallen for a pup who listens when you speak. Rover is acting pretty normal for an untrained dog. The good news is, you can take some steps to get his behavior under control -- and save your front door.
If you believe Rover will eventually grow up and abandon his rowdy puppy ways, you're in for disappointment. There's no room for wishy-washy in the canine world. Either you're in charge, or he is. He'll only get stronger and more coordinated as he ages, meaning he'll find bigger, better ways to drag you through the neighborhood. Dogs love to learn, but Rover is learning the wrong things. He has no idea your azaleas weren't planted for his digging pleasure. He doesn't know what “no” means unless you teach him. Your four-legged friend needs a patient and gentle but firm leader to guide him down the right behavioral path -- and the job is yours.
Harsh training methods can create a cowering mess or a snarling grouch. Positive reinforcement and plenty of praise make training fun for both you and your pal. You could tug on Rover's leash and push on his rump until he's forced to sit. But if you face him with a tasty treat in your fingers as he's standing, and give him a whiff of what you're holding as you raise your hand, his nose and head will follow the scent up, causing his rear to hit the floor. As soon as his rump touches down, you say “sit” and give him the treat. He quickly catches on that sitting on command produces treats. You've spared yourself the sweaty experience of manhandling a bewildered dog into a sit.
If you've ever watched a canine obedience event, you've probably seen dogs race in from 50 yards away to sit squarely in front of their owners in response to a simple hand signal or voice command. You're witnessing the result of hundreds of hours of practice. Rover may or may not ever compete for a trophy, but two to three brief daily practice sessions will have him feeling like a champion as he masters the behaviors you want. Keep sessions at five minutes for very young pups and add more time as your buddy gets older, up to about 15 to 20 minutes per session.
Destructive behaviors such as out-of-control chewing or digging are signs of a bored or frustrated dog. You can relieve his boredom by tiring him out with plenty of exercise; possibly join a local canine sporting group, such as fly ball. As your buddy masters obedience training, you'll be able to take him to interesting places, such as the beach or park. If you enroll him in an obedience class or join a dog club or training group, he'll be able to add to his behavioral skills and acquire the fine art of socializing with other dogs and people.
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